Stephen Aron, teacher of classical guitar, gave performances in Italy, Canada, and in several U.S. cities during the 2008-09 academic year. He was a featured artist at guitar festivals in Sauble Lake, Ont., and Lake Tahoe, Nev. At the latter festival, in August 2008, Aron presented the world premiere of James Wilding’s Fantasy for guitar solo. His most recent CD, Romantic Guitar, was released in October 2008 on Clear Note Recordings and features new arrangements of Schumann’s complete Kinderszenen and 17 of Mendelssohn’s Lieder ohne Worte (“Songs Without Words”). Clear Note also published a book of Aron’s solo guitar arrangements of 30 of the Mendelssohn songs.
Professor of Music Education Peggy D. Bennett presented sessions at several major conferences, including the Ohio Music Education Association conference in Columbus; the Texas Music Educators’ Association in San Antonio; the New Jersey Music Educators’ Association; the Music EdVentures conference in Portland, Ore.; the Eastern Music Educators National Conference in Rhode Island; and the Mountain Lake Colloquium of General Music Methods Teachers. At the Ohio and Texas conferences, she also co-presented sessions with music education professors Jody Kerchner and Joanne Erwin. In February 2009, she traveled to British Columbia, Canada, to work with teachers and caregivers, giving a keynote in Vancouver titled “Speak for Yourself: Being Your Best in Difficult Situations,” and presenting sessions for teachers’ professional development in Coquitlam.
Teacher of Tuba Ronald Bishop, principal tuba of the Cleveland Orchestra for 38 seasons until his retirement in 2005, still performs on the road, and he has found a solution to the travel headaches associated with playing a large brass instrument: a travel tuba! Bishop packed up this comparatively petite instrument when he headed to the International Tuba-Euphonium Conference in Cincinnati in June 2008. “It can be carried on airplanes as it will fit in the overhead bins,” he reports. He brought out the full-size instrument for gigs closer to home: performing in a brass quintet at the First Unitarian Church of Cleveland in September 2008, with a brass quintet at Oberlin’s 2009 commencement in May, and at the second annual “TubaDo with Ron Bishop” in his hometown of Bentleyville, Ohio, in June 2009.
Associate Professor of Piano and Chair of the Piano Department Alvin Chow was on the faculty of the Banff International Keyboard Master Class in summer 2008. He and his wife, Angela Cheng, associate professor of piano, presented a duo recital at Banff as part of the International Summer Music Festival. Chow was joined by his twin brother, pianist Alan Chow, chair of the piano department at Northwestern University, for a duo recital on the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center Concert Series in Rockford, Ill. As an adjudicator, Chow was invited to participate in the Crescendo Music Awards in Tulsa, Okla., and the University of Michigan Piano Concerto Competition in Ann Arbor. He also gave a master class for students at Oberlin’s Community Music School.
The featured soloist for the Oberlin Conservatory Symphony Orchestra’s Walt Disney Concert Hall debut in January 2009, Associate Professor of Piano Angela Cheng performed with more than a dozen orchestras in Canada and the U.S. during the 2008-09 academic year, among them the symphony orchestras of Calgary, Kingston, Montréal, Québec, Regina, Vancouver, Victoria, and Windsor, and with Ottawa’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, conducted by Pinchas Zuckerman. In the U.S. she performed with the symphony orchestras of Long Beach (Calif.), Asheville (N.C.), Fairfax (Va.), and West Virginia. With the Pinchas Zuckerman Chamber Players, Cheng toured China, presenting concerts in Beijing, Chengdu, Hong Kong, Shenyang, and Suzhou. As a recitalist, Cheng performed at the Alberta Conservatory of Music in Canada, in Florida State University’s Artist Series in Tallahassee, and at the University of Texas in San Antonio. She was also the featured convention artist for the Indiana State Music Teachers Association.
