Articles / Miscellaneous

Clara Rockmore: Living On

Rockmore Town Hall

After a most unique life empowered by artistically and personally high standards, and leaving a legacy that remains vital today, Clara Rockmore died here in New York City on May 10, 1998.

Clara was born in Vilnius, Lithuania in 1911, recoginzed as a soon-to-be violin master by age four, in 1915 she became the youngest musician ever admitted to the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Clara moved to New York in the mid-20s and resumed studies with her teacher from Russia, Leopold Auer, but a few years later muscular and joint problems curtailed her career as a violinist. At around that time she met Lev Termen and became his close friend and greatest proponent of his instrument, the theremin.

She was without peer as a thereminist during her life, and many consider her still the greatest player that has ever lived. Documented in only a few recordings, interviews and video, her impact on the musical community has been renewed with the recent growth of interest in the theremin.

Clara devised an entirely new way of approaching the theremin technically which has helped many seeking to play in a precision style and gave the model of aerial fingering out of which grew other schools of playing. One of the great people of our time, it would take a full biography (something many of us long and wish for!!!) to cover the complete scope of her life and that of her husband, sister and family.

She not only toured with Paul Robeson, but took a direct stand against racism;
not only devised a reliable manner of playing, but greatly influenced the design of the instruments Lev Termen built for her and later ones made by Bob Moog;
not only perfected her own playing, but was passionate about inspiring others to master the theremin and achieve the highest musical goals;
not only led the active life of a true virtuoso, but was a social progressive as well as a charming hostess devoted to seeing everyone enjoy themselves at any social gathering.

Clara's family and friends were tremendously important to her, and she helped instill in their next generations the passions, social values and love of life that she and her sister Nadia held in utmost importance.

The theremin community would not be what it is today without her, and many of us might not be playing at all, or at least not as well, without her tremendous contributions.

This is the tenth anniversary.
Clara, we thank you... and we miss you.

Some more information can be found at:

The TW Clara Spot

Wikipedia Entry (which also lists her recordings and the Moog video)

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