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In her new book, A Miraculous Journey, Frances Walker-Slocum ’45 describes the upbringing and education that led her to the stage of Carnegie Hall, where she made her piano debut in 1959. So began a career that achieved a notable “first” in 1975, when, as part of the United States’ Bicentennial celebrations, Frances performed a piano recital comprised solely of the music of black American composers at Carnegie Hall. Subsequently she joined the faculty of the Conservatory as the first African American tenured professor in the history of the school. She continued teaching and performing until her retirement in 1991. In October 2006, Frances lectured on her book and renewed old ties while participating in the Oberlin Alumni Association of African Ancestry reunion, And We Rise! Celebrating Over 170 Years of the Black Presence at Oberlin College.


CD release featuring
Rhoda Pinsley Levin

The musical legacy of Rhoda Pinsley Levin ’51 lives on in a newly released, remastered CD, Pieces for Piano. The two-disc collection includes Rhoda’s sensitive rendering of works ranging from the baroque period to the 20th century. Although Rhoda died prematurely in 1971 at the age of 41, her family and Oberlin friends have kept her memory alive. In 2001, her class paid tribute to her in their 50th reunion booklet. For more information about Rhoda and the CD, visit www.differentdrummusic.com/rhodapinsleylevin.

H. Leslie Adams
(photo by Wlliam Armstrong)

The New York premiere of The Blake Suite by H. Leslie Adams ’55 was performed at New York City’s Schomburg Center on January 3, 2007, as the opening concert of the National Opera Association’s 52nd annual convention. William Hobbs conducted, and featured soloists were Lillian Roberts, Sidney Outlaw, and Loraine Rodriquez. The opera’s “Blake Suite” was performed in November 2006 at the Aaron Copland School of Music as part of Queens College’s Chamber Music Live series. On October 23, 2006, NBC’s Today show broadcast part of a performance by Denyce Graves ’85, hon. ’98, of Leslie’s art song “Prayer.”

The article on historical performance, “Everything Old Is New Again,” in the 2006 issue of Oberlin Conservatory, prompted cellist Peter Brown ’57 of Burlington, Vt., to reminisce about arriving in Oberlin in 1951 with a newly acquired viola da gamba. Although few people knew or cared what the instrument was, he did find some kindred spirits interested in early music, including his former wife, cellist and harpsichordist Melissa Moore Brown ’56; Alden Ashforth ’56, who played the recorder; trumpet player Edward Tarr ’57; and fellow viol player Lucy Bardo ’60. Peter reports that after a hiatus of 30 years he is playing the viola de gamba again, and his repertoire includes the Bach sonatas, which he plays with a harpsichordist friend.

While a consultant to Wall Street and telephone companies, composition major Benjamin Sheffield Cutler ’57 conceived and developed the original version of a broker information system installed by the New York Stock Exchange in 1979. The system was later purchased by NASDAQ and installed nationwide and abroad. Ben found that retiring after 37 years has given him more time to devote to composing. The results have included his 5th Symphony and the Longfellow Sym-phony, inspired by the poet’s Voices of the Night cycle.


Richard K. Graef ’64, assistant principal flutist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1968, has enjoyed a parallel career in baroque flute since 1970. Having studied at Oberlin with Robert Willoughby and in the Baroque Performance Institute, Richard currently performs as baroque flutist with the Juliani Ensemble in Chicago. In addition to his ensemble and orchestra affiliations, he is associate professor of flute at Northwestern University, where he teaches both modern and baroque flute.

Richard Cameron-Wolfe

In October 2006, pianist-composer Richard Cameron-Wolfe ’65 journeyed to southern Russia to participate in the 8th Annual International Astrakhan Festival. His composition Code of Un-Silence received its premiere, and he performed the piano music of American composers Dane Rudhyar and Leo Ornstein. Also in October, the U.K. label Les Temps Modernes (LTM) re-leased a two-CD set, Erik Satie—Musique de la Rose-Croix, performed by Richard and pianist Bojan Gorisek. The 2007-08 season will see the premieres of Richard’s cantata, A Measure of Love and Silence, and his solo guitar micro-opera, Heretic.

