Lamont Lyrics Archives
Prior Photos, Profiles & Stories from the DU Lamont School of Music Official Online Newsletter
For more information about Lamont Lyrics or high resolution press photos, please contact Chris Wiger, Director of Public Relations at email@example.com
"Tale a Look at Us" Photo Archive
"Take a Look at Us" photos from Fall 2020 Lamont Lyrics
A yearbook of challenges formed by our response to the pandemic and a call for inclusion and diversity.
Faculty & Students Rise to Challenge of Pivoting to Virtual Classes
When the campus closed last spring faculty, students and staff met and exceeded the challenges caused by moving to virtual classes, lessons, performances and master classes. Photo of and by Igor Pikayzen.
Inclusion & Diversity
The Spirituals Project on the CBS Evening News
Spirituals Project director M. Roger Holland and longtime choir member Alice Rasberry were interviewed for a national story by Janet Shamlian on the CBS Evening News. Photo by Chris Wiger
Inclusion & Diversity
Flow: The Rhythmic Voice in Rap Music by Mitchell Ohriner
Lamont music theory faculty member Mitchell Ohriner has published a new book addressing flow, the rhythm of the rapping voice. Originating in dance parties in the South Bronx in the late 1970s, hip hop and rap music have become a dominant style of popular music in the United States and a force for activism all over the world. Photo — Detail of the cover.
Steve Wiest & the Lamont Jazz Orchestra Record Virtually
Steve Wiest and the Lamont Jazz Orchestra worked with student recording engineer Colton Sparks to produce a pair of virtual recordings. Other studios and ensembles also contributed recordings during the spring. Photo — Zoom screen shot.
Inclusion & Diversity
Choral Diversity — Equity in Sound & Practice
Lamont and GIA Publishing co-sponsored a national webinar narrated by Lamont's M. Roger Holland. He was joined by five other choral directors and scholars in a very important conversation about issues of diversity, equity and inclusion in choral music and education.
Since our concert and recital hall stages were dark, we presented at-home performances by Lamont students, faculty and graduates on social media. Photo — Zoom screen shot
A Virtual Lamont Summer Academy Was a First
The two-week program held in late June and early July moved online serving pre-college musicians in all four time zones and Mexico. Students participated in a variety of music making including a very innovative approach to chamber music over the internet. Photo — Zoom screen shot
"Take a Look at Us" photos from Winter 2020 Lamont Lyrics
Lamont Opera Theatre Gala
New Lamont Opera Theatre music director Sahar Nouri conducts the Lamont Symphony Orchestra in the Lamont Opera Theatre Gala. Photo by Wayne Armstrong
New Faculty Members Perform with Lamont Symphony Orchestra
New Lamont faculty members hornist David Byrd-Marrow and violinist Igor Pikayzen perform with the Lamont Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Brett Mitchell, music director of the Colorado Symphony. Photo by Wayne Armstrong
Opera Star Kathleen Battle Performs with the Spirituals Project Choir
Legendary Metropolitan Opera soprano Kathleen Battle presented a powerful program of songs inspired by the Underground Railroad with Lamont's Spirituals Project Choir, directed by M. Roger Holland, II. Photo by Wayne Armstrong
Lamont Opera Theatre performs Puccini's "Il trittico"
Matthew Plenk directed Lamont Opera Theatre's new production of Puccini's Il trittico with sets, costumes and lighting designed by DU Theatre. Photo by Wayne Armstrong
Lamont Chorale Tours New Mexico
The Lamont Chorale and conductor Catherine Sailer toured New Mexico with a special performance in the The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe. Photo by Chris Wiger
Lamont Jazz Orchestra Performs at Prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival
Director Steve Wiest and the Lamont Jazz Orchestra won the Next Generation Jazz Festival and were featured performers at the 61st Monterey Jazz Festival. Photo by Stacy Dymalski
Profiles from Fall 2020 Lamont Lyrics
Introducing a Lamont graduate making his mark in film, an award-winning student, parents who are Lamont Opera Theatre fans, one of our most deeply involved Lamont Society donors and a passionate just-retired member of our faculty.
Robert Wolff BM 1983 in oboe performance, was scoring editor for three of John Williams' Star Wars films and is currently editing a massive recording project for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Photo — Andrea Shea, WBUR. A playback session for Shostakovich: Symphony No.8, Symphony Hall, Boston, March 2016. (L to R) BSO recording engineer Nick Squire, Maestro Andris Nelsons and Robert.
by Robert Wolff
September 1, 2020
When contacted to write an update to a previous profile, my first thought was, “So soon?” I was amazed that seven years had elapsed; in some ways the years had flown by, and in others it seemed a lifetime past.
I have been busy since the adventure of Lincoln. I still watch the Oscars yearly, since if John Williams writes a score, it usually gets nominated. I’ve worked on the Williams film scores to The Book Thief, Star Wars Episodes VII, VIII, and IX, The BFG, Dear Basketball, The Post, themes for Solo: A Star Wars Story and Gustavo Dudamel’s score to Libertador. I’ve worked on various album projects, including Hooten Plays Williams, the third disc of the “Williams/Spielberg Ultimate Collection,” and Anne-Sophie Mutter and John Williams’s Across the Stars.
A newer addition to my portfolio is editing for Andris Nelsons and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. I was asked to edit his inaugural concert recording as well as the PBS-TV production in 2015. Over the past five years we have worked on a complete cycle of Shostakovich symphonies, earning Grammy awards for Symphony No. 10 and the set of Symphonies 5, 8 and 9. Eight symphonies have been released, five more are in various stages of completion while two remain to be recorded. A set of Brahms symphonies was also recorded and readied for release in the span of six weeks in 2015. There is also a cycle of Strauss tone poems in progress and possibly a cycle of Mahler symphonies in the works.
Of course, in March 2020, the novel coronavirus brought everything to a screeching halt. I’ve been idle for 23 weeks as of mid-August. Over the past few weeks a few orchestras have slowly gone back to work in Europe and Asia, and there have been a few orchestra sessions here in Los Angeles. Many major orchestras have cancelled their fall concerts and the hope of resuming sometime early in 2021 dims with each passing day. The sessions here have been conducted under extremely tight protocols, limiting the number of musicians in the studio and in the control room to much smaller numbers than before the pandemic. The distancing required is an engineering challenge, requiring a change in thinking about mic placement and techniques. Since the majority of my work requires a lot of people in one place, the future is cloudy at best. Despite today’s dour environment, I still hold on to hope that we may one day make music as before.
