Leonard Felberg

Return to Significant Teachers

I first met him when I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico, in 1969. He had also just moved here as the new Professor of Violin at the University of New Mexico. I eagerly enrolled in lessons, played in the UNM Orchestra and took course work in the Music Department and other colleges at UNM.

In the many years I studied with him, we covered much of the standard violin concerti, sonatas, and concert pieces. His love of the violin and its repertoire was contagious, and he began to draw students to him, many of whom have prestigious positions in orchestras and universities throughout the world. He always taught with patience and a sense of humor, and told the most amazing stories about his many experiences with musicians – especially, violinists.

I am still pestering him to write down these stories, as no one else knows them, and many are hilarious. I cannot relate all of his professional appointments, but among others, he played in the Toledo Quartet, and the renowned Concertegbouw. As an international violin soloist, he made friends with many renowned artists. I vividly remember Lenny telling me to give his best to Joseph Gingold, who was the guest clinician at the national Suzuki Conference some years ago. It was with trepidation that I shuffled up to Mr. Gingold after his wonderful master class to deliver my message. When he heard I was a student of Leonard Felberg’s at the University of New Mexico, Gingold’s demeanor changed, and he smiled broadly, put his arm around me and told me how much he admired and respected Lenny. It was made all the more poignant because this was the master class in which the last student was one of Dr. Suzuki’s. When she finished playing a Paganini concerto, Mr. Gingold clapped and said something like, “I have nothing to tell this student, she has obviously been taught by a master.” I don’t believe there was a dry eye in the audience as Dr. Suzuki came onto the stage and Mr. Gingold embraced him. This also was a lesson in dignity and diplomacy for all who were there.

When he discovered that I was interested in pedagogy, Lenny took an avid interest, too. For several semesters, while studying traditional applied violin, we concurrently studied violin pedagogy. We read and discussed the treatises of Geminani, Leopold Mozart, Flesch, and Raphael Bronstein. We also analyzed the etudes of Wohlfarht [Op 45 and the Foundation Studies], Kreutzer, Don’t, Rode and Fiorillo. We also spent two semesters studying “student repertoire” not in the Suzuki Violin School, then we paired those etudes with the student repertoire. His last suggestion was that he would like to “go through” all the Suzuki Books with me, and share his ideas about teaching that repertoire. I was amazed and thrilled at his insights and suggestions, which included his unique [and wonderful] ideas about fingerings, which I still use and enthusiastically pass on to my students!

From Lenny, I learned a vast repertoire of violin music. He instilled enthusiasm and passion for everything we studied, and he chose music that would help me develop musically and technically. I value the care and insight he demonstrated in the selection and sequence of music to which I was exposed. His willingness to spend so much time on pedagogy was informative and invaluable, as it enriched my studies with John Kendall. One of his greatest gifts came recently when he asked me to teach his four year old granddaughter. Lenny often comes to her short, energetic lessons, where he still exudes the same enthusiasm and passion.

Photographs of Susan Kempter's Bisiach courtesy of Robertson & Sons Violin Shop