With cellist James Todd, pianist William Morse ’65, MM ’65 recorded Quiet Beauty, an album of Todd’s original compositions for cello and piano. In an AllAboutJazz.com article about the recording, Todd said, “William is a gracious and superb musician who did a wondrous job on this CD. … He offered the perfect counterpoint to me because he knows classical music and jazz so well.” William has served as music director and principal conductor of the Evergreen Chamber Orchestra since its inception in 1983, and has held the same positions with the Jefferson Symphony Orchestra in Golden, Colo., since 1999. He is professor emeritus at Metropolitan State College in Denver. As a jazz pianist, William has performed with Wynton Marsalis, Billy Taylor, and Doc Severinson. He plays with the Queen City Jazz Band as well as his own William Morse Trio.

The Sunderman Conservatory of Music at Gettysburg College has promoted Sharon Davis Gratto ’66 to full professor of music. She has taught at the conservatory, where she is also coordinator of music education, since 1992. Sharon holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in music education and flute and voice performance from Catholic University. Her research interests include multicultural choral and classroom music, audition anxiety, arts-in-education programs, arts instruction in alternative school formats, and mentoring new music educators beyond graduation. Sharon’s professional performance career has included freelance solo and ensemble work as a flutist and as a mezzo-soprano.

Pianist Deborah Lipton Hanna ’69 would love to hear from any Oberlin Conservatory alumni who plan to visit Minneapolis and would like to play ensemble music. Debby teaches piano privately, accompanies instrumentalists, and plays chamber music. She has been principal accompanist for all the leading local ballet companies in Minneapolis and for visiting troupes as well. Her piano trio, the Raleigh Trio, performs regularly on the programs of the Thursday Musical organization, which is chaired by Carolyn Pratt ’79. Recently, Debby has enjoyed collaborating with flutist Claudia Mages Schnitker ’65. Alumni who would like to perform with Debby and her musical collaborators may contact her at TomandDebby_Hanna@msn.com.


Michael Philip Davis
(photo by David Rodgers)

In summer 2006, tenor Michael Philip Davis ’73 directed a critically acclaimed production of Peter Brook’s musical theater piece The Tragedy of Carmen at the TodiMusicFest in Portsmouth, Va. He staged Leonard Bernstein’s Trouble in Tahiti at the same venue in the summer of 2007. Michael is currently resident director of the California Opera Association, where he has directed Bach’s Coffee Cantata, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Madama Butterfly, and Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley. His recent public television appearances include “The Classic Kurt Weill,” which he also performed inconcert in San Francisco, and “The American Jewish Composers in Classical Song.” In May 2007, Michael premiered As It Is Written, a solo recital on Biblical themes, at the Jewish Music Festival in San Diego. Additional performances in the last season have included Anton Coppola’s opera, Sacco & Vanzetti, in Tampa and Cross-ing All Boundaries, which presents works exploring the Jewish experience by non-Jewish composers, at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage. Michael is also writing the libretto for an interfaith opera, Natalia, for which Owen Burdick is composing the score.

Randolph Lowell Dreyfuss ’78 composed Music for a Jewish-American Wedding for solo voice, flute, violin, and piano. Published by Transcontinental Music Publications, the work incorporates major parts of the traditional Jewish wedding service (Od Y’shama, Ani L’dodi and Baruch Haba) and includes both the Hebrew text and English translations. The work was performed May 20, 2006, as part of the ISNY-OPER Festival in Germany.

Composer and pianist Jon Jang ’78 collaborated with musician-storyteller Charlie Chin and poet-performer Genny Lim to present Flower Drum Song Re-visited: Reflections on Chinese American Art and Identity at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum on November 5, 2006. The program was part of the Chinese Historical Society of America’s exhibit and public event series exploring the impact of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1961 movie, Flower Drum Song. For more information about Jon and his work, visit www.jonjang.com.

Terry Eder-Kaufman ’79 gave a well-received piano recital in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center on April 22, 2006. The program included Beethoven’s Sonata No. 26 in E-flat Major, Op. 81a, “Les Adieux”; Schumann’s Fantasiestücke, Op. 12; Scherzo in C-sharp Minor, Op. 2, No. 1 by Erno Dohnanyi; and Three Movements for Piano, Op. 2 by Sally Pinkas. Timothy Gilligan, writing for the New York Concert Review, noted that members of Terry’s “impressively large audience” were “rewarded with an exceptional recital from an artist who transmits the music she plays with an entirely natural authority as well as a good deal of technical horsepower.”