The challenges facing today’s Lamont students are daunting. I humbly offer a few lessons I learned along the way:
1. Whatever your involvement with music is, remember that it is first and foremost an entertainment. It is a way of telling stories and connecting with others. Whatever you do, whether it be a project over Zoom or playing in a great concert hall, whether it be recording orchestras or jazz bands, whether or not the music you make is to your personal taste, remember it’s to be enjoyed. Many of the most beloved performances were made by people who were trying to entertain themselves.
2. Be patient and don’t say no to work or feel like something is beneath you. I didn’t leave Lamont and start working with world-class artists immediately—it took me 15 years of hard work before collaborating with “big-time” folks. I’ve done some crazy sessions but I didn’t really say “no” until I was asked to record an opera-singing dog after 32 years as an engineer. I also made the mistake of pooh-poohing MIDI because people were using it to imitate orchestras. Once I was in the film music business, I regretted that stance. I have also dabbled with a lot of other things: arranging, conducting, copying, trucking, radio, etc. The more things you know how to do, the better off you’ll be, and you’ll discover things about yourself that you didn’t realize before.
3. It’s never too early to be a professional. This was one of the first lessons I learned at Lamont. I was a freshman in the top ensembles and had to measure up to upperclassmen and graduate students. People will assume you know what you are doing. They will be more impressed with your talents if you do the little things like showing up on time, being prepared and getting along with the people you’re working with. Most people who possess tremendous talent are also pleasant to be around. Everyone wants and deserves to be treated with respect and humanity. The most famous person you know puts their pants on one leg at a time, same as you. Even Steven Spielberg drives his kids’ carpool..
Just entering his senior year, percussionist James Nickell already has a number of school-wide and international awards listed in his biography.
by In Wisekal
James Nickell, though he has not yet started his senior year, is already one of the most decorated members of the Lamont student body. He has won the school-wide Honors Chamber Competition; received a recital commendation for his exemplary junior recital, meticulously filmed and presented remotely in the spring of 2020; took first prize with his quartet at the International Percussion Ensemble Competition sponsored by PASIC, the worldwide percussion conference; and won a spot in PASIC’s All-Star Percussion Ensemble.
A native of Golden, CO, Nickell came to Lamont primarily to study with John Kinzie, percussion faculty and principal percussionist of the Colorado Symphony. Nickell remembers his audition well: after experiencing cold, clinical treatment from professors at other schools, he was immediately put at ease by Kinzie’s warmth and engagement. Kinzie took the time to get to know the young musician and shared that, for his studio, a person’s character is just as important as their playing. “That’s part of the reason why my experience with the percussion studio here has been so great,” Nickell offered. “Everyone is so collaborative and supportive…the small community has given me a lot of opportunities that I wouldn’t have otherwise had.”
One of Nickell’s collaborative efforts has already borne professional fruit and attracted attention off campus. Atlas Percussion, made up of the members of his Honors Chamber-winning quartet, has performed downtown at Dazzle Denver, at the Denver School of the Arts in an event hosted by Friends of Chamber Music, and at area schools for educational initiatives. They have also made several recordings and have begun a commissioning project to expand their repertoire.
Further afield, Nickell has attended several music festivals: the Vancouver Symphony Orchestral Institute and the University of British Columbia Chamber Orchestra Festival, both in Canada, and the Aspen Music Festival this summer (although its programming has moved online). These experiences were made possible thanks to the Joseph Docksey Fund, which gives Lamont students access to professional development resources.
It was in Vancouver, playing Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, when Nickell realized that his ultimate aim is to become an orchestral percussionist. “The experience was really powerful,” Nickell recalled. “Everybody has the same goal and everybody is really driven – everyone becomes one entity.”
To that end, Nickell plans to audition for several prestigious graduate schools scattered all over the country. He has already made a connection with a professor at the San Francisco Conservatory, Edward Stephan, who gave a guest master class at Lamont in January 2020 and with whom Nickell is studying this summer at Aspen.
Nickell takes a clear-eyed view of his prospects in the competitive world of professional auditions. “In order to get a job in an orchestra,” he explained, “I’m going to take every audition I can – on percussion and timpani – any job that comes up” in the U.S. and Canada. In the meantime, he plans to teach privately and to freelance, as he has already done with the Denver Philharmonic, the Boulder Symphony, and other groups in Colorado.
He also plans to continue taking advantage of Lamont’s resources. “I’ve been doing double lessons every week,” Nickell revealed, both with Kinzie and William Hill, the Colorado Symphony’s principal timpanist and a longtime member of the composition faculty at Lamont. “That has been the most beneficial thing for me: to study with guys who are really supportive and really committed to seeing me succeed.” With all of his external support and internal drive, the question is not whether Nickell will succeed, but how soon.
Ann & Brian Fitzgerald
Ann and Brian Fitzgerald's son Trey, a senior vocalist, has turned his parents into Lamont Opera Theatre fans.
by Keith Ward
Another special group within the Lamont community is students’ parents. They have invested time, effort and resources that are invaluable in preparing their sons and daughters for their next steps. We look forward to sharing some of their stories in each newsletter.
In this issue, we are delighted to feature Brian and Ann Fitzgerald from San Jose, California. Their son, Trey, is completing a bachelor of music degree in vocal performance. Ann, whom Brian credits with bringing arts into the family, hails from Minnesota, where she earned a degree in dance from the University of Minnesota. In addition to the never-ending work of being a stay-at-home mom, Ann has been active in their local school system, serving on the school board and leading parent participation activities. Brian, another Midwest native, grew up in Michigan. He attended Michigan State University, majoring in electrical engineering. Since the mid-1980s he has been in Silicon Valley, where he has built a career in high tech.
Brian and Ann live in a musically vibrant community, with opportunities in musical theater, orchestral and choral music beginning in the K-8 schools. Parents are deeply involved, from leading reading and math programs to organizing fundraisers. It was in this environment that Trey found his love of music: starting with musical theater in fifth grade, he eventually became active in after-school programs and in Starting Arts Dream Team, which develops young people’s skills in acting, singing and dancing. The strength of this and other programs have produced results that reach far beyond the community, with graduates now attending prestigious music schools across the country.
The Fitzgeralds travel from California “three or four times a year” to attend concerts at Lamont. They have enjoyed the Fall Opera Gala (featuring scenes from operas with full orchestral accompaniment), choral concerts, the spring opera productions and recitals. They have particularly fond memories of being in the audience for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro and Puccini’s Il Trittico.
