CBC blog post : Letter to my teacher: Matt Haimovitz

May 3, 2012

On the first Monday in May each year, schools across Canada celebrate the impact of music and music education with Music Monday. To mark the occasion, we invited several prominent Canadian musicians across a variety of genres to pen a letter to a music teacher who has greatly influenced their career. Then, when possible, we spoke to the teacher about the letter.

Here, cellist Matt Haimovitz writes to his teacher, the late Leonard Rose, former principal cello of the Cleveland Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Haimovitz was in Rose’s final group of students at the Juilliard School in New York City. Rose died of leukemia on Nov. 16, 1984.

Dear Mr. Rose,

I will never forget our first lesson. I was 11 and proud to be able to play for you Schubert’s difficult Arpeggione Sonata. You stopped me after the first movement, graciously moved the music stand aside and suggested we begin by playing only one note. You then drew from your cello the richest, most glorious sound I have heard to this day. We spent the next month working not on any repertoire, but on producing the ideal sound on just a single note.

You were the embodiment of good taste. In fact, I never saw you in anything but a three-piece suit! If I saw you break out into a smile when I played I knew I could have the courage to play a solo with any orchestra in the world. And you would always follow praise with, “but don’t let it get to your head!” Humility would go hand in hand with a striving for the highest musical standards.

You instilled musical and human values by example. Beyond the generosity of sharing your knowledge, you invited me to perform with you, some of my first and most inspiring musical experiences. In preparing for your 65th birthday concert, your former student Yo-Yo Ma arranged some Scott Joplin tunes for the three of us to play together. At one point in my part there was an indication for me to stomp my foot against the ground. Yo-Yo, too, was stomping. You looked at us and asked, “What are you two doing?” When Yo-Yo explained that he had omitted the marking from your part because it was not dignified enough, you laughed and we continued, all three stomping our feet to the music.

You were, and still are in my memory, a larger-than-life human being and as dear to me as a grandfather. Your students were so close to your heart and you gave us so much. Thank you for inspiring me with a sense of responsibility for the next generation and to continue to pass on your ideals – as a cellist, and as a man.

Yours always,


Haimovitz reunited with memento of Rose

An unusual thing happened recently that brings to mind the poignant story of the tsunami-swept soccer ball that was returned not long ago to its 16-year-old Japanese owner.

Back in the early 1980s, Rose gave Haimovitz a concert poster signed with an encouraging message: “To my dear Matt, the greatest talent I’ve known, but don’t get a ‘swell head.’ Much love – Leonard Rose.”

The poster became one of Haimovitz’s most cherished possessions, finding a prominent place in his student apartment in Manhattan. When Haimovitz relocated, however, the poster was lost and, despite every effort, he wasn’t able to find it.

Fast forward to March 24, 2012, when Haimovitz gave a concert at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. The concert presenter told Haimovitz that somebody had come backstage at intermission to deliver something to the cellist. When Haimovitz returned to his dressing room at the end of the performance, there it was: Rose’s signed poster, intact after all these years.

It turns out Haimovitz’s landlord had found the poster and hung on to it for 28 years until their paths crossed again in Fairfax. Haimovitz’s landlord left it in his dressing room without a word, knowing a happy reunion would ensue. The poster now hangs, safe and sound, in Haimovitz’s practice studio in Montreal.

The Rose Album

The Rose Album

View article at:  CBC Music

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s