Claire Fontijn ’82 has written the first biography of the Venetian singer Bembo, a pupil of Cavalli who also was a woman composer at the court of Louis XIV. Desperate Measures: The Life and Music of Antonia Padoani Bembo, published by Oxford University Press in October 2006, combines the disciplines of musicology, history, and gender studies to tell the story of a remarkably gifted and courageous woman. Asso-ciate professor and chair of the music department at Wellesley College, Claire in fall 2006 cotaught a course on Louis XIV with members of the college’s art and French departments. In connection with that course, she performed on baroque flute in an ensemble accompanying the Ken Pierce Dance Company in a program of early 18th-century repertory. Claire is also happy to announce that historical-performance luminaries Benjamin Bagby ’72 and Katarina Livljani´c were Distinguished Visiting Cornille Professors at Wellesley in spring 2007.

Todd Thomas

Baritone Todd Thomas ’84 has been garnering favorable notices for a wide variety of opera roles. The New York Times review of a recent New York City Opera production of Puccini’s Tosca noted: “It also helped that Scarpia was sung by Todd Thomas in a vocally assured and dramatically charged performance … .” Todd’s recent performances in Verdi’s masterworks include the title roles in Falstaff for the Seattle Opera, Nabucco for TodiMusicFest, and Macbeth for Connecticut Grand Opera and Syracuse Opera. His 2006 performances included the role of Ezio in Attilla for the Sarasota Opera; in March 2007, he sang the title role in Rigoletto at Bob Jones University and performed in the Ein Deutsches Requiem with the Rhode Island Civic Chorale and Orchestra in Providence.

CD release featuring
Thomas Folan

Baroque music specialist Thomas Folan ’85 is the artistic director and conductor of the baroque orchestra and choir Publick Musick, based in Rochester, N.Y. The ensemble’s newest recording, a two-CD set of J.S. Bach’s Missae Breves, BWV 233-236, is available at CD Baby and www.musicaomnia.org. More information about Publick Musick can be found at www.publickmusick.org.


Janna Baty
(photo by Dennis O’Brien)

Mezzo-soprano Janna Baty ’90 joined the voice faculty of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in 2006. In November of that year, she appeared in the world premiere of The Bug Opera, written by Geoffrey Hudson ’89 (music) and Alisa Pearson ’90 (libretto). Covering the premiere for the Republican (Springfield, Mass.), Clifton J. Noble Jr. wrote: “Hudson’s music was clever and well-crafted, reminiscent of Bernstein or perhaps of a light-hearted, avuncular Stravinsky.” And he continued, “Mezzo-soprano Janna Baty stole the show as the Spider, delivering her predatory tango with the kind of perfection of character Angela Lansbury brought to Sondheim’s Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.” Janna’s spring 2007 engagements included performances of Folk Songs: Set No. 10 by the Iranian composer Reza Vali with the Hartford Symphony; a recital of works by Earl Kim and Arnold Schoenberg with Boston’s Chameleon Arts Ensemble; and the world premiere performance and recording of Eric Sawyer’s opera, Our American Cousin. Fellow alumni can keep up with Janna at her web site, www.jannabaty.com or by writing to her at jannabaty@gmail.com.

Garrett Fisher
(photo by Nathan Thompson)

Stargazer, an opera about Galileo composed by Garrett Fisher ’91, received its world premiere in Seattle in summer 2006. A review in the Seattle Weekly noted: “As in his previous operas, Garrett Fisher explores the theme of individuals in conflict with implacable forces … in Stargazer, a meditation on Galileo’s clash with the church … an almost liturgical serenity prevails.” A recording of the piece is currently being edited and will be released in fall 2007. In the meantime, Garrett’s opera The Passion of Saint Thomas More toured the country during summer 2007, with performances in Seattle, New York City, and Kansas City. According to Gramophone, the recording of The Passion of Saint Thomas More is “hypnotic, magical, en-chanting and moving … [with] touches of pure dramatic genius.” For further details consult www.fisherensemble.org.