Ann and Brian have observed Lamont’s tight-knit, encouraging community firsthand and consider it something special. They are grateful for the support and opportunities for Trey that Lamont has provided. To Brian, this support was evident from the start when he and Trey met with now-retired opera director Ken Cox. It continues in work with current faculty and staff: Catherine Sailer (Director of Choral Activities), Matthew Plenk (Director of Opera and Trey’s voice teacher), Sahar Nouri (Music Director of Opera), Rachel Lim (Academic Advisor) and Chris Wiger (Director of Public Relations). Their efforts have resulted in Trey’s performing in Denver with professional ensembles, securing a church singing job, performing in an ensemble tour to Prague and studying at a summer program in Italy.
Brian shares that he and Ann “can’t wait to get back and get into Gates Hall to see a big show.” Once we return to live concerts, we look forward to welcoming them back!
A long-time Lamont Society donor, Jennifer Heglin takes special care of students by funding scholarships and student awards.
Photo — Jennifer Heglin with former Lamont director Joe Docksey. Wayne Armstrong, DU Photographer
by Ian Wisekal
If you have ever attended a Lamont concert, you are likely already familiar with Jennifer Heglin. You may have seen her smiling in her usual seat, overlooking the stage; you might remember her taking photographs; you may have heard her lovely English lilt as she congratulates musicians. In fact, Heglin’s involvement with Lamont is so deep that you might have noticed her at any given recital, concert or opera performance since before Lamont moved into its former home, in the Park Hill neighborhood, in 1986.
Heglin, originally from the east of England, was not always an avid concertgoer. When she was studying at a French secretarial school in London, it was a Swiss roommate who started dragging Heglin along to concerts. “She said, ‘This girl needs a bit of culture,’” Heglin remembered. When she emigrated to Canada, living first in Toronto, Heglin took advantage of the symphony’s free Sunday concerts and discovered the Toll Brothers Saturday broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera. “That’s what turned me into an opera nut,” Heglin joked. “I haven’t missed one of those broadcasts in 60 years!”
In 1978, Jennifer married Clifford Heglin and relocated to Denver. By then a devotee of the arts, she recalled, “It was the year Boettcher [Concert Hall] opened.” She quickly joined several fundraising guilds, including those for the Colorado Symphony, Central City Opera and Denver Lyric Opera, and joined the Lamont Society – then called Lamont Music Associates – when the school moved into the Houston Fine Arts Center in Park Hill, now the site of Denver School of the Arts.
Heglin enjoyed getting to know many Lamont students, including Frank Toth, who died tragically young from pancreatic cancer. A gift in his name, the Frank Toth Memorial Award, has been funded by Heglin every year since then. She and her late husband, Cliff, became friends with former Lamont Director Joseph Docksey, and they donated to the Newman and All-Steinway funds during the construction of the Newman Center, which Docksey championed. Heglin was president of the Lamont Society when the building opened its doors in 2002.
In recent years, Heglin has funded many honors presented at the Lamont Awards Convocation each June: prizes for the winners of the Solo Honors and Honors Chamber Competitions, the outstanding student in composition, and the outstanding undergraduate and graduate students in academics, classical and jazz performance. Lamont now has an endowed scholarship named for Clifford Heglin, and Jennifer has made a matched bequest for a second one.
The feeling of loyalty to Lamont is strong in Heglin. “When I attend performances there,” she said, “they always seem so special. I know the people, and I’ve known them for a long time.” When Hao Jiang Tian, the recipient of Lamont’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award, began winning acclaim in the opera world, Heglin followed him across the U.S. and beyond, even flying to Nice to attend his European debut. She added, “I look on Lamont as my adopted family.”
Being such an active member of the Denver arts scene, one might wonder what interests Heglin outside the concert hall. When she is not supporting members of the music community, she dotes on a living community closer to home: her gardens. A lifelong enthusiast, Heglin began at age six by rescuing the violets that popped up in her family’s vegetable garden. Heglin described her current setup: “I’ve got two big balconies for flowers, two flower beds in front of the condo, a community garden where I grow flowers for cutting…and tomatoes.” She paused, letting the long, English “ah” vowel sink in. “To-MAY-toes, I should say.”
The next time you attend a Lamont concert, look out for Jennifer Heglin. Chances are excellent that, whatever the circumstances may be, whatever the format may be, she will be there, smiling, overlooking the stage.
An avid bicyclist who recently retired from our faculty, Antonia Banducci has inspired students with her passion for music history and service to the Lamont community for 25 years.
Photo — Wayne Armstrong, DU Photographer
by Keith Ward
Antonia Banducci, Professor of Musicology, retired this June. In her 25 years at Lamont she guided generations of students and shared her unending passion for music. How does one sum up her rich career? This essay won’t do justice, but it will at least give a sense of this cherished member in the Lamont community.
Antonia taught a wide array of courses with opera having a very special place in her heart. When asked about a special moment during her career at Lamont, she said, without pause, that there isn’t one; there are many. So often those moments centered around students. Antonia engaged them in both the history of music and in the music itself. Her classes combined lecture, discussion, and performance, all of which brought the music alive. She challenged students to engage thoroughly in the music, to reflect upon it through research, discussion and writing. Her high standards made a difference in many students’ lives. Antonia enjoyed hearing from undergraduate students about how much they newly discovered in the music they studied in her classes in Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Classical music. Her Baroque, Romantic and opera history seminar topics classes, as well as a strong focus on modern opera always provided for new discoveries. She also learned much from them, especially from the performers’ and composers’ points of view. “In both sets of classes, we were a community,” says Antonia. “We were engaged with each other. We were in it together.”
Lamont is a different place from when she came. Antonia was part of the generation of faculty and students who moved into the Newman Center in 2003 from what is now the Denver School of the Arts, eight miles from campus. In this inspiring new space of the Newman Center, Lamont took off. She proudly points out that the level of musicianship and professionalism has improved wonderfully over this time. She also praises our expansion into multiple musical styles that included steel drum, bluegrass, The Spirituals Project Choir, and ensembles celebrating multiple ethnicities, such as North Indian Kathak dance. She enjoyed watching our audiences grow as our footprint on the cultural life of the region expanded. During her career we became the destination we now are.
Students and service to her community are not all of Antonia’s story. She is a scholar of seventeenth-century music, especially opera, and has received accolades for her work on the music by Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687). Her important discovery through painstaking archival research in Paris, France and elsewhere was that Lully built his operas around the performers he knew, and an important number of those star performers were women. “He may have been totally engaged in the drama, but the performers made the work. He knew who he was writing for.” She has garnered attention for her published scholarship, especially on Lully, and looks forward to completing her book on the composer’s music.
Scholarly work will not be her only activity during retirement. An avid cyclist, Antonia serves on Denver mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, and she looks forward to activities with the Denver Bicycle Club. She also looks forward to time in her garden as well as concerts and other activities at DU. We will look forward to seeing her!
