Juilliard Dean Emeritus Stephen Clapp (1939-2014)

January 31, 2014, 12:06 PM · Violinist, mentor, teacher, leader -- Juilliard Dean Emeritus Stephen Clapp possessed tremendous gifts and spent his life sharing them generously.

Clapp died on Sunday at his home in Cos Cob, Conn., after a long illness. He was 74.

Stephen Clapp teaching
Photo © Peter Schaff. Courtesy The Juilliard School

This week the Juilliard community and countless colleagues and former students scattered across the globe are remembering Clapp, who was a Juilliard alumnus and faculty member, as well as Dean of the Juilliard School from 1994 to 2007 (and before that, Associate Dean, from 1991 to 1994). Before joining the faculty at Juilliard, he was Professor of Violin and string department chairman at Oberlin Conservatory. He also was a regular performer and faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival; and concertmaster of the Aspen Festival Chamber Symphony, Nashville Symphony and Austin Symphony.

Clapp started teaching when he was 14 and continued to teach for the rest of his life, working with students in his studio at Juilliard up until the week before he died. Here is a slice of his teaching, from a 2007 masterclass he gave at the Starling-DeLay Symposium at Juilliard. The Symposium is an event that Clapp helped bring to life.

Violinists Robyn Bollinger and Stefani Collins stand with Stephen Clapp after a 2007 master class at Juilliard's Paul Recital Hall.

"Stephen Clapp was not only a great Dean at Juilliard, he was one of the founders and an avid supporter of the Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies," Symposium Artistic Director Brian Lewis said. "From the earliest days of our discussions all the way to his passing, Stephen believed in the potential of all students, wherever they were on their personal paths. He was a valuable member of the Brian Lewis Young Artist Program in Kansas, and I cherish the time spent with such a great man. Dean Clapp was a man I greatly respected not just for his fine teaching and leadership, but also for the humanity with which he lived his life and which he shared generously with all around him. I shall forever be indebted to Stephen for his sagely advice and heartfelt compassion. He will be deeply missed, but his legacy will live on with each note played by his former students."

One of those students was Gert Kumi, now a professor of violin at Anderson University, in Anderson, Ind. "Clapp was a very kind, compassionate and gracious person, and that reflected in his teaching too," said Kumi, who studied with Clapp from 2000 to 2003. "He valued hard work on the part of his students, and he was a very hard worker himself; he always found time to practice even for a few minutes before he taught, setting a great example for me and other students. I don't know how he managed to get everything done, considering he was dean at the time I was a student, but he always sounded great!"

Clapp was born Nov. 27, 1939 in Tallman, N.Y. Raised in New Jersey, he studied piano before taking up the violin.

With Isaac Stern
Isaac Stern and Stephen Clapp

While still a student of Andor Toth at Oberlin Conservatory, he won the Josef Gingold Prize of the Cleveland Society for Strings. He also studied at the Mozarteum Akademie in Salzburg, Austria, then went on to study with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay at The Juilliard School, earning his Master of Science in Music in 1965, the same year his Beaux Arts String Quartet won the first Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Award.

"He was, to me, Dorothy DeLay reincarnate," said violinist William Shaub, who studied with Clapp for seven years. "He was such a natural pedagogue; he would, over time, become exactly whatever you needed as a student. He just knew your potential and knew exactly how to get you there. Some say his teaching style was passive, or not as actively demanding as others. But as a violinist, he knew that successes feel the best when the work originates from our own minds and our own hearts. He taught this way purposely, without giving this idea life by saying it out loud. He just didn't need to."

A funeral service will be held 2 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 1) at St. John's Episcopal Church, 628 Main St., Stamford, Conn. 06901. Donations may be made to the Stephen Clapp Memorial Violin Scholarship, through Juilliard, 212-799-5000 x692.


January 31, 2014 at 08:20 PM · I studied with Clapp at Aspen in the mid-90s. One of the nicest people I've ever met, and a great teacher.

January 31, 2014 at 08:45 PM · Mr. Clapp was wonderful. He inspired us all, and pushed us to our very best. Both my teachers were good friends of his, and all of us will miss him greatly.

February 1, 2014 at 02:59 PM · Our daughter studied with this incredible violin teacher and human being , she thought so much of him that she traveled for almost 3 years from Puerto Rico to New York monthly just to learn from him. He raised her level of playing the violin in a way that we never expected , he saw her potential and found a way to bring it out . But the most important lessons that she learned from him was not about violin , but about life itself. She learn to be compassionate , to be humble, to be persistent and to recognize the giver of the talent, God. We will never forget him and forever will be graetful. Nellie

February 3, 2014 at 05:22 PM · The pleasure of meeting Stephen was first mine in 1986 when he was a professor at Oberlin and Nigo Nigogosian, Carlos Arcieri, and I came there to establish the first Oberlin Restoration Workshops. He was so thrilled and delighted that this project was underway, and there was nothing he would not do to help us. He even picked us up at the airport in Cleveland and drove us around as we got settled. That week we invited to a traditional Chinese feast prepared by a student who had lived with the Clapp family the preceding year, and was headed home. The warmth and genuine kindness shown to us in those long-ago days is with me still. Rest in peace, Stephen, and peace to Mary and the kids.

February 4, 2014 at 08:25 PM · Mr Clapp was a great man a great teacher and a great violinist. His loss is immense. He was kind generous compassionate and had a knack for bringing out the best in his students, not only musically but emotionally and spritually

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