Scott O’Neil ’92 was appointed associate director of the Colorado Sym-phony on September 1, 2006. Scott joined the Utah Symphony as assistant conductor in 2000 and was promoted to associate conductor in 2002. His guest-conducting roster includes the Houston, Phoenix, and Salt Lake symphonies and the Florida Philharmonic. At Oberlin, Scott was a student of Professor of Piano Peter Takács, and he went on to earn a master’s degree in conducting at Rice University.

Arlene Sierra
(photo by Chris McMahan)

On December 16, 2006, composer Arlene Sierra ’92 was featured on WNYC 93.9 FM in an hour-long “Spotlight” segment of Evening Music with David Garland that included an interview and performance recordings of her compositions, including Aquilo for Orchestra performed by the Tokyo Philharmonic, Neruda Settings in a recording by the Tanglewood Fellows, Truel 1 performed by the Avian Ensemble, Titmouse for Piano recorded by Clive Williamson, and Cicada Shell performed by the New Music Players. Arlene is a lecturer in composition at Cardiff University in the U.K. Her web site is www.arlenesierra.com.

In addition to teaching at the University of Michigan, Gavin Chuck ’93 composes and is managing director of the acclaimed new-music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, which is currently in residence at Dickinson College. Alarm Will Sound has released four CDs. For more details about the band, see www.alarmwillsound.com.

In March 2006, Luke Housner ’93 served as music director, coach, and performance pianist for Wagner’s Das Rheingold at the Academy of Vocal Arts in Philadelphia. Later in the spring, Luke, his wife, Carmelita Chu-Housner ’94, and their children, Simon and Faustina, visited family in Hong Kong before traveling to Portland, Ore., where Luke was assistant conductor, chorus master, coach, and harpsichordist for Portland Opera’s Don Giovanni. He spent summer 2006 coaching at the Central City Opera Festival in Colorado. Keep up with Luke’s professional activities at www.lukehousner.com.

The January 11, 2007, issue of Diverse Online featured a profile of Lorenzo Candelaria ’94, assistant professor of musicology at the University of Texas at Austin and expert in the Catholic sacred music of Spain and Mexico. Of his medieval music history classes at Oberlin, he recalled that he had “the most wonderful professors, who made it so interesting and compelling.” Among other projects, Lorenzo is currently collaborating with a colleague on ways to use movies as an instructional tool for teaching medieval music history.

Ben Lapidus
(photo by Robert Cadena)

Jazz guitarist Ben Lapidus ’95 leads the Latin jazz group Sonido Isleño, with whom he has recorded five CDs and performed in North and South America, Europe, and the Caribbean. He has recorded with many jazz and Latin music luminaries, including Paquito Rivera, Ralph Irizarry, Humberto Ramírez, Larry Harlow, and Joe McPhee. He was coproducer, music director, and arranger on a recording with Kaori Fujii for RCA-Victor Japan. The CD, which will be released this year, includes performances by William Bausch ’89 and Greg Glassman ’98. Ben is currently assistant professor of music at CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice. From 2004 to 2006, he was scholar-in-residence for the Jewish Museum of New York’s humanitarian missions to Cuba. Ben’s book on the music of Eastern Cuba, Asi es el changüí: The Roots of the Cuban Son in Guantánamo, will be published by Scarecrow in 2007. He welcomes correspondence from Oberlin students and alumni, who may write to him at blapidus@jjay.cuny.edu.

Matt Shulman ’96 of Riverdale, N.Y., won an honorable mention in the jazz category of the 2005 International Songwriting Competition for his song “So It Goes.” The ISC received almost 15,000 entries for the 2005 competition, and the winners were announced in April 2006.

Molly Alicia Barth ’97 has joined the faculty of Willamette University’s Department of Music, where she is instructor of flute. The founding flutist of the critically acclaimed new- music sextet eighth blackbird, Molly left the ensemble in summer 2006 to settle in Oregon and accept the position at Willamette.

The Miró Quartet, born at Oberlin in 1995, garnered excellent notices for their November 2006 recital at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall. Reviewing their interpretation of Shostakovich’s String Quartet No. 14, Jay Nordlinger of the New York Sun wrote: “The cellist, Joshua Gindele ’97, was rich-toned and nimble, and the first violinist, Daniel Ching ’95, tossed off his lines with real flair. … If you wanted to fault this performance, I don’t know how you would do it.” Allan Kozinn of the New York Times wrote of the Miró’s performance of Dvorak’s Quartet in A flat (Op. 105): “This was a reading that had everything right.”