Thank you, Antonia. Thank you for your undying love of music. Thank you for making a difference in students’ lives. Thank you for being such a great colleague.
Profiles from Winter 2020 Lamont Lyrics
DU Alumna Takes Center Stage at The Met
Sarah Cambidge (BM'11, MM '13) sings the role of the Lady in Waiting.
by Greg Glasgow
October 7, 2019
It’s the dream of every aspiring opera singer: to appear on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. For Sarah Cambidge (BM ’11, MM ’13), a graduate of the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, the dream came true in September, when she made her Met debut in the company’s production of Verdi’s “Macbeth.” Cambidge sings the role of the Lady in Waiting, appearing with such opera luminaries as soprano Anna Netrebko, baritone Željko Lučić and tenor Matthew Polenzani.
Cambidge has risen through the opera ranks since graduating from Lamont, performing on stages in the U.S. and Europe and in 2017 winning a coveted Adler Fellowship at San Francisco Opera. She will appear again at the Met in January, understudying the role of the Countess in “The Marriage of Figaro.”
The DU newsroom recently caught up with Cambidge to talk about her road to the Met and what it’s like to sing on that famous stage.
Q: In 2015, you made it to the semifinals of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, a program designed to discover promising young opera singers. Was there any connection between that audition and landing the role in “Macbeth”?
A: The National Council Auditions put you on their radar, but I did a showcase through my management company last fall in New York, and that’s where [the Met] heard me most recently. They were looking for ways they could fit me into their season. I’m singing the Lady in Waiting, which is a very small role, but it’s incredible considering the only other female in the main cast is Anna Netrebko, who is one of the biggest sopranos in the world right now. So that’s pretty cool.
Q: What is the rehearsal process for a Met production? Are you doing most of the musical preparation on your own time?
A: You come 100% prepared on your own musically. You’re off-book, you don’t need your score any longer, you’re fully memorized, you’ve worked on the diction and the music. Then you start rehearsal, and that’s mostly just staging. There usually will be some music rehearsals, usually at the beginning, but with a cast like the Met has, with Matthew Polenzani and Anna Netrebko, it was quite incredible. There was no need to have much music rehearsal since most of them have already sung the roles.
(L to R) Harold Wilson as the Doctor and Sarah Cambidge as the Lady in Waiting take their bows in the Metropolitan Opera production of Verdi’s Macbeth. Photo: ©KenHoward/MetOpera
Q: The show opened Sept. 25 — what was it like to walk out on that stage in front of an audience for the first time?
A: Super surreal. It was so cool. This is the biggest company in the United States, and to get to be one of the few singers who in their career gets to sing here was really an incredible experience. To walk down the halls and know who was there originally and that all of your idols have sung there or are still singing there — getting to be a part of that is incredible.
Q: You already have performed with so many companies here and in Europe, but did you learn anything new performing at the Met?
A: You learn something new with every show. Lamont prepared me so well for going forward in this career, but every single production you learn something new. If it’s a really long role, you’re learning how to pace yourself. Or if it’s a really high role, you’re learning how to sing in that tessitura for so long. Every production has something different, and this one was, ‘How can I make sure that within the ensembles it’s so cohesive?’ I get to sing a lot of the high notes that Lady Macbeth sings in the ensembles, but at the same time I’m also doubling a lot of the things that the chorus is singing. So just making sure that it stays really cohesive and tight with the whole ensemble. That’s been really fun.
Q: One of the big steps on your road to the Met was the Adler Fellowship in San Francisco. What was that experience like?
A: It was a complete life-changer. While I was there I was able to be a part of so many different productions. I was in Francesca Zambello’s [production of Wagner’s ‘Ring’ cycle], which is the longest opera that the opera world puts together. It’s four separate operas put over four different evenings, and they total about 10 hours of opera. People come to see the whole cycle, and they’ll sit through all four evenings of performances. It’s the biggest thing that the opera world does, and to be part of one while I was a young artist was incredible.
Q: You have come so far — what’s the secret to your success?
A: It’s a lot of hard work, and it’s a lot of being at the right place at the right time. And making sure that every time you step out on that stage, you’re putting your best foot forward. Thankfully, Lamont prepares you really well for that. I still study with Ken Cox, who was the head of the Lamont opera program and is now retired. Just working toward this with Lamont’s help and so much support from them — they’ve been incredible
Senior Flutist and Cellist Mari McCarville Takes Life by the Horns
by Ian Wisekal
When I ask what she is studying, she smiles and pauses. “Are you ready?” asks the Boettcher Scholar. McCarville is a senior double-major in flute performance and psychology; she is completing a minor in leadership studies through the Pioneer Leadership Program; she’s enrolled concurrently in the master’s program in curriculum and instruction through the Morgridge College of Education; and she is pursuing her teaching certificate in elementary education with an endorsement in culturally and linguistically diverse learners. Try saying that five times fast.
When I ask what it was like to grow up in Grand Junction, she corrects me. Do I know Crawford, the farming community of 400 an hour and a half east of Grand Junction? Well, she grew up outside of that.
But McCarville’s remote location did not inhibit her ambition. She started recorder lessons at age four—“I was hardcore,” she assures me—and took up the flute at eight. Inspired by a string quartet performance featuring Lamont faculty member and cellist Katharine Knight, McCarville declared that she wanted to play cello, as well, and started lessons at age ten. “As soon as I was tall enough,” she clarifies. As a child, she told her mother that she wanted to learn German. Her mother had always dreamt of teaching internationally, so the family relocated to Munich during McCarville’s middle-school years before moving back to Colorado.
Arriving at DU, McCarville immediately found a way to impact the community. In her first quarter, after eating a banana during a practice break at Lamont, “I had a banana peel and no place to compost it!” she remembers. Where she grew up, composting was the norm; being so far from town, it was a necessity.
Encouraged by her first-year seminar, “Trash and Zero Waste,” McCarville wrote a grant to DU’s Sustainability Committee to begin a composting program. She eventually created a series of zero-waste concerts with help from Newman Center staff and DU’s Center for Sustainability. The waste-sorting tri-bins now located at Lamont, each made from recycled materials themselves, are a direct result of her efforts.
Not everything was easy for McCarville at DU. “There were so many things in music that I’d never learned how to learn,” she recalls. Persistence and perseverance, qualities that come naturally to her, weren’t enough. “How do I learn to hear something? How do I learn to be musical?”
In addition to weekly flute lessons with Julie Thornton, whom she lauds as “so welcoming and supportive,” McCarville took lessons with Richard Slavich, the retired former cello professor at Lamont. She has performed in both large and small ensembles on flute and cello during her four years, and served for several quarters as the flute section leader in the Lamont Wind Ensemble.
