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Farewell to Violinist, Conductor, and Music Educator, Pamela Gearhart

Pamela Gearhart conducting

Pamela Gearhart conducting a rehearsal at the University at Buffalo, circa 1961. Unidentified photographer.

Violinist and conductor Pamela Gearhart passed away Sunday July 6 2014 in Rochester, New York. She was 79 years old. She is survived by her three children, Kim, Martha, and Fritz.

Pamela Gearhart was born July 21, 1934 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Her father, Russell Gerhart, was also a violinist and conductor. He founded the Altoona Symphony Orchestra and served as conductor of the Huntsville, Alabama Civic Symphony and the St, Louis Philharmonic. Pamela began her five years of studies at Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia at age fifteen. Her violin instructors included Mischa Mischakoff, Joseph Knitzer, Ivan Galamian and Efrem Zimbalist.

Pamela Gearhart

Pamela Gearhart, circa 1960. Photograph by Jim Tuttle.

Pamela married UB Music Department faculty member Livingston Gearhart in 1955 and joined the department as a part-time instructor of violin in 1957. She eventually expanded her responsibilities to include directing the chamber music performance program and conducting the UB orchestra. During the years 1959-1977 Pamela also served as the conductor of the youth orchestra of Buffalo’s Community Music School. Under her direction the membership of the orchestra increased ten-fold, from ten to more than one hundred.

Following her position at UB, Pamela served on the music faculty at Ithaca College until her retirement in 1993. Through all her years of work as an inspired music educator Pamela brought alive the joy of music for hundreds of young students and shaped the musical lives and careers of many successful musicians.

Pamela Gearhart conducting

Pamela Gearhart with (L-R) husband Livingston Gearhart, Mischa Schneider, and Alexander Schneider. Unidentified photographer.

3 Responses

  1. A day does not pass by in my life that I do not remember Pamela Gearhart and how she blessed my soul: she, more than anyone else, taught me how to play the violin. She was the most passionate string teacher I’ve ever known – meticulous, energetic, untiring and ever inspiring. I am sure that all of her students deeply loved and respected her commitment to them and their music and that we all hold her memory most dear – so dear. God bless her. Sincerely, Peter Van Scozza

  2. Two of my fondest memories of Mrs. G: once, when playing one of the DeBeriot concertos in a master class, upon finishing, she asked me, “Why did you miss that high note?” To which I replied, ” I guess I couldn’t reach it.” She grabbed my left hand tightly by the wrist and held it high before the class. “Look at the size of the mitt on this boy! He couldn’t reach it!” I also fondly remember during a Community Music School concert playing the Meistersinger Overture, at a loud and difficult passage, Mrs. Gearhart pointing to me personally, at the head of the second violin section, and saying, “Now, Peter!” I gave her my all. As you can see, to this day, I still do.

    I also remember, on occasion, leaving her violin lessons in total despair, vowing I would never return – she was so demanding – and when upon arriving back home her calling on the phone saying, “Peter needs another lesson before the week is out.” Yes, back I would go. I knew what was good for me.

    She was one of that demanding generation of violin teachers who instinctively knew how to fan the flames of their pupils and who were not afraid of losing them. She was one of that Germanic tribe who knew how to make a person work for their own success. Bow speed, placement, posture, vibrato speed, width, pitch, faithfulness of interpretation – every aspect of violin technique and performance, that dear woman oversaw. I have no doubt in my mind that she, like her teachers, was a master.

    Again I say, God bless her.

    Peter Van Scozza

  3. Gerard McGlone says:

    Mrs. G spoiled us as a conductor. Her attention to detail on phrasing, intonation, ensemble and interpretation was amazing. We were in awe when she demonstrated a passage grabbing a violin from a first stand player. I played Princ. Viola under her at Ithaca many times and she took us to Avery Fischer Hall my last Spring. She was so generous with her wisdom and boy could she listen. I was fortunate to see her last year for an emotional reunion. Bless you Mrs. G as you truly blessed us!
    Gerard McGlone IC Class of 1979.