Baltimore native Harold Slamovitz, a member of the Liberal Arts faculty since 1988, has advanced degrees in French literature from Indiana University and in German language and culture from the University of California and Goethe Institute. He also holds undergraduate degrees in English literature from the University of Maryland and in Hebrew studies from Baltimore Hebrew University. He has taught at Indiana University, Gustavus Adolphus College, Louisiana State University, and the Mannes College of Music.
Who was the teacher or mentor who most inspired you when you were growing up and what did you learn from that person?
My parents, who have shown me how to act with kindness and understanding toward others, and to face challenges with patience and a sense of humor.
Do you have a background in music, dance, or drama? Are you actively pursuing it?
After longing to play piano as a child, I finally got an antique upright when I was 12 years old and have continued since then playing everything from Mozart to Sondheim. I began voice lessons at Peabody Conservatory during college and continued at Indiana, even exchanging French for vocal lessons with the superb, late contralto Martha Lipton. I’ve acted or sung in performances from medieval French farces and Renaissance madrigals to the lead role in Schnitzler’s Anatol. Now, I decompress every day by improvising jazz at the piano from fake books.
What other pursuits are you passionate about?
There are simply too many. Hiking in the national parks, traveling to exotic places, talking to new people, cooking with spices, cultivating a garden from seed, discovering a new book, attending the Met, watching movies, especially black-and-white films from the pre-Code era. The list is endless.
If you suddenly had an hour of free time, how would you spend it?
Probably trying to find out how to get another hour of free time.
If you could have your students visit any place in the world, where would it be and why?
Paris. The French are not in the least biased by saying it is the most beautiful city in the world.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
That I can remember so many words in other languages but have difficulty remembering names of people.
If your students could only remember one thing from your teaching, what would you want it to be?
Never to be afraid of asking questions or making a mistake.
What is your favorite thing about New York City?
The live performances. Nowhere else in the United States can the public experience the excitement of so many professional performances.
If you weren’t in the career you are in, what would you be doing?
If, years ago, I hadn’t taken the path of teaching languages, I suspect that I would be involved in the performing arts in some way, either on stage or coaching. If I had to leave the profession now, I might have to become a stockbroker!
What book are you reading right now?
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson, an astonishing quest by a mishuggenah climber to establish schools for girls in remote Afghanistan.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Like Greg Mortenson, we all need to continue to be curious about other peoples and cultures. We can learn about, and, I believe, learn from each other. That is the quest of a lifetime.