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.
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.”