Violist is ‘master’
at drawing out best in Suzuki students
Forty years ago, Dave Becker wanted to be a professional
violist. Several hundred music students are glad he expanded his repertoire.
“If I had just done that, I would have had a much more
one-dimensional career.” Instead, Becker combined his love of playing with his
keen interest in teaching and “helping others love this as much as I do.”
Becker has been a successful performer in chamber groups and
symphony orchestras from New York City to Victoria, British Columbia. He’s
performed with violinists Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell, with singers Luciano Pavarotti, Marilyn Horne and John Denver and with the
pit orchestra for Joel Grey’s Cabaret. A
highlight of his career was performing Dvorak’s cello
Russian cellist Mstislav Rostropovich.
that time, Becker taught viola and violin. For the last 20 years, he’s focused
on teaching at the Aber Suzuki Center at UW-Stevens Point. He will
retire in June.
“Mr. Becker is a master teacher,” said Pat D’Ercole,
director of the Aber Suzuki Center, during a tribute concert April 27. “He
is the consummate artist. Everything he does – his teaching, conducting,
accompanying—is done with perfection and is always first class.”
Julliard-trained musician returned to his hometown of Stevens Point after he
and his wife, Patti, independently decided to be closer to nature and family.
Jobs opened in their respective areas of expertise at UW-Stevens Point just as
they explored the move.
The music education methods
developed by Shinichi Suzuki emphasize musical and personal growth through
individual and group instruction. The Aber Suzuki Center uses these principles to
nurture and inspire students from an early age. As they develop technique in
violin, viola, cello, bass, piano, harp, guitar, voice or dance, students
incorporate this philosophy into their lives.
Parents play an important role
in reinforcing and motivating their children to embrace Suzuki philosophy. As a result, Becker has gotten to know
parents, siblings and extended family of his students. Some trained with him
from age 4 to 18, and strong bonds developed over those years.
Becker knows how to draw out the best in his students and to
improve their performance, D’Ercole said. “His calm demeanor, artistry and
attention to detail have developed the musical skills of a generation of
founded the Central
State Chamber Orchestra in 1999. The goal was to further develop skills of
advanced string students in junior and senior high school from throughout
central Wisconsin. “I wanted something as inclusive and high level as possible,”
coaches the Aurora String Quartet, which has had many different members over
the years. He has been an accompanying pianist
for students on monthly recitals, senior recitals, solo and ensemble festivals
as well as with faculty on viola and piano. He will continue accompanying
is meant to be shared,” he said. “That’s always been one of my favorite parts
of the job.”
Many of his
students have won the Central Wisconsin Symphony Orchestra concerto
competition, performed in master classes at Suzuki Association of the Americas
conferences and gone on to prestigious music schools such as Oberlin, Yale,
UW-Madison and Rice.
Some of his students have pursued performance careers, like
Jane Mitchell, who will return as a guest artist with CWSO next fall. Others
are studying to be doctors, attorneys or other professionals. “They take the
skills, the perseverance and hard work they developed in Suzuki and it helps
them achieve in their chosen fields. I
couldn’t be prouder,” Becker said. “In all cases, music is something they’ll
hold dear for the rest of their lives.”