When her junior year came, McCarville jumped at the chance to study abroad with DU’s Cherrington Global Scholars initiative, hoping to improve her German and study music in Europe. Salzburg was her ideal location, since her great-grandfather was Austrian. (Incidentally, her family is related by marriage to the von Trapps.)
The highlight of that semester abroad came when McCarville’s Salzburg orchestra director asked her to play cello in a concert one evening. He gave her an address and asked her to wear all black, omitting any further details. The program’s campus was adjacent to the famous gazebo from The Sound of Music, and as chance would have it, the address McCarville arrived at was the von Trapp house from the film.
“I checked the address three times to make sure it was right,” McCarville recounts. Inside, the grand hall was set up to record a music video. She was to be the cellist in a string quartet backing up Austrian pop singer DJ Ötzi. The footage, she learned, would be used in a movie called Stille Nacht: Ein Lied für die Welt (Silent Night: A Song for the World), a celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Christmas carol written near Salzburg. Besides DJ Ötzi, the musikfilm features artists like Kelly Clarkson, Josh Groban and the Vienna Boys Choir.
Seizing opportunities is a matter of course for McCarville. After hearing on the radio about the Music Cognition Lab at Vanderbilt University, she applied for and was awarded a Summer Research Grant from DU to be an assistant there. The program studies the overlap between rhythm and grammar in the brain, particularly as it pertains to language development in children. The work was fascinating, and it helped shape her future plans. “I realized that I want to work with kids not just as data points on a screen,” she says. “I want to make an impact on a day-to-day basis… for now!”
What is in store for the recent Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Kappa Lambda inductee? McCarville plans to teach internationally in elementary schools for a few years in order to formulate a research question. “It might be, ‘Where do we need more evidence-based intervention?’ ” she muses. “Or, ‘What do we need to better support students’ socio-emotional development?’ I want to answer a question that is really relevant and that could help people broadly.” She intends to make that topic the focus of her eventual PhD work.
Beyond that, McCarville wants to go into educational administration, start a non-profit organization, or do something, she says, “on the systemic level.” She will also continue to play and teach music privately.
What was the biggest factor in all of her success? Ultimately, McCarville believes that it was taking advantage of everything she could: not just the special programs at the University, but the experience and expertise of her peers and professors at DU. Building relationships with other students was very important, she says. “It’s competitive out there. People want to support each other, but if you don’t get to know them, it can become antagonistic.” To face academic challenges head-on, she confesses, “I spent so much time in office hours!” Having those extra conversations with teachers, in her opinion, “makes the learning so much more human and real.”
Armed with her myriad degrees, certifications, experiences, questions and ambitions, McCarville is destined to make an impact that is deep, “human and real,” with or without her instruments in hand.
Todd Cochran's Son Jadon, a Sophomore Clarinetist, Has Inspired Him to Become Involved with Lamont
by Todd Cochran
Photo by Markku Lahdesmaki.
Among the realizations that arise in a collegial academic setting is the truth that everybody is in the process of becoming. While being exposed to and stretched by new ideas, our instincts draw us to commonly held notions of community only to discover that in a truly progressive environment community is not about sameness. Collaborations within an art-centric setting demonstrate how an idealistic musical society might work revolving around cooperation and creativity. Within a community of multiple viewpoints, the “sameness” is the quest of expanding our experience base and enlarging our understanding of all things human and cultural.
All people enter new spaces with a palatable Weltanschuung; formed opinions, biases, inherited preferences. This said, community allows us to interact with people whom we may not otherwise encounter. In authentic community there is a sense of belonging – everyone is respected, welcomed and honored for the differences they bring.
For thriving young musicians in a conservatory program rooted in the fundamentals of the Western classical tradition, the journey is to learn to equally coexist with the emotional and captivating qualities of software-created music.
This third decade of the 21st century promises the emergence of new communities of thinkers and creators as we trend towards a continued wealth of diversity in themes, sounds and perspectives. Lingering impulses to hold onto fixed positions will be challenged and replaced with healthy curiosities that move us to join in evermore meaningful conversations about the world we share. Think of it: sounds, images, subjects, forms, drama, intelligence and beauty — compacted into smaller and smaller glimpses, stimulating and tantalizing the imagination in fleeting segments of time with irrepressible beats and sonic ear candy. Yet the possibilities of performing artful music that is captivating, motivating, inspiring and relevant are infinite and untold.
Community enables us to actualize a concept where daily life can be seen as a canvas. As a community, let us be mindful in definitive ways of those outside of our own because this is where connection, true inspiration and purpose live.
Mark Barczuk (MBA 1988) Puts His Professional Experience to Work for Lamont
by Chris Wiger
Photo by Wayne Armstrong
Mark started his financial services career in 1997 after working for several years managing the Swedish Medical Center Foundation and as a development professional for the University of Denver. He is currently the Senior Vice President for Investments at Benjamin F. Edwards & Co.
When he’s not working, he enjoys spending time with his wife Lynn and his two daughters. Together, they like staying active and frequently play tennis or travel to favorite getaways like Cabo San Lucas. In addition, he works out at the gym, swims and bikes, and both Lynn and Mark look forward to taking up golf again now that the children are getting older.
Mark earned his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and holds an MBA from the University of Denver’s Daniels School of Business.
“About five years ago a close friend of mine, Jan Friedland, asked me if I would consider getting involved in the Lamont School of Music. Jan is someone I would do anything for, so I said yes. Thank you, Jan, for asking! I now have a warm place in my heart for the Lamont School of Music — the students, the faculty, the staff, the volunteers and everyone else involved.
The Lamont School of Music is a place where passion for music and musical excellence live and thrive. I can feel it when I enter the building. I experience it at every concert I attend. As the Lamont Council’s President, it is an honor and privilege to support those who pursue their passions here!” — Mark Barczuk
David Byrd-Marrow, Sahar Nouri, Igor Pikayzen and Aleysia Whitmore
Four new professors join Lamont’s star-studded ranks
by Ian Wisekal
This fall, the Lamont School of Music welcomes four new full-time faculty members whose international reputations precede them.
David Byrd-Marrow, Assistant Professor of Horn, comes to DU by way of New York City. He’s a member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), a new music collective that performs internationally and serves as ensemble-in-residence at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival.
