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  Features
     
   

MUSIC department sounds like a HOME away from home 

By Mark Cadigan

Music Department faculty

For its 36 majors, the Holy Cross Music Department is a home away from home. 

     Classrooms, which also serve as practice rooms, teachers' offices, and the music library are all located in the John E. Brooks, S.J., Center for Music, so music majors spend a great deal of time there. The Department is especially proud of Brooks Concert Hall, which offers a beautiful, acoustically excellent space for attending  and participating in concerts, and is equipped with a professional caliber recording studio. 
Thirty-five concerts  were presented in Brooks Concert Hall in 1996-97. 

     But listing  the rooms in the Brooks Center does not suffice to explain what attracts the music majors to spend so much time in the building.   They congregate there for so many hours because they enjoy the atmosphere of the Music Department, the interactions among students, teachers and staff. 

     "I think our students tend to 'hang out' in the department, and the majors form a group, a community," says Professor Shirish Korde, Chair of the department. "They see the Music Department as a place where they come to study music as well as meet and talk to their friends. It's much more than just an academic department for them. They often come by to say 'hello' to Jacky  Anderson, (department secretary since 1980) before they go to the library." 

     And the students are often still in the building at night. "Sometimes I go in there in the evening to pick up something from my office and I'm always astounded at the number of them that are there," continues Korde. 

     "I think this is a unique place, says Associate Professor Osvaldo Golijov. I can say that I feel blessed here by the collegial support, the friendship, the commitment to serious work but in a very nice atmosphere. And I think that that's what the students feel. That's why they are here all the time." 

     Comments from a couple of music majors support their professors' views. Maria Purciello '98 considers the music faculty's dedication remarkable. 

     "I've never come across a department quite like the Music Department, in the sense that professors and students all get along very well, both inside and outside of the classroom," she says. "All the professors on this campus are approachable, but none quite so much as the Music Department.  They'll go out of their way to make time for you." 

     Purciello points to a recent occurrence as being indicative of the generosity within the department. She had a problem trying to schedule an entrance exam for one of the graduate schools she applied to and needed a professor to give the 5 1/2 hour exam during Christmas break. "I had three professors volunteer to give up a day of their life to administer this test," she says. 
 
     Like Purciello, Dan DiCenso '98 studies musicology, has applied to graduate schools,  and hopes to eventually earn his Ph.D. and teach at the college level. He believes the Music Department combines heartfelt concern with commendable academic and professional credentials. 
 
     "Holy Cross has excellent professors who are the masters, the authorities in their fields," he notes. "And a lot of schools have that; they have people who are masters. But we have genuine, honest-to-God, caring, good people here who watch out for their students, who nurture their students and who have a true interest not only in doing their scholarship or playing the piano or performing on the organ, but in teaching their students. It's kind of an unsaid philosophy here: to whom much has been given, much is expected. It seems to me that the professors here have been given a lot and they realize that and they give a lot back. They give freely and liberally of their time, their attention and they really take care of you." 
 
     The Music Department includes five tenured or tenure-track professors: Associate Professor Carol Lieberman (currently Acting Chair while Korde is on a yearlong sabbatical), Assistant Professor Geoffrey Burleson, Assistant Professor Jessica Waldoff, plus Korde and Golijov. 

     "The caliber of the faculty is extremely high," notes Lieberman, and the cumulative experience of the members of the department confirms her statement. 

     Korde, who began teaching music at Holy Cross in 1977, has composed works for solo instruments,  chamber ensembles, electronic media and music theatre. He has received numerous grants and awards for his compositions, which have been recorded for labels such as Spectrum and Neuma, and have been featured at festivals and concerts throughout the U.S., Europe, Australia and South America.    Lieberman, a faculty member since 1985, is a violinist who is particularly accomplished in music from the baroque and classical eras as well as the 19th and 20th centuries. She has made several recordings, including a world premiere album of sonatas of Simon LeDuc and C. P. E. Bach,  and has toured throughout North and South America and Europe.   She has been concerto soloist with the Boston Pops Orchestra, Handel & Haydn Society and other orchestras in Europe and Canada. 
 
     Golijov joined the Music Department in 1991, prior to receiving first prize at the Kennedy Center's Friedheim Awards competition for a chamber music composition in both 1993 and 1995. Among his many other awards and prizes is the prestigious  Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, which he was granted in 1995. He has been commissioned to compose pieces by cities, music festivals and ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, and many of his works have been recorded. 
 