Professor of Organ James David Christie ’75 began the summer of 2008 teaching young musicians in June and July at the Oberlin Summer Organ Academy for High School Students, and at three weeklong Pipe Organ Encounter programs sponsored by the American Guild of Organists: in Worcester, Mass.; Lincoln, Neb.; and Charlotte, N.C. Later that summer, he embarked on a European tour, with performances at the Estonian Organ Festival and in France, Monaco, and the Netherlands. In September, he played Brahms’ German Requiem under the baton of James Levine at the opening concert of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s 2008-09 season. Christie performed on several new and restored organs over the course of the year, including the Hellmuth Wolff concert hall organ at North Texas University; the Fisk Renaissance meantone organ in the newly renovated Houghton Chapel at Wellesley College; and the restored Rudolph von Beckerath organ at the Pittsburgh Cathedral. He was also soloist in a concert with the Harvard String Orchestra, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Flentrop organ in Adolphus Busch Hall at Harvard University. Festival performances included the Boston Early Music Festival and the Northwest Bach Festival in Spokane, Wash. Christie served as a juror for the first Erfurt-Merseburg-Weima “Liszt-Reubke” International Organ Competition in Germany and the first Canadian International Organ Competition in Montréal. He gave recitals in Hartford, Conn.; Indianapolis; Wellesley and Brockton, Mass.; Hudson, Ohio; Staunton, Va.; and, in May 2009, at Verizon Hall at Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, home to the largest concert hall organ in the U.S.
Professor of Flute Michel Debost is enjoying continued success with his book, The Simple Flute: From A to Z. Oxford University Press published the paperback version of the third edition in December 2009. The book has been translated into Spanish, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, French, and Italian. Debost served on juries for two international competitions: the Jean-Pierre Rampal Flute Competition in Paris, and the Prague Spring International Music Competition, where he was chair of the flute jury. In summer 2009, he led master classes at the Oberlin Flute Institute and in Grove City, Pa.; Domaine Forget in Québec; Lausanne, Switzerland; and in Chablis and at the Académie de Nice in France. He taught some of these with his wife, Clinical Assistant Professor of Flute Kathleen Chastain. May 2009 marked Debost’s 20th year on the conservatory faculty.
Professor of Jazz Studies and Double Bass Peter Dominguez played concerts throughout Ohio, including performances with the Cleveland Jazz Orchestra, the Jackie Warren Trio, the Lance Bryant Quartet, and the Vaughan Weister Big Band at venues such as the Cleveland Museum of Art, Nighttown (Cleveland Heights), Lakeland Community College (Kirtland), and the Beck Center for the Arts (Lakewood). In summer 2008 and spring 2009, Dominguez performed and taught at the Tri-C Jazz Camp in Cleveland, the Lafayette Summer Jazz Workshop in California, the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, and at the Richard Davis Foundation’s 16th Annual Bass Conference at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
Professor of Piano Monique Duphil spent the summer and early fall of 2008 at three festivals: the Spring Chamber Music Festival of the Pro Musica Concert Society in Caracas, Venezuela; the Duxbury Music Festival in Mass.; and the Aruba Piano International Festival in the Caribbean. In June she also performed as soloist with the Orquestra Municipal de Caracas. In celebration of Olivier Messiaen’s centenary, she offered two performances of the French composer’s works: Quatour pour la fin du temps in Caracas, Venezuela, in October, and Des Canyons aux Étoiles in Ohio as part of the conservatory’s Messiaen Festival in December 2008. The latter she performed with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Ruth Strickland Gardner Professor of Music Timothy Weiss, at Warner Concert Hall in Oberlin and, as part of the Cleveland Museum of Art’s concert series, at Pilgrim Congregational Church in Cleveland. She shared soloist duties with Professor of Piano Robert Shannon ’72 and Associate Professor of Piano Haewon Song. She performed in Oberlin in February 2009 with Assistant Professor of Violin David Bowlin, Associate Professor of Clarinet Richard Hawkins, Associate Professor of Viola Karen Ritscher, and Assistant Professor of Cello Darrett Adkins on the Faculty Chamber Series in Finney Chapel; the group presented the same chamber concert in April on the Chagrin Falls (Ohio) Chamber Music Concert Series.