Byrd-Marrow brings with him a remarkable breadth of experience. He’s premiered works by composers Matthias Pintscher, George Lewis, Tyshawn Sorey, Miguel Zenón, Chick Corea and many others; he performs at festivals including the Ojai Music Festival, the Tanglewood Music Center and as faculty at the Banff Music Centre in Canada; and he’s made appearances with the New York Philharmonic, the Atlanta and Tokyo symphony orchestras, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Washington National Opera and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Beyond his live performances, Byrd-Marrow is no stranger to the recording studio, appearing on such major labels as Nonesuch, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and Naxos. Byrd-Marrow received his bachelor of music degree from The Juilliard School and master of music from SUNY at Stony Brook.
Lamont’s new Music Director of Opera Theatre is Sahar Nouri, who was born and raised in Iran. Nouri is in her fourth season serving as Opera Colorado’s chorus master, assistant conductor and principal coach. Her recent wide-ranging engagements have included the world premiere of Today It Rains at Opera Parallèle, Rusalka at San Francisco Opera, Tosca with the Philadelphia Orchestra at Bravo!Vail Music Festival and Carmen at Opera North Carolina. Prior to coming to Colorado, Nouri was a member of the music staff at Houston Grand Opera, Dallas Opera, Utah Opera, Opera North Carolina, Glimmerglass Festival, Opera in the Heights, Aspen Opera Theatre, Opera Steamboat and Merola Opera.
Besides English and her native Farsi, Nouri is conversant in many languages: she’s studied in the Czech Republic, Italy and Austria and is frequently in demand as a language coach. Nouri holds graduate degrees from of the University of Michigan, where she studied with Martin Katz, and from Arizona State University.
Award-winning Russian-American Igor Pikayzen, Assistant Professor of Violin, was born in Moscow. Praised by the Moscow Times as “surely at the forefront of a major musical career,” Pikayzen took first prize in both the International Violin Competition Luis Sigall in Chile and the Wronski International Violin Competition in Poland, and was a silver medalist at the Szeryng and Kloster-Schöntal international violin competitions.
Grandson of the legendary Soviet violinist Viktor Pikayzen, Igor earned his bachelor’s degree from Juilliard as well as a master’s degree and artist diploma from the Yale School of Music. He then completed coursework towards a DMA in violin performance at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he received the Enhanced Chancellor Fellowship.
In addition to performances across the U.S., Igor has made solo appearances with major symphonies in Russia, Poland, Italy, Turkey, Chile, Mexico, Japan, Taiwan, Romania and many other nations. Like Byrd-Marrow, Pikayzen relocated to Denver from New York City.
Joining the Musicology/Ethnomusicology Department as Assistant Professor of Ethnomusicology is Aleysia Whitmore. Whitmore’s research focuses on the world music industry, globalization and cultural policy; she teaches popular music, world music and classical music courses.
Although her appointment officially began last fall, Aleysia was in France as a EURIAS research fellow during 2018-2019, conducting investigations into cultural policy and on world music at the IMéRA research institute in Marseille. She is also finishing a book that examines West African and Cuban musics in the world music industry.
Aleysia holds a BMus from the University of Toronto (Canada) and AM and PhD degrees in ethnomusicology from Brown University (USA). She’s taught at Brown University, Boston College, the University of Miami and the University of Colorado Denver.
News Story Archive
News Stories from Fall 2020 Lamont Lyrics
Photo — Chris Wiger
The Spirituals Project on CBS Evening News
In honor of Black History Month, CBS News met a group with a mission to preserve and revive a rich musical treasure.
by Chris Wiger
March 2, 2020
Denver — In honor of Black History Month, CBS News met a group on a mission to preserve and revive a rich musical treasure. The University of Denver/Lamont School of Music choir is unique: the historic songs they sing are called "spirituals" created by enslaved African Americans to express virtue in the face of suffering.
Alice Rasberry, 86, has been in the group, The Spirituals Project, for a decade.
"History is so important," Raspberry told CBS News. "We sang them all the time. We learned spirituals when I was in grade school."
Some of the songs are known to have double-meaning.
"They Were able to encode these messages — within the music such that they could communicate — right under the noses of their slave masters," M. Roger Holland II, director of The Spirituals Project, said.
Roger Holland directs the multicultural choir and said it's "absolutely" important to him that the group reaches beyond the African American community.
New Faculty Trombonist Continues Musical Journey With the Lamont School of Music
He's had a long career as an in-demand performer, but trombonist Richard Harris says it always was part of his plan to end up in academia.
by Greg Glasgow
June 30, 2020
He’s had a long career as an in-demand performer, but trombonist Richard Harris says it always was part of his plan to end up in academia.
“It’s always been a goal of mine to go out and play and have a career, performing at as high a level as possible, and then eventually to move over and share what I’ve learned and to continue to be a creative performing artist,” says Harris, who was born and raised in England and came to the U.S. to study at Indiana University.
Harris — who has performed with musicians such as Sting, Boyz II Men and Andrea Bocelli, as well as with orchestras around the world — will begin that part of his career journey this fall, when he joins the trombone faculty at DU’s Lamont School of Music. He leaves a busy life of performing and recording in New York to come to Colorado.
An academic job, he says, “is primarily about the teaching, but it’s also about the scholarship and how do I, as someone who’s had a performing career, continue that in an academic environment? The idea of commissioning works and the idea of doing recordings and collaborating with colleagues — not just at DU, but around the country — to create interesting artistic projects is really exciting.”
He also is excited to involve students in those endeavors and to prepare them to create careers in a musical world that looks quite different than it did even 10 years ago. Working musicians today have to be able to play any style of music, he says, and they have to have a very entrepreneurial mindset.
“You have to understand marketing, you have to understand how to talk with presenters, you have to understand how to self-promote, you have to understand fundraising, you have to understand working with composers and collaborating with other groups — you have to have a really broad understanding of the whole industry,” he says. “We romanticize about the arts, but at the end of the day, there are nuts and bolts of it you have to understand if you’re going to succeed as a creative musician.”
Richard and Margaret with their son Monty and dog Churchill.
Harris says the DU job is a perfect fit, both personally and professionally. His wife, viola player Margaret Dyer Harris, is from California, and he runs a music camp each summer in Santa Fe, where Margaret plays with the Santa Fe Opera. Their son just turned 1, which makes it a good time to settle down.
Not to mention, Harris just had a feeling about DU from the moment he first saw the job posting.
“When I saw the job advertisement, it said something along the lines of, ‘We need a musician who is able to prepare students for the changing landscape of being a musician in the 21st century,’” he says. “And I thought, ‘Aha!’ There is a school that is not just trying to be a conservatory; there’s a school that isn’t just saying you have to have a doctoral degree, even if you’ve never played a concert in your life — there’s a school that’s thinking a little bit differently.”
