BAUMGARTNER '99 ON A EUROPEAN "WANDERJAHR"
"It has been a whirlwind of a year," says Nicholas Baumgartner, a '99 double-degree graduate in piano performance and German, of his "wanderjahr" through Europe in pursuit of an extensive research project entitled "European Bach Interpretation at the Close of the Millennium."
During the course of his year-long journey, which was underwritten by a $22,000 fellowship from the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, Baumgartner interviewed over 40 experts on the subject of J.S. Bach interpretation and attended 70-odd conferences, concerts, festivals and symposia on Bach's music, throughout Germany, Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Switzerland, Hungary and Spain.
"I've met practically every person who has anything to say about Bach interpretation, and each one has provided a lesson in musicality. I've explored the religious and nationalistic dimensions of Bach's music, issues of performance practice, and musicological aspects in a continuing effort to understand Bach's intentions. The question of interpretation is such a fundamental one. I've delved so deeply into the specifics of this idea that I have more information than I could possibly process!"
Although his life will take a different direction when he enrolls in law school at Vanderbilt University in fall 2000, Baumgartner intends to compile a report as a culmination to the year's research.
Baumgartner's project idea, like so many successful ideas nurtured at Oberlin, began as a seedling. When he was nominated in 1997 for the Presser Music Award, he ventured to create a proposal that combined his various aptitudes - fluency in German, an affinity for musicology, and a passion for the music of J.S. Bach - into a single project. Baumgartner's proposal, which was approved in April of that year by the Theodore Presser Foundation, first took him on a 12-week trip through Germany, where he conducted interviews, attended concerts, and collected recordings and written documents on the subject of Bach interpretation in modern-day Germany.
An article based on that research, "Currents in Bach Interpretation in Contemporary Germany" was subsequently published in Bach, a journal of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute of Baldwin-Wallace College. The publication, however prestigious, served only to whet Baumgartner's appetite for continued research. "The more questions I asked, the more questions arose. Although my project - from its inception as a Presser Award proposal, through the Bach publication, and now to its near-completion as a Watson wanderjahr - has been a bit esoteric, it was really the most relevant thing I could have done with my interests. Almost as important as the work, I've also lived here, spent a year in small towns, large cities, in and out of museums, pubs, cafes, castles. It's really been unforgettable. The experience, overall, has been eye-opening, life-changing."
What advice would Baumgartner give to fellow young Obies who dream of pursuing similarly ambitious projects abroad? "Well, you have to be in control of your passions. You have to be able to organize and discipline those passions in an effort to maintain your focus. If you can do that, you can take things wherever you want to take them."
TIMARA STUDENTS CREATE A PROJECTION SYSTEM FOR THE KENNEDY CENTER PREMIERE OF TANIA LEON'S "AT THE FOUNTAIN OF MPINDELELA"
Oberlin's TIMARA department holds an international reputation in the world of multi-media art, so it wasn't surprising that Dr. PATRICIA GRAY '67, artistic director of the National Musical Arts, looked to her alma mater when she sought "to fuse a new concert experience for audiences" with her production entitled Africa! Spirit Ascending, presented by the Kennedy Center and the National Musical Arts (NMA) chamber music ensemble.
Under the advising of visiting professor TOM LOPEZ '87, students Eric Suquet '00, Kristen Waite '00, Jim Altieri, double-degree senior (geology/TIMARA with composition minor) and Mark Bartscher '00 created a 14-minute, three-screen projection system to accompany the world premiere of "At the Fountain of Mpindelela," by African-American composer Tania León. The piece, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, premiered on February 3 as a part of Africa! Spirit Ascending, an offering of the Kennedy Center's four-year African Odyssey.
RUBIN PERFORMS AND SERVES ON PANEL FOR DISABILITY AWARENESS CONFERENCE
AT THE WHITE HOUSE;
"I think the experience left an impression on the audience," says Laurie Rubin '01. "People seemed to like what they saw and heard. I met several disabled people who have high-profile and upper level jobs in organizations around Washington, including many on the President's committee. It was so inspiring, but it also showed me how people can be totally unaware of things outside of their experience. This will be an annual event so we hope that the President will attend an event in the near future. We hope that this becomes as big a deal as other issues on the national agenda."
That's how mezzo-soprano Laurie Rubin of Encino, California, describes her October 12 visit to the White House in Washington, D.C., where she performed and served on a panel as part of the Very Special Arts (VSA) Handicap Awareness Conference. The conference, held in the Indian Treaty Room on the White House complex, included a formal dinner, a panel discussion, exhibitions and performances by artists with disabilities.