Professor of Music Education Joanne Erwin spent the summer of 2008 conducting at Suzuki institutes at Otterbein College (Ohio) in June and in Texas at the DFW WOW conference near Dallas and Fort Worth in July. She maintained a busy speaking schedule from October through March, presenting pedagogy from her 2008 book New Directions for Strings at music educators’ conferences, including the Midwest Clinic and the Teachers National Conference, in California, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. Oberlin was particularly well represented at the American String Teachers Convention in Atlanta, Erwin reports; she and Associate Professor of Viola Karen Ritscher and Assistant Professor of Harp Yolanda Kondonassis led sessions, Jonathan Handman ’96 conducted the winning ensemble in the National Orchestra Festival, cellist Daniel Levitov ’96 gave master classes, and Lillian Klotz ’05 presented a session on Klezmer. While on sabbatical in spring 2009, Erwin visited the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow to present lectures on string pedagogy and to lead cello sectionals. While there, she also conducted research on MusicWorks,a community music program founded by an Academy faculty member. In April, Erwin returned to the U.S. to conduct an honors orchestra in Cobb County, Ga.
In November 2008, Associate Professor of Jazz Guitar Robert (Bobby) Ferrazza played a concert at Cleveland State University with legendary saxophonist Benny Golson and the Jazz Heritage Orchestra, led by Oberlin Visiting Professor of Jazz Dennis Reynolds. Golson was so enthusiastic about the performance that he invited the group to record with him in spring 2009; Oberlin students Johnny Cochran ’12 and Alex Schecter ’11 joined them for the recording session. A release date for the album has not yet been set. An Oberlin College Powers Grant helped to fund a trip to Italy in January 2009, where Ferrazza taught master classes and toured with Italian musicians, among them guitarists Marco Galiffa and Domingo Muzietti, bassist Luca Bulgarelli, and drummer Massimo Manz. Ferrazza also accompanied several jazz students on a trip to Arezzo.
Oberlin’s Javanese Gamelan Ensemble has been a major focus for Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology Jennifer Fraser. She took the ensemble to Pittsburgh in December 2008 to participate in an outreach concert with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra titled “East Meets West.” During winter term 2009, she directed an intensive Javanese Gamelan workshop with a visiting guest artist, the master musician and puppeteer Ki Widiyanto S. Putro. A culminating concert featuring Oberlin students was held that February at the Cat in the Cream.
In addition to co-presenting sessions with music education professors Peggy Bennett and Joanne Erwin, Professor of Music Education Jody Kerchner spoke at the International Society for Music Education World Congress Meeting in Bologna, Italy; the Eastern Division Music Educators’ National Conference in Providence, R.I.; and as part of the Cleveland Orchestra Educational Outreach Program at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Severance Hall. She was keynote speaker for the Music EdVentures, Inc. conference in Portland, Ore., giving talks on “Mapping for Meaning” and “Leading with Empathy.” She also conducted honors choirs for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association and the Ohio Music Education Association. Kerchner was appointed to the editorial board of the International Journal for Music Education in 2008 and will serve through 2014.
Professor of Oboe Alex Klein ’87, AD’89 continues to coach, conduct, and perform throughout the Americas and abroad. In summer 2008, he participated in the Jerusalem International Chamber Music Festival; the Double Reed Festival of Panama; and 72 Hours of Music at Chateau d’Ainay-le-Vieil in France. He served as artistic director for two Brazilian festivals: the Festival de Música de Santa Catarina (FEMUSC) and Oferenda Musical, the International Chamber Music Festival in Soã Paulo, a new program launched in August 2008. Klein returned as principal conductor of the Sunflower and St. Barth’s music festivals and held the same post at Chicago’s first Music for Peace festival, which took place in May 2009. The festival promotes peace and uses music education as a tool for socioeconomic advancement in underserved communities. In the past year Klein has also conducted the Porto National Symphony in Portugal; the Costa Rica National Symphony; and the Campinas, Bahia, and Rio de Janeiro orchestras in Brazil. He continues to serve as oboe coach for the Youth Symphony of the Americas. As an oboe soloist, Klein performed concertos by Yano, Vaughan-Williams, Mozart, and Albinoni with the National Theater Orchestra in Brasilia, Brazil; the Panama Symphony; the Campinas Symphony in Brazil; and Apollo’s Fire, respectively. “Hearing Klein play Baroque oboe with such penetrating expressivity was an exhilarating experience,” wrote Plain Dealer critic Donald Rosenberg of the latter. “Klein gave the Albinoni a performance of exceptional elegance, agility and tenderness.”