A longtime proponent of the power of the arts to create positive social change, Harris also is excited to work with DU’s Prison Arts Initiative and other public-good programs within the University. In New York he served on the board of Musicambia, a nonprofit that teaches classical music in prisons and jails across the U.S., and as a member of the chamber ensemble Decoda, he led the group’s workshop activities at New York City’s child welfare and preventative services department.
“That’s just one way you can use music in your community,” he says of his nonprofit work in New York. “It could look different in another town. That’s what I want to impart to students, is it’s up to you to work that out. What does your community need? Where can you use your love, your gift and your talent for music? Where can you use that so that you’re fulfilled and that you’re giving something back to your society?”
Photo — Wayne Armstrong, DU photographer
What is Good Music
In his new book, musicology professor John Sheinbaum urges readers to rethink how we evaluate music. “This idea that there is good music and bad music is something that people do, rather than an absolute truth in the music itself,” says Sheinbaum.
by Tamara Chapman
March 21, 2019
When John Sheinbaum (Jack to his friends and colleagues) was growing up, he sampled widely from the musical adventures on offer, whether it was Wagner at the Metropolitan Opera or Van Halen at New Jersey’s Meadowlands.
According to traditional models of evaluating music, the former could be considered an encounter with good music, worthy of parental approval. The latter — not so much.
“This idea that there is ood music and bad music is something that people do, rather than an absolute truth in the music itself,” says Sheinbaum, an associate professor of musicology at the Lamont School of Music, an expert on composer Gustav Mahler and an unapologetic aficionado of progressive rock. Such categorizing into better and lesser is intrinsic to being human, he adds, noting that “music making is a human activity, and reflecting on music is a human activity.”
In "Good Music," John Sheinbaum explores the artistic core of a variety of works.
With his new book, “Good Music: What It Is & Who Gets to Decide” (University of Chicago Press, 2019) Sheinbaum does some reflecting of his own. In the process, he challenges the idea that good music has to be “good for you” — in other words, that it has to be music for the brain: serious, original, innovative and the product of a great artist toiling away against enormous odds.
“We’re taught to approach particular kinds of music in particular kinds of ways,” Sheinbaum explains. And that, alas, can hinder appreciation of different composers and genres. Whether it’s opera or rock opera, Schumann or Springsteen, Sheinbaum says, “there are tons of interesting things going on, if you choose to look for [them].”
That message is falling on grateful ears. In the handful of weeks since its publication date, “Good Music” has already attracted notice within popular and classical music circles in this country and abroad. The publisher has made plans for a translation into Korean; prominent music bloggers are seconding Sheinbaum’s summons to rethink the 19th century notion of musical greatness, and no less a media powerhouse than the BBC has commissioned a review.
“Good Music” builds, in part, on Sheinbaum’s own listening experiences and on discussions with his DU students. “For a good number of years I taught an FSEM [first-year seminar] about how music is valued in Western society,” he says. During class, he and his students would puzzle over “value problems” in music. Why, for example, did so many critics dismiss progressive rock and its aspirations to artistry? Why did the Ninth Symphony’s first audiences consider Beethoven’s masterpiece an incoherent mess? What made Handel a great composer, given that he borrowed so heavily from others? And just as important, how are our current values and assumptions shaping our responses to new music?
Assumptions aren’t the only hindrance to a fuller appreciation of good music. Sheinbaum, who also serves as associate director for academic affairs at Lamont, is part of a circle of concerned music lovers who argue that the rituals associated with the concert experience desperately need a tune-up. This is especially true of concerts featuring classical music, where the ambiance and expectations for audience behavior can discourage appreciation. The hushed hall. The insider knowledge about when to applaud. In theory, these combine to aid concentration, but instead, they can put distance between the audience and the music.
“No wonder people are falling asleep if they’re not supposed to move or make any sound or react in any way until afterwards,” he says, noting that the unwritten prohibitions against spontaneous reactions are a relatively recent phenomenon. “These rituals were largely unknown to most of the composers in the classical pantheon. Most composers up to the 20th century expected applause between movements, and later 19th-century audiences needed to be taught these new ways of acting at a concert.”
Even though these customs and formalities don’t predate the Romantic composers, they are a looming part of the landscape now — to the detriment of the classical music experience and community. “When we have these rituals that sap away people’s intuitive enjoyment,” Sheinbaum says, “I think we’re hurting ourselves; we’re shooting ourselves in the foot.”
Desirable as intuitive enjoyment may be, it currently isn’t the highest value in classical music. For well over a century, Sheinbaum explains, classical music has been valued for the composition itself, for its originality, cohesion and seriousness. In addition to savoring an orchestra’s execution of a particular work, audiences have had one assignment: “You’re really supposed to focus on the notes, on structures in the music,” Sheinbaum says. Because of this, “a lot of people feel that, ‘Oh I can’t appreciate this music unless I learn about it first.’”
That’s not how they typically feel about, say, rock ’n’ roll, jazz and show tunes, where the notes and structure are assumed to conform to formulas. With such music, it’s usually the performance, or perhaps the lyrics, that matters most — that and the appeal to the body, the invitation to dance, swing and croon along. For critics with their brows arched at hairline, these works, though not “bad” music, are not deemed interesting in the same way that classical music is.
Sheinbaum disagrees, and to support his contrary point, “Good Music” dives into the artistic core of a vast array of works — everything from Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” to Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising” and the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” All of these defy the generalizations associated with their categories. They’re not formulaic but highly original and innovative. Like their classical counterparts, Sheinbaum says, they’re thought pieces that reward deep thinking while providing satisfying entertainment. By the same token, classical genres often offer more than just cerebral stimulation—they can, Sheinbaum insists, “be explored for how they engage the whole person.”
Just as important, music can be explored for how it enriches lives and communities. In fact, that may be the criteria that merits primary consideration. “We should value the ways music connects people and breaks boundaries between mind and body,” Sheinbaum says, adding that this is at least as important as a demonstration of “original genius to a seemingly passive audience.”
Keith Ward, director of the Lamont School of Music, agrees. He considers “Good Music” a provocative book for scholars and an ice breaker for a larger conversation about the role of music in culture. “Jack’s questioning of [how music is valued] is not only reflective of contemporary discourse,” he says. It also invites music lovers to expand their listening.
Whether they take their “good music” in four movements or in three verses with a chorus, Sheinbaum hopes readers come away from his book ready to shed their assumptions and open themselves to all kinds of music. After all, it’s just possible that no PhD is needed to appreciate Wagner and that Van Halen offers plenty to ponder.
