The College of Arts and Architecture

James Lyon

James Lyon

Congratulations to violin professor James Lyon who has received Penn State's 2017 George W. Atherton Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award, named after Penn State’s seventh president, honors excellence in teaching at the undergraduate level.

Lyon said he encourages his students to acquire technical mastery of the violin by observing the “great violinists who have graced our concert halls through the centuries” while giving an appreciation that their idiosyncrasies aren’t necessarily cornerstones for the art.

In short, he wants them to develop their own styles.

“Some students will inevitably rely more on instinct than intellect, while for others the reverse will be true,” said Lyon. “My job is to expose them to various possibilities, guide them through the process of developing their own interpretation, and ultimately to help each student find his or her unique voice.”

Lyon’s students have been national prizewinners in both the Young Artists Division of the Music Teachers National Association Competition and the American String Teachers Association Solo Competition, as well as numerous local and regional competitions. They have performed across the nation in such venues as the U.S. Army Strings, the Cleveland Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony and the Pittsburgh Opera.

Lyon has had an outstanding career with numerous accomplishments, inspiring both colleagues and students. His soloist performances in Carnegie Hall were highly acclaimed by critics, and he has performed as a soloist with orchestras in China, Vienna, Prague and Munich. He received the American String Teacher’s Association Teacher of the Award in 2016.

“As an ideal, my perfect music interpretation will always remain just out of reach,” said Lyon. “But the journey is just as important as the destination, and it is the approach that I hope informs every lesson that I teach and every performance that I give.”

A student said no “stereotypical cutthroat-competitive violinists” exist in Lyon’s studio because he fosters an environment that celebrates growth over talent and criticizing without accusing, which creates an environment where all students can grow and succeed.

“I enjoyed being in a studio that felt like a family,” said the student. “I have gained far more than violin technique and musical knowledge: I now know what a positive learning environment looks and feels like and have experienced the impact one person can make by actively caring and valuing others.”

This article, written by staff writer Chris Koleno, appeared in the April 4 edition of Penn State News.