The Death of the Moth by Associate Professor of Computer Music and Digital Arts Tom Lopez ’89, who is also chair of the TIMARA department, was performed at the 2009 SEAMUS conference by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, conducted by Ruth Strickland Gardner Professor of Music Timothy Weiss and accompanied by a screening of a film by Associate Professor of Cinema Studies Rian Brown-Orso. The conference was held in April 2009 in Fort Wayne, Ind. Other performances of Lopez’s work include three New York concerts of Immaculata Erotica, called “one of a kind … astounding and riveting throughout” in a spring 2008 New York Concert Review. Lopez served on the juries of the 2008 Canadian Electro-acoustic Computer Music Conference and the 2009 International Computer Music Conference, and lectured at SUNY Stony Brook on “Adventures in Timbral Sensuality.”
Professor of Recorder and Baroque Flute Michael Lynn performed and recorded with several chamber groups in 2009. In Houston, he was a soloist with Mercury Baroque for Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos 2, 4, and 5; with the Houston Bach Society he recorded and performed Cantata 31; in performances throughout Northeast Ohio with Apollo’s Fire, he played Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas as well as a concert of music by Handel; in Pittsburgh, he performed in a concert of Bach Cantatas with the Pittsburgh Bach Society; and in Washington, D.C., in addition to his special performance at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, he presented several educational concerts at the National Gallery of Art in July and August. Lynn co-produced a new CD, Les Délices: The Tastes Reunited (see alumni note for Debra Nagy ’00, MM ’02), and continues to be a regular contributor to Flute Talk magazine.
The scholar-in-residence at the 2008 American Elgar Conference in Dallas, Associate Professor of Musicology Charles McGuire ’92 has written extensively about Elgar and Victorian music. His essay, “Edward Elgar: ‘Modern’ or ‘Modernist?’ Construction of an Aesthetic Identity in the British Music Press, 1895-1934” was published in the Spring/Summer 2008 issue of Musical Quarterly. He presented papers at the American Elgar Conference and at the third North American British Music Studies Association conference in Toronto, where he spoke on English 19th-century music festivals. In fall 2008, McGuire was given an Oberlin Excellence in Teaching Award. During his spring 2009 sabbatical he spent a month in the United Kingdom researching the archives of English musical festivals in York, Lincoln, Peterborough, and Chester.
In addition to her special performance at the Capitol, Professor of Violin Marilyn McDonald played concerts from coast to coast for the 2008-09 season, including an appearance with the Axelrod Quartet on their Washington, D.C. series; two East Coast recitals featuring Bach’s violin sonatas; a concert with Boston Baroque; a performance at the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wis.; and a Vancouver Chamber Music Series concert.
After a summer spent teaching and performing at the Oberlin Baroque Performance Institute, Catharina Meints, associate professor of cello, baroque cello, and viola da gamba, kicked off the fall 2008 season with Baroque Barack, a concert fundraiser for Obama’s campaign held in her home and sponsored by the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble. In November 2008, she played viola da gamba and modern cello on the Faculty Chamber Series at Oberlin and gave a master class on gamba for the Viola da Gamba Society of America in New York City. Meints returned to play with two of the region’s top ensembles, the Cleveland Orchestra and Apollo’s Fire, in concerts in Cleveland, Miami, and Calgary, Alberta. She also gave a faculty recital of Mendelssohn’s cello sonatas, performed on modern cello. Throughout the year she worked on a catalog of the Caldwell Collection of Viols, the largest private collection of antique viols in America, which Meints owns. She played all 17 antique viols in the collection for a CD recording that will accompany the catalog.
