anticipation grew as the plane lowered itself through the Rocky
Mountains toward the small valley of Aspen.
was thrilled by the prospect of attending the Aspen Music Festival
and School last June since it would allow me to dedicate nine long
weeks to one specific aspect of my life. Because I am a double-degree
student majoring in piano performance and English, as well as a
varsity softball athlete, I constantly shift my time and focus between
interests. In Aspen's intense and challenging atmosphere I would
be able to test my dedication and measure my passion for music,
factors that seem of extreme importance as graduation - the
time to choose which path to take - nears.
that my three and a half years at Oberlin haven't offered me a similarly
intense musical experience. The Con-servatory's faculty members,
outstanding professionals in their own right, maintain a consistently
superior standard for their highly talented students. My piano teacher,
Sanford Margolis, my professors, and especially my classmates -
a gifted and intelligent group - teach and challenge me as
a musician every day. At the same time, we build a very special
community for ourselves, one that is comforting and supportive and
in which our friendships endure.
was nowhere more evident than at Aspen, where I was constantly surrounded
by Oberlin students and alumni. The festival's music director, David
Zinman, is a 1958 graduate of Oberlin, and more than 20 of the nearly
750 students enrolled at Aspen last summer were either current Oberlin
students or recent graduates. We formed a lively and unmistakable
sub-community; other Aspen students gained a new respect for Oberlin
upon seeing our strong, family-like group. One of them jokingly
said to me, "I can't escape you Oberlin people - you're everywhere!"
a high level of participation from one school is due largely to
the generosity of Thomas J. Klutznick '61, chair of Oberlin College's
Board of Trustees. He not only offers annual financial assistance
to each Oberlin student attending Aspen, but he also invites the
Oberlin "family" to his home for an evening of music, conversation,
and amazing food.
Klutznick believes there is something to be learned from Aspen's
mountains: "They are so much bigger than we are," he says. "You
are almost forced to compete with the magnificent 14,000-foot peaks.
A kinetic kind of feeling comes out of these vast, soaring hills.
You can be at peace or you can be in the most furious weather -
the mountains form the foundation for what happens here. The issue
is one of glory: can you measure up?"
that was what I was doing in Aspen; taking the measure of where
I stood relative to the glory of music.
is a unique and beautiful place. Nestled in the midst of the grand
Rockies, the town is small and picturesque, full of restaurants
and shops, beautiful homes, and the sounds of music from student
street performances. The extraordinary architecture and landscape
leave a lasting impression.
and water surround the music school, which is situated along Castle
Creek. The comforting sound of flowing water can be heard in every
building and practice room, all of which afford views of the huge
mountains. The music tent, where most performances took place, was
on the outskirts of town, nestled among the peaceful aspen trees.
Occasionally, on clear, sunny days, I would hike to the top of a
mountain and enjoy the perfect view.
could hardly ask for anything more, and yet I was given more: a
"proximity to musical greatness," as one friend put it.
was overwhelmed by my nearness to some of the best musicians in
the world. I attended inspiring master classes and performances
by the Emerson and American string quartets, Yefim Bronfman, Leon
Fleischer, Béla Fleck, Edgar Meyer, and Joshua Bell. I have
attended performances by great musicians before, but never with
the chance to meet them and get to know them personally, as I did
took lessons from Ann Schein and heard her stories about her teachers
Arthur Rubinstein and Dame Myra Hess. I played softball every Monday
morning with Ray Mase and John Rojack from the American Brass Quintet
and met their families. I participated in a master class with David
Finckle and Wu Han. I ran into Edgar Meyer in the grocery store
and chatted with him, then found myself backstage meeting Yefim
Bronfman after he played the Brahms concerti in a captivating concert.
these outstanding musicians as normal people in their everyday lives
was reassuring and taught me something about what makes them exceptional,
not only in their musicianship, but also in their ability to deal
with the challenges and difficulties of a life in music.
realized that they once were students like us - vulnerable,
offering our hearts and voices through our music, placing the most
fragile and essential part of ourselves in front of strangers as
well as friends. Doing that well requires a unique combination of
sensitivity and strength: the natural sensitivity needed to be truly
expressive coupled with a subtle power and confidence evident in
world-famous musicians I met at Aspen have that sensitivity and
strength. Moreover, they have cultivated work ethics as intense
as their love and passion for music. Ulti-mately, they remain real
people who simply have dedicated their lives to music, who possess
an understanding and accept- ance of a musician's responsibility,
and consequently, a deep respect for the music itself, which overflows
to the listener.
had arrived in Aspen with a certain innocent anticipation. I left
nine weeks later more mature, with a deeper love for music and a
greater respect and appreciation for musicians. I came to an understanding
of how very difficult but incredibly rich a career - a life
- in music can be.
the mountains of Aspen, that life requires a risky climb. A few
times while hiking in the Rockies this past summer I was struck
with the idea that it would be easier to go back down and choose
a smaller mountain. I sometimes have similar thoughts about the
path I've chosen in life, but I cannot ignore the foundation sustaining
me, especially when I recall the many glorious moments in Aspen.
Although difficult, it is possible to reach the top. And more important,
and rewarding, is the climb itself. II