Indiana University Research & Creative Activity


Volume XXIX Number 2
Spring 2007

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leonard Slatkin conducting
Photo by Allison Cooke, IU Media Relations

Stars Align Again at Jacobs School

Fifty-one years ago, in the small Midwestern city of Bloomington, Ind., a brilliant young pianist from Germany named Menahem Pressler joined the faculty at Indiana University's burgeoning School of Music.

In the decade that followed, some of the best and brightest musicians of Pressler's generation would center their professional lives in Bloomington. The list--a virtual who's who of 20th-century music--includes cellist Janos Starker (who joined the faculty in 1958), violinist Josef Gingold ('60), pianist Gyorgy Sebok ('62), saxophonist Eugene Rousseau ('63), and jazz legend David Baker ('66), to name just a few. As the renowned soprano Beverly Sills once said, "The music faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington is absolutely mind-boggling."

Today, the competition for such top faculty is fierce, the landscape dotted by more than 500 music schools and conservatories that have targeted longtime leaders in music education such as those at IU. There are prominent orchestras in most major U.S. cities also vying for the services of the world's top musicians. And there will always be the allure of the bright lights of the big city.

As it turns out, though, there is no shortage of bright lights in Bloomington. In the face of conventional wisdom, the stars have aligned themselves again in what some are calling a new golden era for IU's Jacobs School of Music.

A quick scan of the Jacobs School skyline reveals a number of world-class artists who have chosen recently to relocate to Bloomington. They include award-winning pianists André Watts and Arnaldo Cohen; violinists Jaime Laredo, Alexander Kerr, and Mark Kaplan; cellist Sharon Robinson; bassoonist William Ludwig; hornist Jeff Nelsen; singers Carol Vaness, Sylvia McNair, and Marietta Simpson; Early Music specialist Michael McCraw; ballet master Michael Vernon; and world-famous National Symphony Orchestra Maestro Leonard Slatkin, who was named the Arthur R. Metz Foundation Conductor at the Jacobs School. Along with living legends such as Pressler, Starker, and Baker, and young up-and-comers such as Otis Murphy and jazz trumpeter Joey Tartell, these musicians and performers make up what Jacobs School of Music Dean Gwyn Richards calls "the single greatest gathering of music faculty anywhere in the world.

"I believe that to the core of my being. I really do," Richards says. "I look around and know it to be true. We've always said that ‘arguably, we're the greatest school of music in the world.' Now we're working to remove the arguably."

Slatkin, who will begin teaching at the Jacobs School in the fall, says the special quality of the study of music at the Jacobs School of Music influenced his decision to come to Bloomington.

"For the last two summers, I came [to IU] for the Summer Music Festival. I saw an intensity and commitment to music that you don't see much," Slatkin says. "Indiana University is truly focused on the young people, and I saw a real seriousness of purpose to grow in an intense musical environment. The young people [at IU] clearly know they are there for the purpose of learning."

Slatkin often tells his students that conducting is all about "listening and making adjustments." If the recent slew of star-studded appointments is any indication, the Jacobs School is adjusting to the new musical landscape just fine.

--Ryan Piurek