Vamos teaches master class on importance of musical family tree


Almita Vamos teaches students the ability to help themselves. Vamos will teach a master class at 2 p.m. today in McKnight Hall. Daily file photo.

Leah Rankin | Staff Writer

In the music world, teachers are family. Musicians can trace the lineage of their instructors through generations, forming a musical genealogical web.

Technique, fingerings and style are inherited from those teachers, but for students, after months and even years of working with the same teacher, it’s not about the basics. It’s about the personal connection that drives students to work even harder in the practice room because it is no longer a teacher who inspired them; it is a life-long friend.

Almita Vamos, School of Music violin faculty member, knows full well the fruits of both teaching violin students and having a great teacher herself.

She has won the Presidential Award for Excellence in Teaching six times, while her students have made names for themselves as soloists and chamber musicians. Vamos will teach a master class at 2 p.m. today in McKnight Hall, showing just how important and beneficial that music family tree really is.

“Music is concentration; it’s memory; it’s everything your brain needs,” Vamos said. “Doctors make us live longer, so that we can enjoy life. What is there to enjoy if not the arts?”

Vamos draws more and more students to Chautauqua each year. Vamos said she learns just as much from her students as they learn from her.

For example, Vamos is working on a new bow grip that she picked up from one of her students studying with world-renowned violinist Pinchas Zukerman. During her lessons, she has the mentality that if she can learn something new, so can her students.

The best news, Vamos said, is “there’s no rehab this year.”

Often students will arrive in Vamos’ studio with bad habits that she has to correct before moving on with lessons. She said she has not encountered that yet this year.

One of the best ways to teach is to be open to new opinions and methods of playing, Vamos said.

Teachers always have their own approach, but pedagogy must always be an open discussion, she added.

“There’s a lot of jealousy among teachers,” Vamos said. “We have to fight it because there’s room for everybody. You have to learn how to accept somebody else’s approach.”

But according to Vamos, there is one thing that makes a truly great teacher — being able to help students help themselves.

“You have the best teacher when you can find the problem yourself,” Vamos said.

On July 3, Vamos performed in a memorial service for Paul Mischakoff, the late son of her violin teacher, Mischa Mischakoff. She started studying with Mischa Mischakoff at Chautauqua when she was 7 years old. It is this violin family tree that Vamos continues today.

Admission to Vamos’ master class is $5.