News Stories from Winter 2020 Lamont Lyrics
Hao Jiang Tian performs as Prince Gremin in Eugene Onegin at the St. Petersburg Marlinsky Theatre. Photo: Wang Xiaojing
Lamont Honors First Distinguished Alum
The Lamont School of Music has named Chinese opera luminary Hao Jiang Tian (MA ’87) as the recipient of its inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award.
by Greg Glasgow
January 22, 2020
The Lamont School of Music has named Chinese opera luminary Hao Jiang Tian (MA ’87) as the recipient of its inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award. The award was proposed to the faculty by Lamont director Keith Ward, who just started his second year at the school, as part of an effort to engage and connect with Lamont alumni. It will be formally announced at the Lamont Award Convocation in June.
Now in his 60s, Tian has sung more than 1,400 performances of 50 operatic roles worldwide. A regular at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for 20 years, he has appeared with such legendary opera stars as Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, Kiri Te Kanawa, Renée Fleming and Anna Netrebko, among others.
Nominated for a 2008 Grammy for Best Opera Recording, Tian also penned an autobiography, “Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride From Mao to the Met,” that was the basis of a 2009 PBS special. More recently, he founded the ISing! International Young Artists Festival, an initiative that helps young vocalists develop their singing careers.
“We established the Distinguished Alumni Award to celebrate and honor exceptional accomplishments by our Lamont alumni,” Ward says. “It seems fitting that the first award, selected through a faculty vote, is given to Tian, who has built a remarkable international career performing at the Met and in opera houses around the globe, singing with many of the greatest artists of our time, and giving back through education initiatives.”
Tian was born in Beijing, the son of a conductor and a composer. He grew up largely on his own during the Cultural Revolution after his parents were sent to re-education camps. Forced to work in a factory by day, he spent his nights learning government-forbidden love songs and various popular tunes of the day. When China’s conservatories re-opened, he applied and was the only singer among 500 applicants to be selected for a spot at the Beijing Conservatory. From there he came to the U.S. and to Lamont, where he began to prepare for his opera career.
Below are excerpts from an email interview the DU Newsroom conducted with Tian.
Q: How did you come to study at Lamont? Had you been to the U.S. prior to studying there?
A: In 1982, a friend helped me apply to music conservatories in the States. I sent applications to five different conservatories, but only Lamont accepted me with free tuition. I think I was among the first 10 Chinese singers who came to the States to study voice during the early ’80s. Frankly, I knew nothing about opera. I loved adventure and wanted to come to this country to study.
Q: How were you first introduced to opera?
A: The first opera I saw was on the first day I arrived in New York — Dec. 17, 1983 — at the Metropolitan Opera. I was blown away by how beautiful the Met opera house was. The opera was “Ernani,” conducted by James Levine, starring Luciano Pavarotti. It was so beautiful that I will never forget my first impression seeing an opera. It was impossible to dream that I could ever sing on the same stage with Pavarotti, which I did exactly 10 years later, on Dec 17, 1993, in Verdi’s opera “I Lombardi” at the Met.
Q: When you look back at your time at Lamont, did you have any inkling that you would achieve the success you went on to enjoy?
A: I never thought of being successful, because on the first day I started at Lamont, I began my job washing dishes in the student union. The only thing in my mind was to survive; I had no money and did not know English. But I was happy because it was a beautiful snowy day; the snow was deep, clean and quiet. I had never seen it in my life.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your opera career?
A: From the first day at Lamont, I met so many people who were so kind and willing to help me, from teachers, students and friends to the kitchen staff in the student union. Throughout my opera career, I can share so many stories I have seen and experienced of people helping each other. It became clear to me that I want to give back. I want to give help to people.
Q: How does it feel to be honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award from Lamont? Have you stayed connected to the school over the years?
A: I am very grateful to receive the honor as a Distinguished Alumni of (Lamont). Ten years after I graduated, I went back to Lamont to give a recital for a fundraising event. Then I went back again to give a talk on my book, “Along the Roaring River: My Wild Ride From Mao to the Met.” The auditorium was packed with many new and old friends, and that day really brought me back to my years at Lamont. I am still busy traveling, singing and doing projects, but I hope I can find a way to go back to Lamont, to spend some time with colleagues and students.
Photo by Wayne Armstrong
Lamont Ensemble Offers Students a New Experience
Founded last year by Lamont faculty member Michael Furry, the ensemble is part of Lamont’s ethnomusicology program.
by Greg Glasgow
November 13, 2019
It’s typical for student concerts at the Lamont School of Music to feature works by Mozart, George Gershwin or Miles Davis, but songs by Bill Monroe and Willie Nelson? For those you have to turn to the Bluegrass Ensemble, a mix of music majors and non-music majors who convene twice a week to work on selections from one of America’s oldest music traditions.
Founded last year by Lamont faculty member Michael Furry, a rock musician-turned-flatpicking acoustic guitar champion who also works as the building coordinator at the Newman Center for the Performing Arts, the ensemble is part of Lamont’s ethnomusicology program. It offers Lamont students a chance to expand their repertoire, while allowing majors in other disciplines the opportunity to learn a new skill or stay connected to a musical side they otherwise would have left at home.
“I have a very specific hierarchy of things that I have to have,” Furry says. “My first thing would be, ‘Can they play a traditional string instrument?’ Acoustic guitar, upright bass, mandolin, fiddle, dobro? Those are the standard traditional bluegrass instruments. If they can’t do that, can they sing? If they can’t do that, can they play spoons? I had one student who came in ice cold, but I was able to get her comfortable on the spoons so we were actually able to use her and get her in the class.”
At a recent rehearsal, Furry and the student musicians stood in a semicircle on a stage in a Newman Center classroom, running through their set for a Nov. 16 performance in Hamilton Recital Hall. Supported by bass, mandolin, banjo and guitar, singers harmonized on such songs as “Long Gone,” “Unwanted Love,” “Blue Eyes Cryin’ in the Rain” and “Good Hearted Woman.”
Early in the quarter, Furry also spends some of his classroom time lecturing — on the history of bluegrass and some of its key figures, on instrument basics, even on how to be a successful bandleader.
“This class allows them not only the opportunity to play music, but the skills needed to be able to go out into the world and find ways to generate revenue by playing music,” he says. “That’s definitely a goal that I want to have for my students.”
Geography major Brandon Scheller may not be at that point yet, but the former high school musician, now in his third quarter in the bluegrass ensemble, appreciates the chance to stay connected to music and to learn about a new genre.
“I actually wanted to audition for the orchestra, but my class schedule didn’t work,” he says. “I found out about this winter quarter last year and did it and had a blast, so I came back this year. This time around I’m playing the mandolin, just to learn something new. Lamont can be seen as such a prestigious program and music school, but being able to come to this class, where we’re all able to learn something new and grow within our own confidence and our own performing abilities, is a really unique experience.”