The following is an excerpt from an online publication called “The Rhythm of Successful Teaching,” by Hartt alumnus Larry D. Allen.
Mr. Allen was Principal of Boone Grove Middle School in Boone Grove, Indiana. He also taught and conducted at the college and university level at Trinity College (Hartford, Connecticut), The Hartt School, Central Connecticut State University, Valparaiso University, VanderCook College of Music, Duquesne University, and Villanova University. Among his degrees, Mr. Allen earned a Masters of Music Degree in oboe performance with Bert Lucarelli at the Hartt.
In this section of his publication, called Competence and Incompetence, Mr. Allen relays some stories about Moshe Paranov and his philosophy of teaching music.
Competence and Incompetence
One of the mysteries about teaching in public schools is that almost all of our gurus and geniuses throughout history that daily receive universal respect and admiration would not legally qualify to be our child's teacher.
Moshe Paranov was a musical guru who provided outstanding leadership at the Hartt School throughout most of the 20th century. He and his team of outstanding teachers developed an idea: to build an outstanding school of music in the greater Hartford, Connecticut area to international acclaim and respect. Moshe’s official title was Dr. Moshe Paranov, President of the Hartt School of Music of the University of Hartford. All the children knew him as “Uncle” Moshe. He was active into his 90’s as the Artist-in-Residence for the schools in Glastonbury, Simsbury, and Torrington, Connecticut. Imagine being in demand as a teacher at 90 years young.
The reality of Dr. Paranov’s talent began to unfold in his high school years, as he entered the principal’s office one morning requesting that the principal give him permission to attend school daily for the balance of his high school year beginning at 10:30 a.m. so that he would have time to practice the piano at home from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. With little hesitation the principal presented Dr. Paranov with the bad news regarding the request even though there was strong parental support.
With that decision, Dr. Paranov moved on with his life, left school and proceeded to practice four hours per day from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m., and over the years became a legend without his high school diploma. He built one of the most respected music schools in the world, and he received an Honorary Doctorate from the Philadelphia Music Academy.
Over the years Dr. Paranov interviewed hundreds of candidates to teach in his highly respected school. His mantra was, “play first and then we will talk.” If the candidate played well, the hiring took place immediately. If the candidate could not play well, there was no talking just a painful silence that communicated the message.
Each year there was an opening meeting at the Hartt School of Music where all the faculty would return after a hearty summer of touring, recording, and many exciting musical performances. Dr. Paranov would command the open meeting with humor, enthusiasm, and commitment. The opening speech went like this each year:
I want to welcome you all back to another season of excellence. What I want from each of you teachers is to know “what have you done today to help each of your students and what have you done today to make yourself a more competent musician and a more competent teacher.”