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384 Trombones, 2 Pianos, and 2 Retirements

Faculty member Joseph Alessi led nearly 400 trombone players who were trying to break a record on Lincoln Center Plaza.

 (Photo by Chris Lee)

Trombonists Pack Juilliard

The 45th annual International Trombone Festival—which this year was held at Juilliard—began with a bang on June 8 as many of the assembled bones attempted to break the record for the largest trombone ensemble in the world. Some 384 players (most, but not all, of whom were attending the conference) trooped out to the fountain on the Lincoln Center plaza to play Bernstein’s “One Hand, One Heart” from West Side Story and the “Pilgrim’s Chorus” from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. Faculty member Joseph Alessi, the president of the International Trombone Association, conducted. When the songs were over, the musicians decamped (perhaps more quickly than they would have if it hadn’t started raining) for the official opening ceremony, in Paul Hall, to be followed by four overflowing days of concerts, competitions, and conversations. Incidentally, the officialness of the record-breaking hasn’t been confirmed yet; the previous record, set in 2013 at Washington Nationals Park, was for 368 musicians playing “Seventy-Six Trombones” in conjunction with Arena Stage’s production of The Music Man.

Wednesday, September 21, 6:00pm

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Among the highlights of the festival, which between 500 and 600 people attended, was a joint recital called The Women of Juilliard featuring Abbie Conant (MM ’79, trombone), Natalie Mannix (MM ’97, trombone), and Vanessa Fralick (’10, trombone).

French Piano Duos Performed

Duo Gagnant is French for winning pair, or duo, and that’s what the audience will hear at the collaborative piano department’s third concert of music for two pianos. The first took place five years ago, when my fellow returning master’s students and I decided we wanted to perform a concert together right at the beginning of the year. It worked out so well we had another one in 2013, and now we’re back with an all-French program—favorites by Debussy and Ravel, as well as lesser-known works by Cécile Chaminade and Jean Françaix—on September 21. In some ways, two-piano music is some of the most challenging in the repertoire. It’s impossible to see your partner prepare to play, and each pianist is more than nine feet away from the other. That said, we collabs are a collegial bunch who support one another tirelessly, and we’re thrilled to have this rare opportunity to perform together and with our faculty, too.—C.V. Starr doctoral fellow Dan Kurland (MM ’13, collaborative piano) is one of the organizers of this concert.

Canin and Gilbert Retire

The retirements of two longtime faculty members were marked at the faculty-staff meeting on May 11 in Paul Hall. The two were alumnus Martin Canin, who started teaching piano at Juilliard in the 1950s as an assistant to Rosina Lhévinne (faculty 1925–76), and Pia Gilbert, who joined the faculty in 1986 and, among other things, co-created the annual Choreographers and Composers Workshop, more commonly known as ChoreoComp. Both will be granted emeritus status this year.

Canin (BS and MS ’56, piano) noted in his brief remarks that Juilliard has been a family affair for him—his brother, Stuart Canin (’49, violin), wife, Fiorella Miotto Canin (Diploma ’60, Postgraduate Diploma ’62, piano), and daughter, Serena Canin (Certificate ’87, MM ’88, violin), are also alums. Canin also said that his nearly 60 years of teaching has been work, “but work that I loved. It’s been a great run.”

After an impressive start as a performer, Canin decided to focus on teaching, a decision he talked about in a Piano Quarterly article that was excerpted in the November 1987 Journal. “After I played my New York debut, I did what so many young graduates of Juilliard do. I went with a small management, playing occasional concerts, and keeping body and soul together by doing some teaching.” And then his teacher, Rosina Lhévinne (faculty 1925-76), selected him as one of two assistants and also recommended him for a post at Columbia Teachers College. “Teaching suddenly became quite important in my life. There were not that many occasions to perform and I found that I enjoyed teaching. I am also not so sure that I always enjoyed playing for an audience as much as somebody else might.”

In the same article, Canin also noted said “Lhévinne was part of a great pianistic tradition. So questions of tone and tonal projection, the degrees of pedaling, the way you held the wrist, and so on, were matters of great importance to her. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the benefit of that kind of approach as well the focus on the music that I gained from [his previous teacher, Robert] Scholz. I hope I have been able to combine the two approaches in my own teaching.”

At an 80th birthday celebration for her, in 2001, Pia Gilbert noted that at Juilliard she was “reveling in the freedom to teach interesting subjects to marvelously talented students, learn from them and from my astonishingly impressive colleagues, and am brimming over with gratitude and joy toward being allowed to do what I love most.” This spring, Gilbert told the Paul Hall crowd honoring her retirement that she’d had “such a marvelous time here at Juilliard.”

Gilbert was born and raised in Germany; she and her family left in 1937, originally settling in New York. She joined the Juilliard faculty in 1986, teaching, among other things, aesthetics and tk. She was also periodically called upon to talk about her studies with Arnold Schoenberg and her long friendship with John Cage.

In 2001, for an 80th birthday celebration at Juilliard, she wrote about how her relationship with choreography—the prompt that led her to co-create ChoreoComp—came about. “My career as a composer was ‘jumpstarted’ willy-nilly because I had landed in my beloved Dance World in a relatively short time after my family and I had left Germany in 1937. It was after those initial ‘refugee years’ … that I had first been engaged to improvise and play for seemingly every modern and ballet choreographer in New York. Eventually, especially during a long and immensely gratifying tenure at U.C.L.A. and at other venues in Los Angeles (1947-85), it was assumed that I would write scores for choreographies as well as incidental music for the theater. Being autodidact was not considered to be a problem or a hindrance to compositional or pedagogic activities at that time. Astonishingly, it was thought to be somewhat original or courageous. Of course it was neither, but offered numerous, sometimes most welcome challenges. A large bulk of that endeavor was generated during the ’50s and ’60s, where experimentation was encouraged and appreciated, and where I was thoroughly in my element! Many of these scores easily fell into the category of disposable or at least highly interdependent configurations, since my interest was mainly to serve the total stage work. In other words: the dance or theater piece was incomplete without my music and vice versa.”

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