Rubin, a singer who was born blind, saw the event as an important venue for bringing disability awareness to the forefront of national debate. VSA is an international nonprofit organization dedicated to providing educational opportunities through the arts for people with disabilities. Each year, VSA brings the power of the arts into the lives of 3.5 million people worldwide.
"When it was my turn to perform I said how wonderful it was that we were all breaking new ground. There is no reason that our disabilities should not be celebrated. I believe we should search for ways to make people more aware of our disabilities and use our disabilities to help in our art. I told them that my blindness helps me get into my singing. I sang an aria from 'La Cenerentola' and then closed with a song made popular by Andrea Bocelli, who is a blind person breaking new ground in opera."
ROBIN EUBANKS' PERFORMANCE IN TRIBUTE TO STEVIE WONDER BROADCAST AS PART OF KENNEDY CENTER HONORS
Robin Eubanks, assistant professor of jazz trombone, flew to Washington, D.C. in early December to perform with Herbie Hancock and band in a tribute to Stevie Wonder, one of the 1999 Kennedy Center Honors recipients. That performance, part of the gala ceremony for the Kennedy Center Honors, was broadcast on CBS on December 29, 1999.
Also of note for Eubanks: he completed a one-month European and Scandinavian tour with the Dave Holland Quintet. The tour covered France, Ireland, Switzerland, Italy, Portugal, Austria, England, Northern Ireland, Holland, Sweden and Norway. Venues ranged from festival halls, theaters and television studios to small intimate clubs. Eubanks has been a member of the quintet for two years. The group's 1998 release Point of View was nominated for a Grammy. In 2000, watch for a U.S. release of the group's Prime Directive recording.
With his band
Mental Images, Eubanks performed in the opening night festivities for
the 27th Annual IAJE International Conference (International Association
of Jazz Educators), January 12-15, 2000, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
"Celebrating a New Century of Jazz" was the conference theme, reflecting
a program that focused on the future of jazz, with an emphasis on
CAN WAIT: A FULBRIGHT FELLOWSHIP TAKES LOREN LUDWIG '99 TO THE NETHERLANDS
Loren Ludwig '99 had intended to begin graduate studies in viola da gamba with Wendy Gillespie at Indiana University this fall.
Ludwig has won a one-year Fulbright Fellowship to study viola da gamba in the Netherlands; at press time he hadn't learned whether he'd enroll at the Royal Conservatory of The Hague or at the Conservatorium van Amsterdam. In any case, Indiana will have to wait.
"Loren studied with me for his four years at Oberlin," says Catharina Meints, teacher of viola da gamba and baroque cello. "He was a very independent student - would never settle for a 'because I say so' from a teacher - therefore he was fun and a challenge to teach!" Meints says that because Ludwig "is so resourceful and original in his thinking," she was not at all surprised to hear that he had won a Fulbright.
A Fulbright fellow can go anyplace in the world where Fulbright programs exist, so why did Ludwig choose the Netherlands? "European training is essential to Americans in the field of historical performance," he explains, citing two critical factors. "First, there are simply more musicians playing period instruments at a higher level than in the U.S., and the historical performance scene is flourishing in Holland. Besides various annual festivals and university programs, it is home to an astonishing number of historical performance luminaries, Jaap ter Linden, Wieland Kuijken and Max von Egmond among them. Second, there is a strong bias in the U.S. among presenters (and to a lesser extent the concert-going public) against American musicians who have not 'paid their dues' by studying in Europe."
Love also was a factor. Ludwig's long-time girlfriend, Cara Perkins OC '98, is a modern dancer and will travel with him. "There is an abundance of great modern dance in the Netherlands," he says. "Finding a place where we could both study our respective art forms was a factor in what country I applied to."
Ludwig says he looks forward to being in Europe, "where baroque music is part of the cultural heritage. Historical performance seeks to understand the artistic and cultural context of a piece of music. I imagine that being in the land of the composers of the music that I love will be a very rich experience. Studying with great teachers among talented students can't hurt, either."
Ludwig began his study of the instrument while a high school student in Amherst, Massachusetts. At Oberlin, he performed with the Oberlin Baroque Ensemble, and collaborated with composition prof Anna Rubin on Seachanges, her work for tape and viola da gamba. He has performed with Wien Barock, The King's Noyse and Concerto Palatino. He has been heard on WCLV, Cleveland's classical music radio station. He has also performed at Boston's renowned Early Music Festival, and furthered his studies at the Hochschule Fur Musik in Freiburg, Germany.
Oberlin, he says, "taught me how to learn to be a musician - how to recognize what I can learn from what's around me, from the teachers and students and places that I find myself." This should please Catharina Meints, who, when asked what advice she might give him, said, "I would suggest that he continue in his attitude of getting the most out of everyone he works with."
Ludwig, it seems, has learned his lessons well.