Jennifer Koh
(photo by Janette Beckman)

The April 2007 issue of Strings magazine published a feature profile of violinist Jennifer Koh ’97. In the article, “Heart Full of Soul,” author James Reel writes, “You’ve got to love Jennifer Koh for more than just her brain. Oh, sure, at age 17, when she won the top violin prize in the International Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow, she nixed the idea of becoming an instant touring virtuoso and high-tailed it back to Oberlin College to finish her degree—in English literature. … Yet Koh is most certainly not the sort of person to intellectualize all the emotion out of music.” The New York Times said of her July 2006 performance in Central Park with the New York Philharmonic “ … the Tchaikovsky concerto needs imagination and flair to revive it, and Ms. Koh provided both, from a leisurely, warmly lyrical first movement to a feisty and volatile finale.” Cedille Records released her most recent CD, Schumann: The Sonatas for Violin and Piano, with pianist Reiko Uchida, in 2006. Besides her performing and recording career, Jennifer has developed an outreach project, Music Messenger, that takes her into middle and high schools in the U.S., Germany, and Japan to give concert-demonstrations. More information about Music Messenger is available at www.jenniferkoh.com.


In February 2007, Naxos released four chamber concertos by Huang Ruo ’00 as a complete cycle on its American Classics series. Huang conducts the International Contemporary Ensem-ble (ICE), which he cofounded, on this recording. ICE “delivers performances of rock-solid technical security and expressive passion,” wrote Stephen Eddins in a review that appeared on allmusic.com. “Huang Ruo is a composer to watch out for; his work should be of strong interest to any fans of new music.” Also that month, Huang held his annual Portrait Concert, which was hosted by the Samsung Experience at the Time Warner Center in New York City, and percussionist Ayano Kataoka gave the Japanese premiere of his Sound of Hands. During 2006, three of Huang’s compositions received world premieres: Four Fragments, written for and performed by cellist Soo Bae in April at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall; The Lost Garden: Concerto for Four Solo Instruments and String Orchestra, performed by ICE in October at New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall; and Four Visions, performed in November by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, which commissioned it, during Minneapolis’ Bethlehem Music Series. Other 2006 performances of Huang’s work include the Lincoln Center debut of Divergence: Concerto No. 3 for Five Players, performed by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Chicago premiere of Tree Without Wind, written for and performed by pianist Soyeon Lee as part of the Ravinia Festival’s Rising Star series.

Corey Dargel
(photo by Yvan Greenberg)

Less Famous than You, the debut album by composer, lyricist, and singer Corey Dargel ’01 released on the U.K. alternative pop label Use Your Teeth in May 2006, was named one of TimeOut New York’s “Top Ten Albums of 2006” by music critic Steve Smith. A nominee for the 2007 CalArts Alpert Award in the Arts, Corey performs his music regularly with band mates César Alvarez ’03, Sheila Donovan ’01, and Jim Altieri ’00, and he has recently performed on bills with Joanna Newsom, Final Fantasy, Grizzly Bear, and other artists. Corey’s work was featured in the American Composers Orchestra’s 2006-07 season at Carnegie Hall, and he was selected by Alex Ross of the New Yorker to participate in the 2006 New Yorker Festival’s “Composers on the Edge” presentation. He has received awards and residencies from the New York State Music Fund, the MacDowell Colony, New Dramatists, Atlantic Center for the Arts, the American Composers Forum, and the Jerome Foundation. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner, Yvan Greenberg ’00, who is artistic director of Laboratory Theater and general manager of the Wooster Group. Corey’s music-theater piece about love and voluntary amputation, Removable Parts, will premiere in September 2007 at HERE Arts Center in New York. His web site is www.automaticheartbreak.com.

In January 2007, Laurie Rubin ’01, mezzo-soprano, performed a program of 17th- and 18th-century Italian duets with the Boston-based ensemble Newton Baroque. The concert at St. Francis of Assisi Church in Manhattan also featured soprano Teresa Wakim, cellist Kate Bennett-Haynes, and harpsichordist Andrus Madsen, the ensemble’s founder.

