The legacy

"Lev became devoted to [an] unconventional teaching style, 'not so much...
solving immediate problems...but looking ahead...caring for the whole
person and not merely the cellist.'" 

"The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson" by Frances Brent

Who was Lev Aronson?

Lev Aronson was a cellist who, as a young man, had dreams of becoming an international soloist like his teacher and mentor, the renowned Gregor Piatigorsky.

History had other plans.

After touring in Italy, Spain, France, and Belgium; playing in London on BBC Radio and performing in Oslo, Mr. Aronson returned to Latvia amid the crisis of European fascism. In 1941 he was tragically trapped in the Riga Ghetto where he remained until he was transported in 1944 to Stutthof. He worked as a slave laborer in its subcamps until liberation. He made his way to West Berlin in 1946 and, in the spring of 1948, he arrived as an immigrant in the United States. The following autumn, he joined the Dallas Symphony, where he sat in the first stand and then held the position of principal cellist for nearly twenty years.

Today Lev Aronson is remembered as an extraordinary teacher. He forged a reputation, giving his heart and his soul to young cellists in the Dallas area as well as at Baylor University and SMU. He passed along wisdom, not only about how to play the cello and how to produce sound, but also about the meaning of art. He was a carrier of culture.

He left his mark on the cultural life of the city of Dallas. Lev Aronson transformed and mentored young musicians who later became acclaimed soloists, principal cellists of the great orchestras of the world, celebrated teachers--even a few global leaders in the arts.


Lev Aronson's attention transcended music. He was interested in history, politics, philosophy, literature, the visual arts, dance,  popular culture, and technology. He was playful yet irascible. Tough yet gentle. Flexible and often obstinate. Joyful and sometimes despondent. Mercurial but fiercely loyal. Loving, and at the same time, severe to those he loved the most. Passionate and funny. Intense. Curious. Soulful. Haunted. Brilliant. Private. Complex.

After enduring the calamities of war, he never truly achieved inner peace. His best years were stolen from him as were his cellos during the war, but he kept his demons to himself and approached the world with dignity.

Even after his death in November 1988, the legacy of his life in music has endured through the achievements of his students and the memories they carry.

The Aronson Cello Festival was founded by one of Mr. Aronson's students, cellist Brian Thornton of the Cleveland Orchestra. Over the years, the festival has grown to include musicians, artists, filmmakers, poets, writers, composers, conductors, educators, and many passionate supporters of the arts.

The festival honors Mr. Aronson's work, his colleagues, his friends, his family, and the music that shaped the lives he forever changed. It honors his distinguished students--Ralph Kirshbaum, Lynn Harrell, John Sharp, Christopher Adkins, Mitchell Maxwell--as well a generation of emerging artists and students who are learning from and emulating the best practices of this master teacher.