Joey Corpus

Lara’s teacher and mentor from 1985 to the continuous present.

I have often been known to declaim that Joey taught me everything I know about actually playing the violin.

Luckily for me I met Joey at a relatively young age, in Philadelphia, while I was at Curtis as a teenybopper. Until this time I had been getting by on raw talent and luck alone, and my practice methods were disorganized and frankly, horrendous.

Patience is required when dealing with a hot-headed pre-teen, and Joey then, as now, had that in abundance. I was finally given a reason I could understand as to why I was doing all these scales and etudes, and was taught to lay the “groundwork”; the reason for which is, of course, everyone’s final goal – to be so completely relaxed about all of the actual mechanics of playing that one has total freedom in performance to let one’s own ideas and expressivity shine through.

Basically, he taught me how to practice without wasting time, or making things worse. When I hear young students today, when I give master classes or the like, I am often finding that no one has ever bothered to explain to these young people what exactly to do with their time alone with the violin. Lots of kids are forced by their parents or teachers to practice a certain amount of hours per day, which will do less than nothing if they do not intrinsically know the reason why. Patience and hard work will indeed pay off, but not without the proper comprehension.

Joey taught me then that the only person I can ever compare myself to is myself, in the past. Everyone is individual, and those schools and institutions where everyone comes out playing the same is the result of people not taught to think for themselves – only to copy. Joey and I do not believe in the previous generation’s ideas of discouragement and competition getting results. I also do not believe in that era’s forcing of bygone interpretations upon students. One can learn from the past, but should not dwell on it, thereby losing the future.

Technique is of course invaluable and extremely important – one can have piles of great musical ideas but without enough technique no one is going to want to hear them. It is not, as Joey is always impressing on all his students – the final goal. It is only the means to an end. Teachers can give ideas, but in the end the interpretation must be one’s own to give a great performance.

I do not believe there is any technical problem, right or left hand, that Joey cannot figure out a solution for. When I had some trouble with the right hand, instead of forcing some accepted, “normal” bowhold on me, he told me to envision the sound as I need and want it, and figure out the physical means accordingly. As a result, I have a right hand which shocks most people in the way it looks, but hey, it works for me. He has always worked with the assumption that one knows oneself best, and has never forced anything upon any student.

I have paid my dues in the realm of scales, intonation work, and arpeggios, fingered octaves, long tones and the like. I will at no point ever pretend that it was easy or fun, but the knowledge that the improvement was happening was enough to keep me going. I shudder to think of how many scales and difficult technical passages Joey and I have worked on ad nauseum, and the indescribable amount of patience needed for such work (especially when the player has none).

I would certainly not be where I am today without Joey Corpus, and he is quickly becoming a well-known underground phenomenon in New York. I still play for him on occasion, and still learn a lot. I have had no stage fright or nerves for years upon years, and I think this is due to the fact that when I get on stage, I know, thanks to Joey, that the work has been done.

Lara

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