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Director’s Note: Spring/Summer 2021

Submitted by Joanne De Pue on July 9, 2021 - 9:34am

On the surface, the UW School of Music has concluded another year of successes by its students, faculty, and staff, having just graduated 73 Music students in a variety of degree programs, celebrating the inclusion of two Music majors in the accomplished “Husky 100” of UW students, applauding the first Music recipient of a Distinguished Dissertation Award, and congratulating the many graduates and alumni who are moving on to notable employment across the nation and beyond.  Our faculty continue to perform, record, and publish their musical interpretations and discoveries – all in all, another gleaming year in the history of the UW School of Music.

And yet, under the headlines, we are all changed, and the School of Music is changed.

2020 and 2021 have been refracted through a lurching lens that took us all by surprise in March 2020.  We have been altered individually and collectively, sometimes deliberately focusing on how we want to change, and sometimes merely adapting as rapidly as we were able.  At the same time, we commiserated with colleagues, alumni, and students who endured grievous losses of family members and friends. 

While the work of our faculty and students intensified when it went online, we found a productive stillness in our restricted ability to travel. We deliberately explored ways of promoting activism within the School of Music, of revising our courses to broaden their inclusivity, and expanding our performance and course repertoire to add formerly silenced voices of composers of color, as well as women. Our two “Husky 100” awardees, Rose Heimstra and Madeline Ile, pointed to their work in activism and equity in addition to their accomplishments in performance and academics.  The recipient of the Distinguished Dissertation Award, Dr. Jocelyn Mory, after years of fieldwork, revealed the ways that musicians and culture bearers in southeastern Africa can reclaim their history through archival materials. 

Faculty musicians such as David Rahbee, Rachel Lee Priday, and Cristina Valdés brought Black and Latinx composers of remarkable music from the margins to the center of the stage in performances that we have preserved online.  Faculty members completely revised music-major offerings in music history to change current courses and add others that expand the types of music and composers we will teach.  The faculty overall considered the contributions of composers who had been silenced, creating a platform on which we plan to build future courses and concerts as we move forward. 

As we come to the end of a second academic year that was largely comprised of remote classes, online performances, and distanced rehearsals, we can glimpse the horizon of the return of on-campus activity in Autumn 2021.  As we return to classrooms and performance halls, we will carry forward what we have learned and transformed in the past eighteen months. 

Our ability to keep moving forward for these past eighteen months has depended on every student who continued to work creatively, under challenging circumstances, to complete courses, recitals, research and theses; on our many staff members who kept every aspect of our School operational, visible, and accessible; and on the faculty who adapted their teaching every day to adjust to these new realities.  We needed every ounce of effort, and are grateful for all the work that has allowed us to continue as a School of Music.

One postscript to the article about the 100th birthday of Professor Emerita Laila Storch in Winter 2021: I had noted that she was the first woman to graduate from the Curtis Institute of Music in oboe (after initially being turned down for admission because of her gender).  This prompted Jay Rauch, a graduate student in Composition (who just graduated with his M.M.) to send me details about his grandmother, who had studied oboe at the Curtis Institute at the same time. He additionally noted, for the sake of the historical record, that his maternal grandmother, Thelma Neft, was the first woman to study oboe at Curtis, four years earlier. She did not receive a diploma only because she was hired as a soloist with the Philadelphia Opera Company, and later the Pittsburgh Symphony.  I am glad to correct this record both for the sake of accurate history, and because it illustrates how connected our musical geography, past and present, can be.  Thank you, Jay, for this lineage that remarkably connects our UW colleague with your own grandmother, going back over eighty years!

All best wishes for a healthy and restorative summer, 
JoAnn Taricani, Director

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