Associate Professor of Organ Jack Mitchener gave numerous performances in 2008, appearing in recitals at Landfall Chapel in Wilmington, N.C., at the Southeastern Historical Keyboard Society convention in Winston-Salem, N.C., and at a re-dedication event for a restored 1837 Henry Erben organ at Salem College, also in Winston-Salem. He taught for the Oberlin Summer Academy for High School Organists in June 2008 and introduced two new organ department courses in sacred music during the academic year. He also organized a sacred music workshop in Cleveland in May 2009. In February 2009 he played Mozart’s Fantasie in F minor, K. 594 as part of a memorial concert at Oberlin for the late Emeritus Professor of Musicology Sylvan Suskin. A member of the American Guild of Organists (AGO) Committee on Professional Education, Mitchener also chaired three sessions at the AGO National Conference on Organ Pedagogy, held at the Institute of Sacred Music at Yale University in March 2009.
Professor of Composition Lewis Nielson received commissions from Opera Cabal and the percussion ensemble red fish blue fish this past year. He published five new works with American Composers Editions, two of which were performed at Oberlin. His Juke Preludes for solo piano and O Rosa Bella for large chamber ensemble were also featured in concerts at the conservatory, the latter played by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble. Nielson’s piece for harp, cello, and percussion, How you go…, was performed at New York’s Symphony Space as part of the June 2008 American Music Festival. Duo Concertant (Danger Man), for contrabass and drumset, was played by Bent Frequency, a contemporary music ensemble based in Atlanta. In November 2008, Nielson gave a lecture as part of the Cleveland Clinic’s prestigious Arts & Medicine Institute on the topic “The Social Art of Music in the Information Age.” A recorded performance by the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble of Nielson’s St. Francis preaches to the birds was included on a 2009 episode of Art of the States, a radio program broadcast in 50 countries.
Professor of Musicology Steven Plank published the English translation of an important scholarly work about the history of brass instruments in 2008. Christian Ahrens’ monograph Eine Erfiindung und ihre Folgen was published as Valved Brass: The History of an Invention by Pendragon Press as part of its Bucina series, devoted to the history of brass instruments. Plank also celebrated the release of an expanded, revised version of his joint translation with Edward Tarr ’57, hon. ’03, of his Die Trompete; the new edition appeared exactly 20 years after the work’s first publication.
As Ohio suffered a bitter cold spell in January 2009, Professor of Percussion Michael Rosen spent two weeks in sunny Jaraguá do Sul, Brazil, teaching and performing at the Festival de Música de Santa Catarina (FEMUSC), the festival directed by Professor of Oboe Alex Klein ’87. At the festival, Rosen played timpani with the faculty orchestra on Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and taught 18 students from Costa Rica, Argentina, Columbia, and Brazil. He also conducted a percussion ensemble concert that included a set of Costa Rican folk songs.
During the summer of 2008, Professor of Viola Peter Slowik taught at the Pierre Monteux School for Conductors and Orchestra Musicians in Hancock, Maine, where he was the first-ever featured instrumental clinician, and at the Domaine Forget International Festival in St. Irénée, near Québec City. While in Canada, he was featured on Radio-Canada’s Espace Musique, the country’s national francophone music station. Between October 2008 and March 2009, Slowik gave master classes in Texas at Baylor University, Southern Methodist University, and the University of Texas, Arlington; at Yale University; at Biola University (La Mirada, Calif.); and at Wheaton College (Wheaton, Ill.). At Baylor, he also played a solo recital. Slowik marked his 10th year at the conservatory in May 2009 and celebrated his 10th season as director of the Credo Chamber Music Festival in July 2009.