     Burleson started teaching in the Music Department part-time in 1991 and full-time in 1992. Winner of Special Commendations in the 1995 Vienna Modern Masters International Performers' Competition, he performs a broad repertoire of works from the romantic, classical and baroque periods. He is especially noted for his interpretations of 20th century music, and has made solo and duo recordings for Vienna Modern Masers, Music & Arts, CRI and Neuma. He has performed as solo pianist, and with chamber music groups throughout the U.S. and Europe. 
 
     Waldoff came to the Music Department in 1995, just a few months after earning her Ph.D. from Cornell University. A musicologist, she has received a number of fellowships, grants and awards for her writing, research and teaching. Among her published works are several about opera, including "The Music of Recognition: Operatic Enlightenment in The Magic Flute" (Music & Letters, 1994). 
 
     Along with this core group of professors are many lecturers, instructors and others involved with the department in some capacity, a group that Burleson calls, "extremely essential and wonderfully talented and giving people." These include: James David Christie, Distinguished Artist in Residence, College Organist and director of the Schola Cantorum, a Holy Cross liturgical choir; Nym Cooke, lecturer in musicology; Katarina Miljkovic, lecturer and composer; Mike Monaghan, lecturer in jazz and director of the Jazz Ensemble and Jazz Combo; Frances Flannery, lecturer in the electronic music studio; Alan Karass, music librarian; Bruce I. Miller, director of the College Choir and Chamber Singers; Peter L. Cokkinias, conductor of the Chamber Orchestra and Brass Ensemble; and Robert A. Principe, director of the Holy Cross Crusader Marching Band, Color Guard and Pep Band. 
 
     Instrumental and vocal instructors include: Joel Cohen, cello; Jean DeMart, flute; John Emery, violin and viola; Marian C. Hanshaw, piano; Jane Harrison, oboe; Hugh Hinton, piano; Bruce Hopkins, trumpet; Robert Schulz, percussion; Robert Sullivan, guitar; Maria Tegzes, voice; and Marsha Vleck, voice. 
 
     As Lieberman says, "Our adjunct faculty who come to teach lessons each week, are all noted soloists." 
 
     The faculty's wealth of professional and academic experience and varied approaches to teaching result in a special kind of Music Department, according to Waldoff. "We each ask the students to do different kinds of assignments and we emphasize different aspects of music.  The students welcome these varying approaches, and can bring some skills from one person's class to another's," she says. "The challenge for them is to put those pieces together." 
 
     Students have the opportunity to take a wide range of courses in the Music Department. Music majors are required to take at least ten courses in the department, including four semesters of the Theory of Music, two of the History of Western Music and a fourth-year Senior Seminar  which integrates History, Theory and Performance. The department also offers Music & Theatre, American Popular Song, Music of the Medieval/Renaissance Era, Music of the Classical Era, Music of the Baroque Era, Introduction to Electronic Music (using the department's computer music studio), Music of Latin America, Music of India, Music of Japan, Jazz Improvisation, Special Topics courses, various advanced Tutorials and many more. 
 
     During the 1996-97 academic year, Balinese Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence I Nyoman Cerita and his family introduced Holy Cross students to gamelan music in two consecutive Special Topics courses.  Participating students performed concerts at Holy Cross, the Worcester Public Schools and Brown University. 

     "I think for the size of the College and for the size of the department, we have a very eclectic mix," notes Lieberman, who also mentions the variety of performing ensembles that students can join. These include student-run ensembles such as the Naturals, an all-male a cappella group, and the Delilahs, an all-female a cappella group. 
 
     In addition to having the opportunity to join ensembles that perform many styles of music, including  jazz and classical, students can also hear their teachers, perform on campus together with professional guest artists in faculty ensembles such as the Holy Cross Chamber Players, co-directed by Lieberman and Korde. There are many other concerts given by professionals from outside the College. 
 
     "I think the idea is to create a thriving musical community at Holy Cross, one that has different stylistic and aesthetic concerns, so that students would participate in these different activities," says Korde. "We believe that they really learn the most by actually doing music, by playing or singing. There's no substitute for that." 
 
