A Life Devoted to Music and Students—and Fiddles!

Donor Margaret Pardee

Margaret Pardee

String players at Juilliard are extremely fortunate, not only for the wealth of renowned teachers at the School, but also for the tremendous resource they have in Juilliard's instrument collection. Playing an instrument built by a great master is an incomparable experience for any musician - and one that a student likely could never afford.

Juilliard's collection was greatly enhanced with the donation of a remarkable group of some 30 violins, violas, and bows, given to the School by longtime faculty member Margaret Pardee. "These instruments are splendid additions to The Juilliard School's collection," said faculty member Stephen Clapp, "and Marge Pardee's gift of these wonderful instruments is just one example of her lifelong devotion to young musicians."

We visited with Margaret Pardee between lessons to talk about her gift and her ties to the School. In her mid-eighties now, Miss Pardee still teaches every week, as she has been doing for well over 60 years. After spending a few minutes with her, one quickly gets a sense of the esteem in which she is held by her students, and by their parents.

During our conversation, several parents of her Pre-College Division students stopped by and proudly relayed some of her many accomplishments. Di-Chin Li, whose daughter Alecia was a longtime student of Miss Pardee, talked of her daughter's fondness for her teacher and pointed out an honorary degree on the wall from a Venezuelan school where Miss Pardee was a frequent guest. Parents like Mrs. Li are grateful that their children have had the chance to study with Miss Pardee, and feel a great deal of affection for her.

It is easy to see why. In a teaching career that began in the early 1940's, Margaret Pardee served as a musical mentor for hundreds of violinists and violists who passed through her studio, and was also a surrogate mother to many of those under her tutelage. A charming and modest woman with sparkling blue eyes and a hint of a southern drawl, Miss Pardee has a deep passion for music and for the young people who study at Juilliard. "I love the students here. They are all serious."

As a young girl growing up in Valdosta, Georgia, Margaret Pardee always dreamed of studying at Juilliard. She realized that dream, studying here for 6 years under such legendary violinists as Ivan Galamian, Sascha Jacobsen and Albert Spalding. It was her teacher, Louis Persinger, though, who was her biggest inspiration. "I adored him. I just thought he was the greatest in the world." After graduating from Juilliard (three times), she began a solo career, but teaching was always her first love.

Throughout the years Miss Pardee has also been collecting violins and violas, which she often loaned to her students. "I'd see an instrument I liked and I'd buy it. I was crazy. I just love fiddles." And violas too, she is quick to point out. Among the instruments she donated to Juilliard are a 1771 Guadagnini violin, a Gagliano violin circa 1845, and a rare 1810 J.B. Ceruti half-size violin.

Miss Pardee has a legendary dedication to the young musicians who work with her, putting in long hours teaching, and for many years even housing one or two students in the home she shared with her late husband, Daniel Butterly. She still hears from former students around the world and revels in their success. "I love them all. They still call me year after year, when they come back to New York. Thank goodness I still see them."

The careers of her students are a testament to her skill. One can find former students of Margaret Pardee in ensembles and orchestras throughout the country like the Emerson String Quartet, the New York Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Saint Louis Symphony, to name just a few. Many of her students are also scattered in orchestras around the world such as the Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Sydney Symphony and the Suwon Philharmonic in South Korea.

Margaret Pardee's desire to continue teaching is as strong as ever. "It's more fun to keep teaching. I like the music and I don't have time to go to concerts." Adds Mrs. Li, "she never wants to quit." Also strong is her desire to give back to the School where she has spent her entire career. "I had so many instruments, it was hard to keep track of them. It's expensive to insure them too. I knew Juilliard could use them, and it makes me feel good to know that they will be played by students who need them."

The Juilliard School is indeed fortunate, not only for the gift of this remarkable collection, but also for Margaret Pardee's commitment to her students and to this School.

by Lori Bierly