In the past year, music by Assistant Professor of TIMARA Peter Swendsen ’99 was performed in the U.S. in Minneapolis, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco; in Canada in Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver; and in Ireland (Belfast) and The Netherlands (Amsterdam). A review on SanDiego.com described his 2008 composition Bright Days of Little Sunlight as “a quiet tone poem of acoustic and recorded sounds that evoked the stark yet vital qualities of winter in Norway.” Swendsen also traveled to conferences in Paris, Edinburgh, and New York City to present his research on Soundscape composition and relationships between electroacoustic music and dance. In fall 2008 he organized The Future Sounds of Now, a series that brought visiting composers Simon Emmerson, Alvin Curran, and Laetitia Sonami to campus. In spring 2009, Swendsen co-taught a new interdisciplinary seminar with Professor of English Nick Jones, examining how the places we inhabit are translated to artistic texts through music, words, movement, and images. Swendsen recently completed three new compositions: Before Frozen Fog, a commission for Terri Hron; coldness & lightness, a collaboration with choreographer Ashley Thorndike; and Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is, written for Jennifer Torrence ’09. For more on Swendsen’s events and activities, visit www.swendsen.net.
Professor of Piano Peter Takács performed and taught at three 2008 summer festivals: the Montecito Summer Festival in Montecito, Calif.; the ARIA International Summer Academy in Williamstown, Mass.; and the Helsingborg Piano Festival in Helsingborg, Sweden. In October 2008 he traveled to Asia for teacher residencies at J.F. Oberlin University in Tokyo and the Central Conservatory and China Conservatory in Beijing. Takács led master classes, taught, and was a jury member at the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts’ youngARTS Week, a Miami-based program for talented American high school seniors, in January 2009. He also sat on juries for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Youth Auditions and the Harold Protsman Classical Period Piano Competition at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va. Takács presented a master class at the MTNA 2009 National Conference in Atlanta. Highlights from the 2008-09 academic year at Oberlin include playing Schumann’s Piano Concerto with the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra and programming and performing in the recital “Music of World War I” with Professor of Violin Marilyn McDonald, Professor of Percussion Michael Rosen, and guest and student musicians.
In addition to his regular activities as English horn soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Professor of Oboe and English Horn Robert Walters spent summer 2009 performing and teaching at the Aspen Music Festival and the Colorado College Music Festival. In spring 2009, Walters won second place in the Akron Art Museum’s New Words Poetry Contest. His winning poem, “The Crier,” explores the relationship between language and music.
“If you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.”
Alto saxophonist and music legend Charlie Parker famously said these words; alto and soprano saxophonist Gary Bartz, visiting professor of jazz saxophone at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, lives them.
Bartz was all of 6 years old and growing up in Baltimore, the birthplace of Eubie Blake, Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Chick Webb, Albert Dailey, and Ethel Ennis—where segregation and racism was a way of life—when he fell in love with Parker’s music. Following years of persistence, Bartz received his first horn, an alto sax, from his parents when he was 11.
Inspired by Parker, Bartz moved to New York and attended the Juilliard School.
His musical journey would lead him to share the bandstand with some of the greatest names of 20th-century music, including icons Charles Mingus, Max Roach, Art Blakey, and Miles Davis. Over the years, Bartz’ musical palette has grown broader than his bebop base, contributing not only to the sounds of bebop but also to big band, avantgarde, soul, R & B, and hip-hop. One recent example is the annual Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, held August 2009 in Harlem. Bartz brought out the hip-hop in what Ben Ratliff of the New York Times called “a kind of demonstration of how to connect the lessons of Charlie Parker and John Coltrane” with sets featuring rappers and hip-hop vocalist Bilal. But all of these diverse genres of African American musical expression find their base in the blues.
Bartz’ journey is a representation of the blues, deeply rooted in the American experience and masterfully articulated in the sounds of his saxophones. His work and art speak to all of the joys, sorrows, triumphs, and misfortunes of living, whether he is paying homage to Langston Hughes’ joyful poem “I’ve Known Rivers (and other Bodies),” or rendering the bluesy, contemplative Stevie Wonder composition Black Maybe with vocalist Andy Bey and Bartz’ own band, Ntu Troop.
