Our Founder

Louise Behrend

Miss Behrend was one of the pioneer musicians who introduced the educational philosophy and teaching concepts of the violinist Shinichi Suzuki to the United States. In the fall of 1970, she started a small Suzuki Program in Manhattan, a rigorous course for training Suzuki teachers and an oasis for nurturing young children in the art of music. Within three years, that Program had expanded and developed into what is today The School for Strings.

A teacher and musician of great perception, Miss Behrend was widely admired by her colleagues and revered by her students. Her teaching was noted for its emphasis on beauty and variety of tone, serving the expressive and communicative values of music. Painstaking in her attention to detail, she gave her students a thorough grounding in technical control of the instrument, and deep insight into the music’s emotional and intellectual qualities. Unusual in the field, she was an effective teacher at all levels, from the three-year-old beginner to the post-graduate professional.

Louise Behrend received her formal music education at The Juilliard School, in the violin studio of Louis Persinger, an esteemed pedagogue whose students included Isaac Stern, Ruggiero Ricci, and Yehudi Menuhin. Soon after finishing her studies, she was invited to join Juilliard’s Pre-College Violin and Chamber Music faculties, a tenure that continued for over 60 years.

Her career in performing and teaching spanned over 70 years. Her contributions to music education received both national and international recognition. In 1989, she was honored by the InterSchool Orchestras of New York at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, as the recipient of their second Annual Achievement Award. In 1992, she became the first teacher whose students won the Grand Prize in both the Pre-College and Pre-Professional Divisions of that year’s ASTA National Competition. ASTA honored her in 1994 with its Distinguished Service Award.

In 2003, Miss Behrend was presented with the Betty Allen Award by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, in recognition of her life-long dedication and distinguished contribution to music education in the area of chamber music. In 2007, she received the Paul Rolland Lifetime Achievement Award from the New England Conservatory.

The Suzuki Association of the Americas recognized Miss Behrend in 1996 with its Distinguished Service Award, and in 2002, the SAA gave special recognition to her contribution to the field of music education with its Creating Learning Community Award. Miss Behrend was the subject of a feature cover story in the Summer 1993 issue of The Suzuki Journal. Written in the form of an interview by Allen Lieb, it recounts the story of her life in her own words.

Born in Washington, D.C., Miss Behrend lived her entire adult life in Manhattan, returning to the Washington area in 2009 when she retired from teaching. She passed away on August 3, 2011, exactly two months shy of her 95th birthday.

Her love of the violin, contagious enthusiasm for music and teaching, and her unshakable belief in every child’s potential are at the heart of the legacy she leaves behind at The School for Strings. We are fortunate to inherit her spirit and to be entrusted with her vision, so deeply affected by the work of Dr. Suzuki.

“Louise Behrend taught me the joy of learning how to learn…In so many lessons Miss Behrend would tell me of some new discovery she had made while practicing in the past few days: if you feel this finger just so on the bow you might hear just this subtle reflection of it in the sound. As a kid, hearing that your beloved and revered teacher is still discovering things, still figuring things out is a potent realization…The process of questioning and of magnifying the musical elements so that together we could enter the piece from the inside and learn how to illuminate it, how to make it glow and sing and speak and dance, was tremendously exciting. It was the process that Miss Behrend put the most focus on, in her endlessly nurturing, supportive cajoling and insisting…I ask myself now, how is it possible that I have no memory of being perpetually frustrated at the pace of the work, at the high standard I failed to reach time after time? Maybe it’s because as long as I was working, as long as I was engaging my curiosity and my powers of perception, I was in fact reaching the standard. Because there was no end in sight, and Miss Behrend lifted my eyes toward the horizon again and again.” – Mark Steinberg, Former Student, Founder and First Violin, Brentano String Quartet
“No one I know did not feel at least a little terror of Ms. Behrend, who had little patience for lack of prac-tice or shoddy habits and unsparingly demanded of you your full investment in every note you played…And yet behind and through this exacting discipline shone a deep love–love of you, the student, your musical potential and your individual voice; love of the beauty and vitality of music itself; love of the tradition of violin playing handed down to her by her own revered and beloved teacher, Louis Persinger; love of learning and excellence in all its forms…She showed us what it is to be fully engaged in every moment with both mind and heart. The boundless energy with which she would literally dance around the room to convey the rhythmic vitality of a passage swept away any stultify- ing inhibition. And her penetrating observations and endlessly questing mind would serve to stimulate your own fresh inquiry…Her perpetual challenge was: “Whatever you play, play it convincingly, even if I don’t agree with you. Otherwise I will make you do things my way!” And she much preferred the former.” – Timothy Shiu, Former Student, Associate Professor of Violin, University of Memphis Member of Ceruti String Quartet

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