János Starker Remembrance Week: Presenting My Mentor with His Honorary Doctorate in 2006 — by Paul Katz

János Starker Remembrance Week: Presenting My Mentor with His Honorary Doctorate in 2006 — by Paul Katz

It is a privilege for me to be able to use my website,  CelloBello.com,  to honor my former teacher, colleague, and friend of many decades, the legendary János Starker, July 5, 1924 – April 28, 2013.

In May 2006, the New England Conservatory of Music presented János Starker with an Honorary Doctor of Music, and I was asked to introduce him. To speak publicly of him was an emotional and gratifying moment for me, and as we celebrate him in the year 2015, it feels appropriate for me to share my words of nine years.


János Starker Receiving His Honorary Doctorate at the New England Conservatory

New England Conservatory of Music Commencement on Sunday, May 21, 2006

“It is my honor and great personal pleasure to present to you János Starker, internationally renowned cellist of legendary stature, and master teacher of equal fame.

One of the most recorded cellists in history, he has, for more than half a century, astonished and thrilled the musical world with his artistry and virtuosity. Starker established a level of instrumental mastery and consistency unknown before him, forever raising the standards of the instrument and becoming a role model for all that have come after him. One of the great all-time masters of the instrument, he did it while surviving the detention camps of the Holocaust and the poverty and hardships of its aftermath.

Equally important are his accomplishments as artist teacher—there really has never been another solo artist at his level of celebrity, so totally committed to a lifetime of teaching. Starker came to Indiana University in 1958 and since 1965 has held the title of Distinguished Service Professor of Music, honoring his role in helping to transform Bloomington into one of the preeminent music schools of the world.

Starker is known as one of the foremost “scientists” of the cello, or as I like to phrase it, a cello doctor to cure whatever your cello playing problems might be! His brilliance at helping others discover and release the muscular tension which inhibits virtuosity and threatens the player’s instrumental health and longevity, and his unique gift for articulating fundamental principles of string playing and music- making, have caused musicians young and old around the world to throng to his seminars and classes for more than five decades.

I speak from the heart and from first-hand experience, for I am one of the fortunate to have studied with János Starker, His words of cello advice are with me to this day and fall from my lips in virtually every lesson I teach here at NEC. And for more than 40 years since my studies, I have had my life enriched by his friendship and great collegiality. In fact, the affection and closeness that Starker enjoys with legions of former students is widespread, though it may not commonly be known.

Great cellist,  master teacher, mentor, inventor and author (there’s not time to talk about everything here, but I heartily recommend his autobiography, “The World of Music according to Starker), Janos Starker has enriched the world with his artistry and through his countless students whose lives in music he has enabled and facilitated by his masterful and caring guidance.  Mr. President, for his distinguished service to the cause of Music and musicians everywhere, I am privileged to present Janos Starker for the honorary degree—Doctor of Music.”

About the Author:

Paul Katz

Paul Katz is known to concertgoers the world over as cellist of the Cleveland Quartet, which during an international career of 26 years made more than 2500 appearances on four continents, in all of the music capitals, great concert halls and music festivals of the world. As a member of this celebrated ensemble from 1969-1995, he performed at the White House and on many television shows including “CBS Sunday Morning,” NBC’s “Today Show,” “The Grammy Awards” (in 1973, the first classical musicians ever to appear on that show,) and was seen in “In The Mainstream: The Cleveland Quartet,” a one hour documentary televised across the U.S. and Canada.

Mr. Katz has received many honors, including the American String Teacher’s Association “Artist-Teacher of the Year 2003;” Indiana University’s “Chevalier du Violoncelle,” awarded for distinguished achievements and contributions to the world of cello playing and teaching; Chamber Music America’s highest honor, The Richard M. Bogomolny National Service Award, awarded for a lifetime of distinguished service in the field of chamber music; and an Honorary Doctorate of Musical Arts from Albright College. Mr. Katz served for six years as President of Chamber Music America, the national service organization in the United States that has in its membership virtually all of the country’s 600 professional chamber music ensembles, as well as hundreds of presenting organizations, music festivals and managers. As an author, he has appeared in numerous publications and wrote the liner notes for the Cleveland Quartet’s three-volume set of the complete Beethoven Quartets on RCA Red Seal.

Mr. Katz has appeared as soloist in New York, Cleveland, Toronto, Detroit, Los Angeles, and other cities throughout North America. He was a student of Gregor Piatigorsky, Janos Starker, Bernard Greenhouse, Gabor Rejto and Leonard Rose. In 1962 he was selected nationally to play in the historic Pablo Casals Master Class in Berkeley, California and was a prizewinner in the Munich and Geneva Competitions. Of special interest to cellists are his recordings of the Dohnanyi Cello Sonata for ProArte Records and the Cleveland Quartet’s recording on Sony Classical of the Schubert two-cello quintet with Yo-Yo Ma. The Cleveland Quartet has nearly 70 recordings to its credit on RCA Victor, Telarc International, Sony, Philips and ProArte. These recording have earned many distinctions including the all-time best selling chamber music release of Japan, 11 Grammy nominations, Grammy Awards for Best Chamber Music Recording and Best Recorded Contemporary Composition in 1996, and “Best of the Year” awards from Time Magazine and Stereo Review.

In September of 2001, Mr. Katz joined the faculty of The New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, following five years at Rice University in Houston and twenty years (1976-1996) of teaching at the Eastman School of Music. He has mentored many of the fine young string quartets on the world’s stages today including the Ariel, Biava, Cavani, Chester, Harlem, Jupiter, Kuss, Lafayette, Maia, Meliora, OmerParker, T’ang and Ying Quartets. One of America’s most sought after cello teachers, his cello students, in addition to membership in many of the above quartets, have achieved international careers with solo CD’s on Decca, EMI, Channel Classics and Sony Classical.  They occupy positions in many of the world’s major orchestras including principal chairs of orchestras such as Detroit, Los Angeles,  St. Louis, Oslo, Norway and Osaka, Japan, and are members of many American symphony orchestras such as Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, National Symphony, Pittsburgh, Rochester and St. Louis.

Mr. Katz has been a participant at many of the world’s major summer music festivals and schools including twenty years at the Aspen Festival, Marlboro Festival, the Yale Summer School of Chamber Music, the Perlman Music Program, Yellow Barn, the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival in Germany, ProQuartet in France, Domaine Forget, Orford, Toronto Summer Music, and the Banff Center for the Arts in Canada, the Steans Institute of The Ravinia Festival, The Heifetz Institute, and is a Director of the Shouse Artist Institute of the Great Lakes Chamber Festival. His hundreds of master classes worldwide include many of the major music schools of North and South America, Europe, Israel, Japan and China. Mr. Katz frequently sits on the juries of international cello and chamber music competitions, including the Leonard Rose International Cello Competition, the Gyeongnam International Cello Competition in Korea, and the international string quartet competitions of Banff, London, Munich, Graz and Geneva.

Paul Katz currently resides in Boston, MA with his wife, pianist Pei-Shan Lee.

Mr. Katz plays an Andrea Guarneri cello dated 1669.

Cleveland Quartet Homepage
Internet Cello Society (ICS) Interview with Paul Katz
New England Conservatory Faculty Profile
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