He started teaching at Oberlin in 2001.
“I fought teaching music for many years because I thought of myself as a performing musician and still do,” says Bartz. “One of the great advantages that students attending Oberlin have—aside from the quiet atmosphere to study and practice—is that most of the faculty are practicing musicians and on the road. We bring our hands-on approach to the profession.”
More important to Bartz than teaching the mechanical and technical aspects of playing music is what he shares with his students of his life experiences on and off the bandstand as a practicing musician. The degree of social relevance inherent in African American music as a mirror of American history and culture is a dimension that Bartz is infinitely qualified to impart. “Students today, for the most part, are learning about music in a backwards sense,” he says. “They’re learning the mechanical parts first as opposed to the spiritual end. Most of the great musicians, from all genres, began playing by ear and without formal training—and that includes Bach and Ellington, among others.”
Bartz credits the late Professor of African American Music and Chair of Oberlin’s Jazz Studies Department Wendell Logan with showing him that “it’s just as important to be involved in the world of academia—to mentor new generations of musicians who aspire to add their voices to the continuum.”
Gary Bartz is more than a great musician. He is a witness and chronicler of the cultural benchmarks of our times, viewed and expressed through music—the playing of it and the teaching of it.
Professor of Singing Marlene Ralis Rosen has learned much by keeping her ears open to the world around her.
“My parents liked to say that I started singing when I was 1 year old,” Rosen recalls. “My father would sing Russian songs to me, and I would sing them right back.”
She kept on singing, earning a music education degree at Temple University (where she met her husband, Professor of Percussion Michael Rosen) and then completing a master’s degree at the University of Illinois. There, she found herself in the midst of an entirely different aural landscape.
“This was the heyday of contemporary music,” Rosen recalls. The university’s Festival of Contemporary Arts was known internationally, and the campus was also home to one of the first computer music studios. In the beginning, she says, “I had no interest in contemporary music, but someone gave me a piece to learn, and I was hooked.”
She went on to collaborate professionally with such renowned composers as Lukas Foss, John Harbison, Luciano Berio, Pierre Boulez, and George Crumb. The music “appealed to my emotional and intellectual sides,” she says, engaging her ear and her artistry. As a performer, she focused on what the music was trying to express—the poetry and emotion—rather than getting bogged down by the large melodic leaps or challenging harmonies. Her Romantic sensibility, she found, connected with audiences and composers alike.
In 1989, still in the thick of her own performing career (which also included opera and recital, her favorite genre), she brought her experience to bear as a teacher at Oberlin. Long days often found her working in the practice room early and teaching in her studio well into the afternoon. Two decades later, she is still performing, but has been able to devote even more time to teaching.
Much of her time as a teacher is spent “getting in tune with the individual and finding out what is successful.” One approach won’t work for every student, particularly when dealing with an instrument as personal as voice. “Our instrument is our body, and you have to treat the entire person.”
Teaching at Oberlin has been particularly rewarding, she says, because “it is an undergraduate institution where the undergraduates get to sing”—in solo recitals as well as in opera productions, a rare opportunity for undergraduates at larger institutions. “It is amazingly wonderful. That’s one of the things I love about Oberlin.”
Oberlin’s undergraduate focus also puts her in a unique position as a teacher, since most of her students will pursue further study. “It’s an exciting process to see them move on and get new perspectives that will help them further refine their talent.”
In a way, it means that her job is to equip them with the skills to continue to learn, whatever their chosen career. Once they leave Rosen’s studio and head out into the world, “it is the teaching of oneself that is the key.”
“I want to produce independent, skilled students,” she says, musicians who “listen for the detail, the nuance. This kind of approach will serve them well no matter what they do.”
Bobby Jackson was music director for 90.3 WCPN and WVIZ-PBS idea-stream, Inc. from 1994 to 2009. He has received numerous awards, including three Gavin awards for “Jazz Radio Person of the Year.”