Meet Eugene Purdue, visiting assistant professor of violin

The SOM is pleased to announce the appointment of violinist Eugene Purdue as visiting assistant professor of violin for the 2013-14 academic year. Gene, as he is known, is a well-known violin teacher in the Madison area, having trained dozens of the area’s most successful young students. Now, with the retirement of Professor Tyrone Greive, Gene will absorb many of Prof. Greive’s former university students into a new studio in the music building.

A graduate of Indiana University, Mr. Purdue has studied with Tadeusz Wronski, Josef Gingold, Franco Gulli and Daniel Guilet with summer studies with Dorothy Delay. He has served on the faculties of the Music Institute of Chicago and Midwest Young Artists of Ft. Sheridan, Illinois.

Eugene Purdue.
Eugene Purdue. Photograph by Thomas Stringfellow.

Gene is the former first violinist of the Thouvenel String Quartet of Midland, Texas, which he formed in 1974 with his wife, Sally Chisholm, violist with the Pro Arte Quartet. The Thouvenel String Quartet performed regularly for many years, travelling around the country and the world, from New York to Washington, D.C. and on to Vienna, Amsterdam, and even Tibet. The ensemble was especially interested in contemporary music, commissioning works from the likes of Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt. In 1983, they received a warm review from the New York Times. “The Thouvenel Quartet’s sound seemed the product of one elegant impulse divided equally among four individuals,” wrote reviewer Tim Page.

NYT review of the Thouvenel Quartet

In 1991, after Sally was offered the position of violist with the Pro Arte Quartet, the couple moved to Madison where Gene founded his private violin studio (nicknamed “the Buddy Conservatory of Music,” in honor of his cat). Since then, his methods have apparently worked well: many of his high school students have won major classical competitions before enrolling in music school, some at UW-Madison, others at conservatories around the country. Those competitions include the local Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Bolz Young Artist competition as well as larger ones in Naumberg (New York), Klein (San Francisco), Johannsen (Washington DC), Lukas Foss (New York), Fischoff (Notre Dame), the St Paul String Quartet Competition, and the Walgreens National Concerto Competition (Chicago).

Considered a thoughtful teacher, Gene offered his views on teaching and competitions in a 2011 interview in The Well-Tempered Ear, a blog written by former Capital Times arts editor Jake Stockinger.

Eugene Purdue interview in the Well-Tempered Ear

In that interview, Gene offered his view of how to manage nerves as a performer: “Another important point is breathing. To be in control, you must use abdominal breathing. If not, you can spiral out of control. Also, your technique needs to be solid and of course, you need to know your piece really well. My basic feeling about nerves is that nerves don’t cause problems; they reveal problems.”

Recently, Gene answered a few questions about his plans for teaching older students at UW.

I’m curious to know how teaching at UW will differ from what you do privately.

I have always tried to teach the same information to everyone. The difference is how fast they move. For instance, if someone is more committed and practices more, then they move faster. I am anticipating that my UW students will be very committed.

How do you view this opportunity?

I am very excited to be involved generally in the UW music community. Also, to be a colleague of such outstanding musicians and teachers as Felicia Moye and David Perry is a real honor.

What is your view of the UW SOM?

I view the UW School of Music as a top school. The combination of great faculty and students in a great atmosphere is hard to beat. That is why I have referred so many of my students to UW. Without exception, they have told me that I advised them well.

What do you think you can offer UW students that might derive from your years of teaching privately, having had so many successful students? Are there any specifics that might prove especially helpful?

Having been out in the “real world,” I think I have a perspective on private teaching as a good career possibility.

Can you tell us where some of your successful students are now, what they are doing? Many of them did not attend UW-Madison following high school study.

One is in a leading Canadian string quartet, one is part of the avant garde music scene in New York and recently received an Annenberg Fellowship, another is in New York subbing in the New York Phil, another is in the New World Symphony, several have become private or Suzuki teachers and some have thrown in the towel and become Ph.D’s or doctors.

What are your plans to start the year? Do you know how many students you will have? Will this put a crimp in your private teaching?

My class is still taking shape but I am hired on a 2/3 basis and I anticipate a full load. This year I had enough graduating seniors that I have not had to drop anyone from my private class.

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