Lee Snyder doesn’t practice as much as he used to.
That might be a bit of an understatement: he says during his days studying at Oberlin and Juilliard, he would practice eight to ten hours a day. That gave way to a highly distinguished performing career as a soloist and chamber musician, which obviously required a great deal of practice as well.
“My definition of practicing is ‘solving problems,’” he says. “The most important thing I can teach my students is to how to practice.”
Snyder retired from performing a number of years ago, and says he now spends the time he used to spend practicing in his garden or at the gym. Though he brings a violin with him to his lessons, he doesn’t always pick it up to play.
“Some days, I play quite a bit. But If I have something to show them in terms of interpretation, I’ll just grab theirs.”
When Snyder looks back on his time teaching at Settlement, he remarks on how much his teaching has improved in the years since he first started and since he retired from performing. “I’ve become a lot more organized,” he says.
Of course, earlier in his career, he wasn’t able to draw from his “Ten Commandments”: short bits of wisdom amassed over the course of many decades of teaching. Some are borrowed from other teachers, others adapted from articles or even advertisements; only, he’s quick to add, “there’s a lot more than ten of them.”
While he’s demanding of his students, he expects them to be even more demanding of themselves. At this stage in his career, with many of his students having careers as professional musicians – and some teaching alongside him at Settlement – he’s clearly made an enormous impact in his teaching.
He still keeps it all in perspective, drawing on one of his many “commandments.”
“When you finally get something the way you want it, your practicing has just begun.”