     Just as the students hold their teachers in high regard, members of the music faculty express equally positive feelings about their students.       "You can see the incredible progress that they make as human beings from the first year to the fourth year, which is great," says Golijov. 
 
     "The students here are of such a high quality, and they have a refreshingly positive attitude and outlook," says Burleson. "These students are very catalytic and interactive." 
 
     "I think the Holy Cross students are really willing to respond to some of the bigger questions," says Waldoff, though she adds, "sometimes I get into trouble with it." When one student reacts to an exam question about Beethoven's late style by asking how long he or she should take to answer it, Waldoff replies, "Well, ideally, the rest of your life," which elicits widespread laughter in the classroom. 
 
     Monaghan, who began teaching at Holy Cross in 1986, plays saxophone with the Boston Pops, and has performed with Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin and many more, says, "These are exceptional students." He also uses humor to build a rapport with them. When a student who has to leave his Jazz Improvisation I class a little early gets up to go, Monaghan slyly quips to the remaining students, "I'll tell you the secret of jazz in about five minutes." The exiting student replies, "Somebody, take notes." 
 
     The Music Department has grown dramatically since its birth, aided immeasurably by Father Brooks and the College's administration. It began as a division within the Visual Arts Department before becoming a separate department in 1979. The late Suzanna Waldbauer, an Associate Professor, chaired the Music 
Department from its inception until the Fall of 1984, when Korde became Chair. A departmental major was created in 1982, and the number of majors has increased markedly since then. 
 
     "That growth has been really very impressive in the last five or six years," says Korde. "I keep thinking that this must be the peak but it hasn't peaked yet." 
 
     There is substantial interest in the department by non-majors, too. Approximately 25% of the student body participates in music course offerings and performing organizations offered annually by the department.  In 1996-97,  562 students took courses in the department. Though there is a distribution requirement for an arts course that prompts some students to choose a music class, Lieberman believes students enroll in music courses for several reasons. 

     "Many students really enjoy music and have had some training; they want to continue their studies," she says. "I think it is a part of one's life as an educated person and a lot of students realize that. And we are also a welcoming department. A lot of students taking lessons here decide to take music courses, join an ensemble and then they are inspired to take additional courses." 
 
     While the Music Department does not offer a degree in Performance, music majors are encouraged to perform often during their four years here. As Monaghan points out, "It's absolutely a part of the liberal arts concept here at school that if you're a musician, you have a chance to experience and learn here, even if you don't have any intention of going out to be a professional player." He adds, " If you're a music major this school gives a tremendous foundation to enable you to go on to graduate school." 
 
     Members of the music faculty are convinced that the three-year-old Brooks Scholarship, a full tuition, four-year music scholarship initiated by the President Emeritus for whom it is named, has strengthened the quality of music majors entering the college - and not just by the one student who receives the scholarship. "It has a much wider ripple effect than you might think," asserts Korde. 
 
     The significant renovations to the facility in 1993, which included the renovation of Fenwick Chapel into Brooks Concert Hall, the addition of a professional quality recording studio able to capture live performances, and new offices on the fourth floor have had a positive impact. But even prior to the structural undertaking, the Music Department had much to be proud of in terms of tangible objects, including the Taylor-Boody, four-manual, tracker action baroque organ installed in St. Joseph Memorial Chapel, a two-manual French harpsichord by William Dowd of Cambridge, and extensive library holdings. The Music Library boasts a collection of more than 12,000 books and musical scores, 11,000 sound recordings and 600 video recordings. It is also fully equipped with personal computers, CD players, tape players, video stations, laser disc players, and phonographs.  Music Librarian Alan Karass offers formal bibliographic instruction to music classes, and is available on a one-on-one basis to students who need help locating source material for papers. He is the newsletter editor of the New England Music Library Association, chair of its Membership Committee, and serves on several local library advisory committees. 
 
     If the number of music majors continues to increase, the department's faculty and facility will be stretched even more than it is already. Nevertheless, the faculty members want to retain the special spirit of the department, what Monaghan refers to as, "a very warm, cooperative environment." 
 
     "There is this great deal of individual attention and individual interaction in the department," Burleson says. "Part of the reason we can offer that is the department is still small, although it's growing exponentially to the point that we're challenged. But it's a challenge that we welcome." 

 

Mark Cadigan is a free-lance writer from Boston. 

 

 

 

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