A biography of Eta Cohen

Creator of the best-selling Eta Cohen Violin Method, Eta Cohen has influenced and inspired countless student violinists around the world, but who is the author behind this renowned series of tutor books?

With the release of a newly updated sixth edition of the Eta Cohen Violin Method, the Musicroom blog asked one of her daughters, award-winning violinist and Professor of Violin, Maureen Smith, to shed some light on the life of Eta Cohen.

Below is a biography of Eta Cohen:

Born in Sunderland in 1916, she was the third of four daughters born to Marie and Isaac Cohen, Jewish immigrants from Lithuania who arrived at the turn of the century.

She studied the violin locally in Sunderland and Newcastle and after leaving school at 16 she started teaching privately. At the age of 17 she was asked to teach for the local education authority, building up a large teaching practice.

Following such early success she went in search of a good violin method and, after finding no such tutor available, decided to begin writing out each of her lessons herself for pupils in 1933. These lessons eventually became the foundation for her books, the first of which was published in 1940 by Paxtons.

During the Second World War she moved to Cheltenham with her family and was able to teach throughout the local schools such as Cheltenham Ladies College. Eta also took violin lessons from Max Rostal and Carl Flesch during this time.

In 1945 she married Ephraim Smith (1912 – 1989) who also came from a Jewish Lithuanian background, and the newlyweds moved to Leeds where their first child, Maureen was born in 1946. A second daughter, Hazel, followed in 1950.

Before long her fame as a violin tutor and pedagogue followed her to Leeds and she was asked to teach a small boy: Michael Vyner who would later go on to manage the London Sinfonietta. She also started to teach Maureen, then Hazel, and in no time had a very large private teaching practice and a small string orchestra, The Eta Cohen String Orchestra.

More books soon followed with four Eta Cohen Violin Method titles and extra repertoire books, duets and rounds authored and published. She continued teaching until she was 90, tutoring a number of violinists who now occupy prominent positions in the musical profession. The sixth edition of the Eta Cohen Violin Method was published by Novello & Co in 2012.

On top of her musical and educational work, Eta was also keen gardener and enjoyed other hobbies such as walking, reading and baking.

Her family followed her into the profession as violin players.

After winning the BBC Violin Competition Maureen became a well-known soloist and chamber musician and is today a Professor of Violin at the RAM.

Hazel specialised in contemporary music and was a leader of the ensembles LYSIS and SONANT before changing professions to become a writer and university professor.

Eta has two granddaughters: Emma Rivlin who is an opera director and Sophie Rivlin who is a freelance cellist.

Updated on 11/10/2012: On December 10, it was reported that Eta Cohen had died in Leeds, UK. She was 93.  Her daughter, Hazel Smith, wrote an obituary for The Guardian.

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