Randall Zigler ’01 has been appointed principal bass of the New Haven Symphony Orchestra. He also performs regularly as principal of the New Hampshire Symphony and with the Rhode Island Philharmonic. A founding member of the International Con-temporary Ensemble, Randy earned a Master of Music degree at Boston University and continues to freelance as an orchestral and chamber musician throughout New England.

Soprano Ellie Dehn ’02 appeared as Donna Anna and soprano Alyson Cambridge ’02 as Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni at PORTOpera in Portland, Maine, in July 2006. Ellie re-created the role of Donna Anna with Opera Pacific at the Orange County Per-forming Arts Center in January 2007.

In May 2007, after earning a master’s degree in double bass performance at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, Scott Dixon ’02 joined the Cleveland Orchestra. Following his graduation from Oberlin, Scott was a fellow with the New World Symphony in Miami Beach, where he also was active in chamber music. He joins his Oberlin instructor, teacher of double bass Scott Haigh, in Cleveland’s bass section.

Soprano Liora Grodnikaite ’02 garnered high praise in the Observer (London) for her recent appearance in the Royal Opera’s production of Bird of Night by Trinidadian composer Dominique le Gendre. Critic Anthony Holden’s October 29, 2006, review of the piece concluded, “But the main treat was the discovery of the scene-stealing Lithuanian soprano Liora Grodnikaite as the voluptuous Desiree. Here is a diva clearly destined for stardom.”

Tenor Scott Mello ’02 performed with Apollo’s Fire in a program that included highlights from Bach’s cantata The Contest Between Phoebus and Pan and Mozart’s intermezzo Apollo and Hyacinth. The program was presented at four venues in Akron and Cleveland from Octo-ber 12 to 15, 2006. Donald Rosenberg, writing in the Plain Dealer, hailed Scott as superb, noting that his “light tenor switched gears effortlessly between the flamboyant Pan and dignified Oebalus.”

In August 2006 flutist Tim Munro ’02 joined the critically acclaimed new- music sextet eighth blackbird. This was the group’s first personnel change in its 10-year history; Tim replaced Molly Barth ’97, who has joined the faculty of Willamette University’s Department of Music and now lives in Oregon. Timothy Weiss, Oberlin’s Ruth Strickland Gardner Professor of Music and associate professor of conduct-ing, recommended that the ensemble invite Tim to audition for the position. Since graduating from Oberlin, Tim has played with professional orchestras, chamber groups, and new music en-sembles throughout Australia.

CD release featuring
Courtney Bryan

Composer and pianist Courtney Bryan ’04 has released her debut CD, Quest for Freedom, featuring acclaimed jazz trumpeter Marcus Belgrave, who is visiting professor of jazz trumpet at Oberlin. Courtney currently performs in and around New York with the Courtney Bryan Trio, which features Kassa Overall ’05 on drums, at venues including St. Nick’s Pub, A Gathering of Tribes Gallery, and Cecil’s Jazz Club. The trio has also headlined at the Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro and Sweet Lorraine’s Jazz Club in New Orleans. She and Ezra Weiss ’01 developed and lead the Courtney Bryan/Ez Weiss Jazz Orches-tra in New York, an organization of volunteer musicians who are particularly interested in the revival of Big Band music.

Edwina Kim ’04 recently earned a Mas-ter of Music degree at the Westminster Choir College of Rider University. While a student there, Edwina was a member of the Westminster Sym-phonic Choir and performed with the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra and the New York Philharmonic.

Singer-songwriter Erika Kulnys ’04 returned to Oberlin in November 2006 to perform a release concert for her new CD, Hurricane, at the Cat in the Cream. She was accompanied by Ryan Kotler ’04 on acoustic and electric bass. Erika’s background in Nova Scotian folk music and her education in classical music prepared her to make the most of a Watson Fellowship, traveling the world in 2005-06 studying folk music for social change.

Ben Ullery ’04 writes that he recently was hired to join the viola section of the Minnesota Orchestra for the 2007-08 season, starting in September 2007. He also relates that Julie Gramolini ’97 will be a colleague there, as she has accepted the second oboe position with the orchestra.

Pianist Michael Bukhman ’05 was a 2006 winner of the Gina Bachauer Piano Competition at Juilliard. The annual Bachauer winners’ concert was broadcast live on the McGraw-Hill Companies’ Young Artists Showcase on WQXR radio, hosted by Robert Sherman. Michael is pursuing an MM degree at Juilliard.

