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Famed American Violin Pedagogue Dorothy DeLay Died in 2002

DeLay was one of the world's foremost violin teachers, and mentored a staggering number of prominent players


Famed American violin teacher Dorothy DeLay died on March 24, 2002 — at the age of 84.

She is remembered as one of the most respected violin pedagogues of the twentieth century: among her many students were players such as Itzhak Perlman, Sarah Chang, Midori, Gil Shaham, Nigel Kennedy, Shlomo Mintz, Cho-Liang Lin, Akiko Suwanai, Philippe Quint, Anne Akiko Meyers and Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg.

DeLay was born in Kansas in 1917, into a musical but also strict and religious household. She began learning the violin at the age of 4. By 16, had entered the Oberlin Conservatory, where she studied with Raymond Cerf — who had himself been a student of Eugène Ysaÿe.

Further studies at the Juilliard School followed, as did the founding of the Stuyvesant Trio, in which she played with her sister Nellis DeLay and the pianist Helen Brainard. After an early performing career, DeLay decided she was not cut out for the stage and returned to Juilliard for further study.

It was at this time that she began teaching, inspired by the example of her teacher Ivan Galamian. DeLay became his assistant, both at Juilliard and at the Meadowmount summer camp.

According to the New York Times, she became the first woman, and the first American-born violinist, to be regarded as a master violin teacher in the tradition of Galamian and Leopold Auer.

She maintained her association with the Juilliard School for the rest of her life and taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1947 to 1987.

During her career, DeLay also taught at the University of Cincinnati, the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, the New England Conservatory, London's Royal College of Music, and Aspen.

Among many honors, she received the National Medal of Arts in 1994, the National Music Council's American Eagle Award in 1995, the Sanford Medal from Yale University in 1997, and the Order of the Sacred Treasure from the Japanese Government in 1998.

"With Galamian there was almost no room for give and take because he had a particular system that he applied to everybody," Itzhak Perlman said in 2000 of his earlier experience changing teachers from Galamian to DeLay.

''Miss DeLay was much more flexible, was much more into the person, and into their background, into what makes them tick," he continued. "I would come and play for her, and if something was not quite right, it wasn't like she was going to kill me."

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