Karen Tuttle: The Violists’ Champion

Karen and Kim

Violists, particularly in the US, regard Karen Tuttle as a pioneer of pedagogy, tirelessly committed to improving the playing freedom of her students. As this month marks the 100th anniversary of her birth, Carlos María Solare pays tribute to her career, teaching methods and formidable strength of character

When telling violist friends some time ago that I was going to attend a workshop to familiarise myself with the pedagogic methods of Karen Tuttle, I was invariably met by perplexed faces. It became obvious to me that her name is nowhere near as well known in Europe as it should by rights be. Conversely, it appears on the résumé of every other American violist, since she formed generations of players in the US during a teaching career that lasted six decades. Furthermore, during that workshop, and in many conversations with former students of hers, I came to realise that Tuttle did much more than teach people how to play the viola to the highest standard: her students unanimously feel that she also helped them grow as people and inspired in them a sense of collegial supportiveness. Kim Kashkashian considers her a ‘mentor’ – rather than a teacher – with whom she studied ‘until the day she died’, and told me that even today she continues to learn from her memories of Tuttle. Students of Tuttle tend to speak of themselves as a ‘family’; in a moving tribute to her teacher, Carol Rodland (currently on the Juilliard School faculty) has said that she counts some of her Tuttle ‘siblings’ among her ‘closest friends and most cherished colleagues’.

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