Before I played a note, Aldo told me to play every phrase with the exact opposite bowing of that which was indicated.
I was flummoxed by this request, but I did what he told me. It was incredibly difficult and I felt as if I were making a fool of myself.
BUT it was a very important lesson. By changing all of the bowings, he was forcing me to think about every phrase as I played them.
That is a lesson I have never forgotten and whenever I am re-learning a piece, I always start out by considering changing the bowings/phrasings.
The next example involves the first time that I played in Cello Class. I performed the Valentini Sonata in E Major and totally fell apart!
I was uncontrollably nervous, which was quite a surprise to me. While I usually had butterflies before a performance, I had never ever been uncontrollably nervous! Afterwards, I just wanted to crawl into a hole.
When the class was over, I took my time gathering my things, and Aldo and I walked out of the room and down the steps together.
As we were walking, he said to me “You know why I was so hard on you today? Because you are good, and you need to get over the nerves!”
I was so relieved that I nearly skipped down the steps!
The lesson learned: always prepare yourself mentally and psychologically to be uncontrollably nervous, and you will avoid the kind of surprise that experienced on that day.
As a teacher, Aldo inspired his students to express themselves through their music; he encouraged us to find our own unique expressive voice. And he always recognized when his students needed a boost of confidence—as he did for me those many years ago.
Aldo as “mensch” and mentor
I received a Fulbright Fellowship to study in Germany after graduating from Yale, and learned that “mensch” is a word often used by the Germans to denote “a good and honorable” person. Aldo is to me the epitomy of a “mensch.”
Now I know to some, he may appear to be an unlikely candidate for this designation. After all, he is a bit quirky and inpatient, and I understand that side of him has become even more prominent in recent years!
However, for me personally, he has served as a wise mentor and trusted advisor for almost 50 years through my many directional and career changes.
There was only one time when he firmly disagreed with a decision that I made, and that was when I decided to take the position as the first Director of the School of Music (now the Butler School of Music) at the University of Texas at Austin.
Aldo did not mince his words when expressing his disapproval. In fact, he called me a fool and told me that I had lost my mind!
However, many years later, he admitted that I had made the right decision. And I admitted that his approval was something I valued—always.
To conclude, I am grateful that Aldo has been present at some of the most important moments of my life. He and Elizabeth took the time to come to my first inauguration as President of Wheaton College in Massachusetts, and I have some lovely photos taken on that occasion.
I am fortunate to have Aldo as a valued teacher, mentor, advisor, and friend for almost fifty years.
And I am inspired to be a better teacher, mentor, advisor, and friend as a tribute to Aldo and all he has given me.
In the biography Aldo Parisot, the Cellist: The Importance of the Circle, author Susan Hawkshaw shared the following quote on why Aldo encouraged each of his students to find their own voice. He said, “There are many people who imitate their teacher. I hate the idea that there’s someone in the world who sounds like a little Aldo Parisot. You’ve got to be yourself. We’ve all got to find our own way.”
Well, today we are all little Aldo Parisots—unabashedly proud, and eternally grateful to have found our own way by following yours.
On behalf of the many, many cellists whose lives you have touched over the years—thank you!
Our very best wishes to you and Elizabeth.