President and Professor of Music, University of Richmond
Remarks at Aldo Parisot's 100th birthday celebration, September 30, 2018
Good afternoon. Dean Blocker, faculty, staff, current students, alumni, and other guests, I am delighted to join you all as we celebrate the incomparable Professor Aldo Parisot and all he has meant to music, to Yale University, and to each of us gathered here today.
The Road to Yale
I first became acquainted with Professor Parisot—at least as a master cello teacher- through the late Bob Bein (founder of Bein and Fushi in Chicago).
Bob’s father was one of my professors at Miami University of Ohio, and I babysat for the Beins (a wonderful and accomplished musical family) in Oxford, Ohio the summer before I started college. The primary focus of my babysitting was Bob’s younger brother, Jonathan.
When Bob went to Mannes to study with Aldo, I heard nothing but rave reviews from his mother, Allen Bein—a professional violinist and Eastman School of Music alumna, who recognized Aldo’s singular gifts as a teacher.
Up until that time, I had thought that I would go to Indiana University to study with Janos Starker, or to Harvard to study musicology.
My cello teacher from age 14, Professor Elizabeth Potteiger, was one of Starker’s first American students. Each year Liz would take me to the annual cello gatherings at IU and while I enjoyed going there, I felt that Indiana was simply too big for me.
My undergraduate advisor at Miami University was a Harvard-educated musicologist, and suggested I consider Harvard. However, when I went to Cambridge for my interview, I was told in all seriousness that I probably would not have time to practice my cello until close to midnight each night. Needless to say, I immediately scratched Harvard off of my list!
In January of 1969, I was invited to New York City to interview for a Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellowship.
I wrote to Aldo and asked if I might come up to New Haven to play for him. He answered affirmatively, so I met him one afternoon at Stoeckel Hall.
He arrived with his cello and a suitcase, as he was on his way to perform with an orchestra (I believe it was the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra). I played the Dvorak Concerto, Prokofieff Sonata, and Bach for him.
He made me feel comfortable immediately, and there was something about him that I really, really liked. He was very complimentary and told me that he would accept me as his student. A few weeks later I received my official letter of admission from Yale offering me a scholarship.
Concomitantly, I received several national fellowships that provided full financial support for graduate study at any university, but it was an easy decision to choose Yale—primarily because of that one interaction with Aldo.
Aldo as Teacher
Aldo’s extraordinary teaching ethos was apparent from the start. During my first year studying with him—indeed, my first few months—I was challenged in ways that have impacted my career as a professional musician. Here are two examples.
One day I showed up for my lesson to play the Franck Sonata and the Chopin “Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante.”