The members of the vocal consort Uncloistered, Mary Larew ’05, Naomi Morse ’03, Sam Sytsma ’03, Thatcher Lyman ’04, and Chris Macklin ’04, are based at the University of York in the U.K., where, Mary reports, they worked with John Potter and Anna Maria Friman and did “very Oberlin,” as well as “very England” things: Sam, Thatcher, and Chris “sang in the Minster choir, Naomi started a shape-note sing for the university, I was concertmaster of the orchestra for a Mahler symphony, and we performed as a quintet all over the U.K.—in cathedrals, tea rooms, and a cave (where we won Best Music Event of the Fringe at the Buxton Fringe Festival).” The icing on the cake, says Mary, was singing for all the University of York graduation ceremonies, for which the university made them gowns with hoods in Oberlin colors. “We wore them with pride, and a sense of humor, wondering if anyone has actually worn an Oberlin hood at Oberlin.”

Violist Reginald Patterson ’05 performed at a special benefit concert in December 2006 at Mount Sinai Mis- sionary Baptist Church in Winston County, Miss., to help his cousin prepare her book of poetry for publication by the Young Publisher Network. Reginald, a class-elected member of Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, invited a friend, Haitian sculptor Jean-Eddy Remy, to show and speak about his artwork at the benefit. The men met in Guadeloupe when Reginald taught English there as a Fulbright fellow. Since then, Reginald has traveled and played with orchestras throughout Italy, France, Switzerland, Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama, and Cuba, and he is pursuing a PhD degree in French literature at Duke.

Megan Radder
(photo by Steve Raymer/Bloom Magazine)

Soprano Megan Radder ’05, a master’s degree candidate at Indiana University, chronicled her experiences rehearsing and performing her first role in an IU production, Yum-Yum in The Mikado, for Bloom magazine. The resulting feature article appeared in the magazine’s October/November 2006 issue, the cover of which is graced by a photo of Megan in full Yum-Yum costume and makeup. “Looking back I see that each performance had a distinct vibe and each presented different challenges,” she wrote in the diary’s last installment. “But some things remained constant. Every night before we went onstage [we] sang our first two numbers in our dressing rooms. And there was the mandatory high-five right before our first entrance. Once we did those things on the first night, I would have been nervous if we didn’t do them before every performance.”

Oboist Jessica Pearlman ’06 performed in January 2007 as a featured soloist with the San Jose Chamber Orchestra. She played the challenging Grand Concerto on Themes from I Vespri Siciliani, written by Italian virtuoso oboist Antonino Pasculli and based on a work by Verdi. Jessica described the piece as “flashy and fun” in a profile published in the January 10, 2007, issue of the Half Moon Bay Review. Originally planning to pursue double degrees at Oberlin in biology and music, Jessica gave up a possible career in medicine to concentrate on oboe performance. Jessica expects to earn a MM degree at Yale in 2008, and she plans to become an orchestral musician with a Bay Area orchestra.

The Gotham Contemporary Ensemble, a new-music group founded and conducted by Michael Sakir ’06, gave its premiere performance at New York City’s Riverside Church on January 25, 2007. The Manhattan-based group features eight instrumentalists from the country’s top music conservatories, including four from Oberlin: Barry Garrett, clarinet, and Ming-Hsin Lu, viola, both ’06; Natasha Uspensky ’05, soprano; and Amie Weiss ’04, violin. The concert featured works by Salvatore Sciarrino, recognized as a leading avant-garde composer and one of Italy’s foremost living composers. Michael has collaborated with such eminent composers as Sir Harrison Birtwistle, and Natasha has sung in performances throughout the country, most recently with the Opera Orchestra of New York and the Cleveland Orchestra.


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Vincent Danner, Multi-Tasking Maestro on a Mission

(photo by Nikki Boertman)

Whether Vincent Danner ’88 is swooping into town for a weekend guest-conducting gig, teaching students in a classroom, or leading a youth symphony on an international tour, he thrives when there’s a clear-cut job to be done and time is of the essence.

Take his most recent position, for example: Associate Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Although his tenure there proved to be long-term (2006-07 marked his 12th and final season), when he arrived in 1995 he immediately set about revitalizing the youth symphony as though he were being clocked. “I made the youth symphony my priority,” he says.

