Dorothy Roffman’s way
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Dorothy Roffman’s way

Former Roffman student is Roffman teacher and Roffman parent

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Carey White

With a father and a grandfather who both played violin, it was no surprise what Carey White, 5, would do. Her first teacher was Dorothy Roffman, years ago, at the preparatory division of the Manhattan School; she continued to study there through her senior year of high school.

Now, Ms. White teaches at the Thurnhauer School of Music. She lives in Tenafly.

Memories? She’s got a ton of them.

“I can remember seeing a recital of Dorothy’s students many years ago,” she said. “I complimented her, and said ‘Wow, how do you get all of their bow arms to look so beautiful? So controlled yet flexible, graceful and strong? And some of those kids are so wiggly and difficult.'”

Ms. Roffman, she remembers, answered, “It doesn’t matter. Let’s see how they play when they are 20.”

Ms. White was surprised by that answer.

“She spends all of her time with the little ones, but she is always looking forward,” she said. “It reminded me that Dorothy sees music-making and learning to love music as a process, a lifelong process.”

When she was ready to move on to another teacher, Ms. White said, she already had a solid technique. She didn’t need to fix any bad habits that children can pick up easily when they first learn to play because Ms. Roffman had prepared her to move ahead.

“Dorothy planted the seed and nurtured it in its beginning few years,” she said. “There is no question that had I not had Dorothy as my first teacher, I might not have continued violin.”

Ms. White has taught at Thurnauer part time for 17 years, and now she also teaches at the Elisabeth Morrow School in Englewood. Her violin groups have performed at the JCC, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Merkin Hall, Disney World, and Central Park.

“It’s a huge commitment to study at the JCC, but it’s worth it,” she said. “We work to develop a comprehensive understanding of music. It’s not only about the instrument.”

White’s daughter, Talia Miller, started studying violin with Ms. Roffman last year. Now she is 5 years old, and her mom sits in on all the lessons.

“Watching Talia and Dorothy together is very moving,” Ms. White said. “It makes me think of my mother and me, of how far I have come, and how far all of Dorothy’s students have come.”

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