Griliches, Diane Asseo. Teaching Musicians: A Photographer's View

By Cardany, Audrey Berger | Journal of Historical Research in Music Education, April 2011 | Go to article overview

Griliches, Diane Asseo. Teaching Musicians: A Photographer's View


Cardany, Audrey Berger, Journal of Historical Research in Music Education


Griliches, Diane Asseo. Teaching Musicians: A Photographer's View. Bunker Hill Publishing, New Hampshire, 2008, ISBN 10-1-59373060-8, 143 pages, $35.00.

Griliches seems to be passionate about capturing exceptional images in what some might consider ordinary settings. Her previous books include: Library: The Drama Within (University of New Mexico Press, 1996), and An Appalachian Farmer's Story: Portrait of An Extraordinary Common Man (Mercer University Press, 2007). Teaching Musicians: A Photographer's View is a work that continues in this vein of revealing the extraordinary in the ordinary. Dedicating the book to her past music teachers, Griliches graciously writes, "I am so grateful to all the fine teaching musicians and their students who welcomed me into their inner sanctums to capture and run away with their images."

Before entering the professional world of photography, Griliches was a musical theater director in community and high schools, and also the founder and director of Kids & Co. Musical Theatre in Newton, Massachusetts. Exhibitions of Diane Asseo Griliches's photographs have been held in the Library of Congress, Tanglewood Music Center, and the Boston Public Library.

In Teaching Musicians, Griliches presents music teaching and learning through the lens of a camera. The reader/viewer will find black and white photographs of fifty-seven professional musicians and their students of classical, jazz, and world musics. The musicians, ten women and forty-six men, include Ravi Shankar, Sir James Galway, Dorothy DeLay, Bobby McFerrin, and Yo-Yo Ma. Using a hand-held Leica CLS camera and ambient light, she shot images in classrooms and studios at fifteen locations including New England Conservatory, Juilliard School, University of Minnesota, Ali Akbar College, Manhattan School of Music, and East Harlem Public School, as well as the private home studios of seven musicians.

Acknowledgements and preface sections by the author, as well as a foreword by Richard Ortner, president of The Boston Conservatory, precede the photographs of each musician teacher. Organized alphabetically by teacher from Pablo Ablanedo to Jacques Zoon, these "felicitous encounters" as Griliches describes them, are presented full-page with a brief biographical sketch of the musician and quoted remarks from the either student or musician on an accompanying page. Students are typically not identified in the photographs with the exception of students who may already be known as successful professional musicians such as Anoushka Shankar and Ariana Ghez. At times the reader may deduce that the name of the student quoted may also be the student in the photograph, but it is not clear.

Griliches succeeds in choosing authentic moments of teaching and learning. One way to study the photographs is to view them from the role the viewer plays or may have played in music learning. Although Bunker Hill publishing suggests that the book appeals to all music lovers (http://bunkerhill publishing.com/), I believe the average music lover would prefer images of great performances or images in exotic, historic, or prestigious settings. However, any musician from amateur to professional, and any music teacher from novice to master, will likely enjoy this visual celebration of great pedagogues and talented students.

What the viewer will likely notice first is the intimacy of settings, expressions, and body language. Most striking are the photographs of one teacher and one student. These photographs more readily catch the eye in artistic photographic composition. In a photograph of pianist Russell Sherman and his student, we see the student concentrating while Sherman appears to be giving instruction during her playing. We imagine the musical sounds are passionate from the blurred motion caught in the student's right hand and Sherman's closed eyes. …

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