That’s because his mission, shaping new generations to defend the art of music and use their gifts to transcend differences of culture, class, and skin color, was urgent. A proponent of choral music from the African American tradition, his educational programming, such as “From Africa to Memphis,” was attracting attention from the American Symphony Orchestra League.

“I still feel there’s a problem in the heartland,” Danner says. “We need a different type of musician, one who knows how to communicate across a broad spectrum and reach out effectively.”

Memphis wasn’t Danner’s first encounter leading young musicians. After earning a Bachelor of Music degree in music education from Oberlin, he took a job teaching at Cleveland Heights High School, where he conducted a full symphony orchestra, a band, and a choral group. “I really had a lot of respect for those kids,” he recalls. He stayed at Heights High for four years, lured away only by the chance to study with his idol, Gustav Meier, at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Master of Music degree in orchestral conducting in 1994.

The siren call of a conducting career beckoned next, and Danner spent 12 years leading several professional orchestras, including the Charleston Symphony in South Carolina, where his annual gospel Christmas pops concert has become the most successful on its season.

In spring 2007, Danner’s career came full circle, back to his original mission. He taught brass and woodwind methods for Professor of Music Education John Knight, during Knight’s sabbatical.

Even though the position required that he fly between Oberlin and Memphis most weekends, Danner said he was honored to assist his former teacher and grateful for a change of pace. “I have to admit, it was humbling that [Knight] would remember me,” he says. “And it’s been really great. It’s been nice to try something so new and different.”

His most unusual mission of all began in summer 2007, when Danner departed for the Philippines. There

he will serve a two-year term as music instructor at the International School in Manila.

Once again, he faces both a clear job description—to bring the school’s concert and jazz bands up to greater snuff—and a deadline. But this, too, is a mission Danner knows he can fulfill.

Never mind that he can’t speak Tagalog. “I’ve always wanted to live abroad,” says the devotee of international travel. “All the way around, it’s just a perfect fit.”

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Words and Music: The Double Life of Russell Platt

(photo by Melissa Richard)

Look out for Russell Platt if you ever visit the NewYorker. He just might bump into you. Literally.

Platt ’87, the magazine’s Senior Editor for Classical Music at “Goings on About Town,” occasionally steps away from his desk and goes for thoughtful strolls around the office. “This place is a national trust,” he says. “I sometimes need to remind myself that I’m here.”

But the country’s top news and literary magazine isn’t the only place you’re likely to encounter Platt. Look for him, too, at your nearest concert hall.

On the program, that is. A composer, Platt leads an active double life; performances of his music are as easy to track down as his writing.

In late February 2007, Platt was staying at Copland House in Westchester County, where he worked on pieces for the Verdehr Trio and for Bargemusic. He has also received commissions from the American Composers Forum, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra Ensembles, and the Dale Warland Singers.

Although Platt cites composers Ned Rorem and Dominick Argento as his primary influences, he knows he wouldn’t be in either position he’s in today if it hadn’t been for the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Before coming to Ohio, “I was very cocooned,” Platt says. “I was writing in a tonal style that was completely unfashionable.” He thanks Emeritus Professor of Composition and Music Theory Richard Hoffman for exposing him to the dense, technically complex Second Viennese school. Platt’s music remained essentially melodic, but the experience broadened and deepened his musical palette, he says.

The truly pivotal moment occurred during his senior year. Platt was a double major in history and music, and had the chance to write a thesis under a professor he revered—the late Geoffrey Blodgett, Emeritus Robert S. Danforth Professor of History. Platt chose to write music instead. “I was tempted, but I knew I had to keep composing,” Platt says. “That was my first serious step down a musical path.” This decision led to further studies in music at Curtis, Cambridge University, and the University of Minnesota, where he earned his PhD in 1995.

While at Oberlin, Platt also began writing about music for the Oberlin Review. This, too, proved to be an important step on that path, one that would lead to the St. Paul Pioneer Press and, eventually, the New Yorker. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was getting an education for a split career,” Platt says.

Nowadays, Platt says life is more of a “balancing act.” He spends mornings searching for perfect first sentences and nights dreaming up ideal opening measures. Busy as he is, “I never worry that I’m wasting my time,” he says.

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