November 26, 2018

Nina Michailowna Beilina (1931-2018)

What a time, eh?   What a personal and meaningful time, definitely for me and I am sure even moreso for many others.

Just a few months ago, I had the immense pleasure of returning to Houston, Texas to participate in the Colour of Music Festival.  That week was definitely "old home week", as I reconnected with many friends, colleagues, and teachers including Kenneth Goldsmith (with whom I studied for three years) and Alan Austin, a man who does double duty as Professor of Baroque Violin and General and Artistic Director of the Immanuel and Helen Olshan Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston.

Of course, during "old home week" it was so wonderful to spend a day with my teacher and his wife, first having a meal and talking about books and then watching him coach a group of chamber music students at the Shepherd School.     Additionally, Alan was working on the Fredell Lack archives - and both Alan and Mr. Goldsmith sent me home with truly priceless pedagogical material for which I shall always remain grateful.

Fortunately, Mr. Goldsmith is still with us, and I recently acquired a set of bowing etudes written by Henri Marteau that Mr. Goldsmith gave many students before me.    With thanks to Alan, I have many things from Ms. Lack's archives, including all of the Leopold Auer courses and Paul Rolland's "Basic Principles of Violin Playing".

Getting back to Ms. Beilina, though:   the memory of being an incredibly green, wide-eyed and naive fiddler from South Carolina who had been studying in Oklahoma, walking into an apartment building in New York City and being greeted with such grace by a stranger who said "Take your time, use this room (the warmup room) as your home" as she dealt with real life. 

(As an aside, let's think about that:   as we now find ourselves overwhelmed and dare I say both frustrated and angry about email culture, here was a woman who took the time to hear me and coach me while she was dealing with family and life-changing issues.    Shall we all buck up - YES!)

After about ninety minutes, she called me into the living room....

While life did take me to Houston after this venture into the world (and as I look back, I am reminded that "success lies in organization"), I have always wondered how life would have unfolded should the trip to New York had gone smoothly. It need be said, however, that the bumps in the road were totally MINE: Ms. Beilina was so tremendously organized around everything in her life, and that she took so much time with me makes the experience even so much more meaningful.

All of that aside, I shall never forget Ms. Beilina's kindness: "Think of this as your home," she said as she ushered me into a side room in her apartment to warm up for our trial lesson, later calling me to the living room about ninety minutes later for one of the most intense, insightful and meaningful lessons that I think I have ever had.

I have thought of her many times over the years, and while I did not have the opportunity to spend years with her, those two days in New York City definitely made an impact.

Thank you, Ms. Beilina. Rest now, deservedly.

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