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Secrets to Longevity

In January 2008, Juilliard celebrated Elliott Carter’s 100th birthday, and I was tasked, along with resident conductor George Stelluto (A.D. ’06, orchestral conducting), with picking Carter up from his Greenwich Village apartment and bringing him to the concert. We shared more than a cab that evening—also a kinship over his former life as an oboist, which he confided ended because he could not deal with the reeds. When we delivered him safely to his assistant at the performance, he could have easily walked away without any final goodbyes. But instead, he turned back to me, smiled, and said, “May you have many good reeds.” That moment has been close to my heart since—and is one I share with all my students.

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Last year, I was honored to speak with him again at length—I interviewed him for The Journal before the premiere of his song cycle Three Explorations at Juilliard last December. It was exhilarating to have a wonderfully rich, unforgettable discussion with him about music, life, and his secrets to longevity (“What keeps me going is all those damn notes in my head,” he told me). Once again, I was struck by his kindness, patience, and thoughtfulness. Even though he was nearly 104, it came as a shock that this icon had left us. But the truth is that Elliott Carter will live on forever, not only through his music, but through his humanity.

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