This is the first post in a two-part series written by Matthew Ardizzone, Eastman’s Associate Dean of Admissions.
In my last post I wrote about the problems inherent in music school rankings (which are always subjective) and challenged prospective students to seek out distinguish each school, rather than rely on any ranked list. As a follow up, I thought it would make sense to address the question of what distinguishes Eastman among professional schools of music.
Eastman students support each other.
The first thing that always comes to mind when I think about what makes Eastman such a special place is the nature of our students. Eastman students demonstrate a remarkable balance of ambition and caring. They are able to pursue their craft at the highest levels while maintaining a strong sense of community and a generosity of spirit that is made evident in many ways. A favorite and oft-recurring example is what happens after a concert by one of our ensembles, such as the Eastman Wind Ensemble, Eastman Philharmonia, or Musica Nova in Kodak Hall. The audience, made up largely of students, assembles outside the stage doors and cheers loudly as members of the ensemble exit the stage. It speaks volumes when highly ambitious students will forgo a couple of hours of practice time in order to support their peers.
Our students have vision.
Another striking thing about our students is that although they enter Eastman with a high level of accomplishment in their respective areas of study, they come in with a refreshingly broad vision of what it means to be a musician in the 21st century. We see it as our job to ensure they achieve the highest levels of musical preparation while they are here, but we also pride ourselves on our ability to ‘get out of their way’ to a certain degree, allowing and encouraging our students to pursue interests and skill sets outside of their major area of study. We have students pursuing academic minors, coursework in arts leadership, audio music engineering, performers studying conducting, jazz majors studying classical performance and vice versa. In other words, our students enter and emerge from Eastman with a sense of the importance of a strong musical core, but also an understanding that versatility and creativity are qualities that will serve them well professionally.
Eastman alumni are some of the most successful musicians today.
This leads me to another key characteristic, which is the success of our alumni. Our alumni make things happen. This is in part because of the education they received at Eastman, yes. But they are also successful because they learned here, outside of the studio and classroom, to engage with their peers, to collaborate, communicate and share ideas. Many of them perform and teach in what might be described as ‘traditional’ careers, performing with major orchestras and opera companies, or teaching at the secondary and collegiate levels. But many others create their own ensembles (Alarm Will Sound, JACK Quartet, Kneebody, Break of Reality, Breaking Winds, and many more), become administrators of arts organizations, start their own organizations or institutions, and otherwise lead organizations, departments and schools in a rapidly changing musical landscape. In other words, they successfully forge their own paths into an ever-evolving musical landscape.*
There’s a lot more to say, but I’ll stop there for now. In Part Two, I’ll focus on the tradition of artistic excellence, comprehensive curriculum, and renowned facilities that make Eastman unique.
*Examples of Eastman alumni include well-known artists like Renee Fleming, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd, Dominick Argento, Jeff Beal, Maria Schneider, Katherine Lewek, Nicole Cabell, Anthony Dean Griffey, Scott Healy, and Kevin Puts. They include members of our own faculty, and the faculty of major schools and universities including Yale University, Indiana University, Northwestern University, the Juilliard School, Rice University, University of Michigan, Oberlin Conservatory, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, Manhattan School of Music, Dartmouth College, the Peabody Institute of Music, Vanderbilt University, and many others.
They perform in all of the top 10 American orchestras, in orchestras abroad, in US military bands, in their own ensembles, including Alarm Will Sound, JACK Quartet, Kneebody, Break of Reality, Signal, Respect Sextet and Colossus. They sing at the Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, LA Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Teatro Communale di Firenze, Teatro dell’Opera in Rome, the Houston Grand Opera, Washington National, San Francisco, Lyric and Cincinnati Operas.
They lead in administrative positions at academic and performing arts organizations including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, New World Symphony, Cleveland Institute of Music, Oberlin Conservatory, NEC’s Entrepreneurial Musicianship program, University of the Arts, Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, Rutgers University, Stetson University, Peck School of the Arts at the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), Westminster Choir College, and Eastman School of Music.
And they create award-winning music, regularly earning the field’s most coveted prizes, such as the Pulitzer, Rome, and Barlow Prizes; ASCAP and BMI Awards, and Guggenheim, Fulbright, and DAAD Fellowships. Their work is performed by major orchestras, opera companies, soloists, and new music ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, London Symphony, Philadelphia, Minnesota, and National Symphony Orchestras; the San Francisco, Houston, Washington National and Minnesota Operas, and Ensemble Intercontemporain, eighth blackbird, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, ICE, BroadBand, and Ensemble Signal.