Born in Novi Sad (in the part of Yugoslavia that is now Serbia), Baruch Arnon began growing up in Zagreb (now in Croatia) before his family moved to Israel. He earned a diploma from the Israel (now Rubin) Academy of Music in Tel Aviv before attending Juilliard, where he earned a B.M. and M.S. in piano. Mr. Arnon has been a member of the Juilliard faculty since 1971 and has also taught in Israel.
When did you first know you wanted to be a musician and how did you come to know it?
Music has been a part of me ever since childhood. One of my earliest memories (I was probably 3 or 4 years old) was following a fireman’s marching band to their weekly concert in the park of the town I grew up in. I started piano lessons at 6, after my prospective teacher, Prof. Ernst Krauth, heard me singing on the balcony of our apartment house (he lived there too, and was my mother’s teacher many years before). He called my parents and insisted they bring me to him.
Who was the teacher or mentor who most inspired you when you were growing up and what did you learn from that person?
Prof. Krauth (then well over 60) taught me the importance of using my ear the right way. Perfect pitch—which I have, and he was aware of—is only as good as you know how to use it. Every piano lesson was also a solfège session. I owe him everything. Frau Grete Anschel, whom I met virtually immediately upon my arrival in (what was to become) Israel after World War II, inspired my love for music. Her boundless enthusiasm was contagious, and I still have it to this day. After a two-year stint in the Israeli Army I studied with Ilona Vincze-Kraus at the Israel Academy of Music. She gave me a solid technique and professional attitude to music.
What was the first recording that you remember hearing or buying, and what was its significance to you?
It was music I heard on the radio—Sibelius’s Finlandia—and I remember being frightened by it. I must have been 3 at the time.
What’s the most embarrassing moment you’ve had as a performer?
It was during a performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in White Plains, N.Y., in 1977, part of a chamber music series I directed. Somehow—I don’t know how or why—things fell apart in the first movement’s development section. But we pulled ourselves together and proceeded. Judging by the audience’s reaction, no one noticed anything …
If you could have your students visit any place in the world, where would it be, and why?
Norway’s fjords contain some of the most stunning scenery I’ve ever seen.
What are your non-music related interests or hobbies? What would people be surprised to know about you?
Gardening, reading (history especially), travel, meeting people. I am crazy about Lizzie, my German shepherd. My wife calls her “the other woman” in my life.
If your students could only remember one thing from your teaching, what would you want it to be?
Teaching is loving. You must love what you are doing and who you are doing it to.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
The infinite variety of this stunning city. It has everything, from the most exalted to the worst of the worst. It is up to you to make the choices.
If you weren’t in the career you are in, what would you be doing?
There was never an option not to be a musician. Owning my own home compels me to be a bit of everything: gardener, plumber, painter, carpenter—you name it. I guess I could do any of these if I really wanted. But I live, breathe, and feel music all the time.
What book are you reading right now, or what CD are you listening to, and what can you tell us about it?
These past few months, I have been reading the biographies of three great conductors: Klemperer, Furtwangler, and Karajan—a giant but a manic-depressive; a unique musician but a weak human being; an erstwhile Nazi who succeeded where Hitler failed—he conquered the world. There are many lessons to be learned from their lives.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Juilliard has been a home to me since my student days in the early ’60s. I feel a debt of gratitude for everything I got here, and hope that my work justifies the trust that has been placed in me.