ROCHESTER, NY — Retired Eastman School of Music faculty member Joseph Mariano, whose playing and teaching inspired generations of flutists and wind players throughout the world, returns to Rochester next month to be fêted for his nearly 40 years of teaching at the School, and for creating a following not soon to be forgotten.
On Saturday, November 15, Eastman will host a variety of events celebrating the 92-year old Mariano. Colleagues, former Mariano students from around the country, and current Eastman students will participate in the celebration. The day begins with an interview and master class at Kilbourn Hall (26 Gibbs St.) from 1-3 p.m., in which three to four current Eastman undergraduate flute students will have the opportunity to play for Mariano. The public is welcome to attend. At 4 p.m., there will be an unveiling of his portrait on the School’s Cominsky Promenade second floor “portrait gallery.” That evening, the public is invited to a 7 p.m. pre-concert panel discussion titled Winds of Change: A Discussion of the Evolution of Woodwind Performance from the Mid-20th Century to the Present. The panel features Mariano and his former Eastman wind colleagues clarinetist Stanley Hasty, hornist Morris Secon, and bassoonist David VanHoesen, moderated by Eastman Director and Dean James Undercofler. The day culminates in an 8 p.m. gala concert by the Philharmonia Chamber Orchestra conducted by Neil Varon, in which Eastman School Flute Concerto Competition winner, sophomore Hilary Abigana will perform Carl Nielsen’s Concerto for Flute. Appropriately, Mozart’s Overture to The Magic Flute and Darius Milhaud’s Creation of the World round out the concert. Both the panel and concert will take place at Kilbourn Hall.
Former Mariano student Bonita Boyd, Eastman Professor of Flute since 1976, is thrilled to be bringing Mariano back to Eastman. “We (his students) have waited more than 30 years to bring Mr. Mariano back to honor him and celebrate his massive artistry,” says Boyd. “As one of the greatest artists on any instrument, he truly has become a legend in his own time, while caring enough about others to pour himself out as a teacher,” she adds.
Mariano’s professional tenure in Rochester began when he was just 24 years old, after receiving the Artist’s Degree from the Curtis Institute in 1935 (studying with the Philadelphia Orchestra’s flutist William Kincaid and oboist Marcel Tabuteau). That same year — after one season of professional playing with the National Symphony Orchestra — Eastman School Director Howard Hanson invited Mariano to join the faculty. Hanson’s choice was more than a good one; Mariano stayed on as professor of flute through 1974, simultaneously serving as principal flute of the Rochester Philharmonic from 1935-1968. During that time, Mariano’s playing was so renowned that he was invited by Toscanini to join the NBC Symphony, by Fritz Reiner to join the Chicago Symphony, by Eugene Ormandy to join the Philadelphia Orchestra, and by Charles Munch to join the Boston Symphony. But he stayed in Rochester to teach several generations of Eastman flutists, who remember him with tremendous affection and with a respect bordering on awe. Ms. Boyd remembers her teacher’s playing as characterized by “a rich spectrum of colors and creative ideas, varying from brutal with raw excitement to delicate and transparent.” Boyd adds that he taught “without verbalizing, that great things happen musically when you take chances, use your sound, and let the music speak for itself in beauty and simplicity of line.”
Mariano has been praised as a teacher and musician by other such notable flutists as William Bennett, Jean-Pierre Rampal, Julius Baker, and Aurèle Nicolet. He also won the respect of many American composers. His Mercury recordings of music by Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Kent Kennan, Howard Hanson, Samuel Barber, and Bernard Rogers, among many others, are considered classics. In 2001, during his 90th birthday year, Mariano was presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Flute Association (NFA), at the same time releasing a compact disc of Mariano performances — Volume II of the NFA’s Historical Recordings.
In an article from The Flutist Quarterly, Mariano is credited for developing “a truly American style of flute playing,” of “great strength, vitality, and sensuality.” Director Undercofler sums up the honor by saying: “For these gifts that he passed on to so many flutists who have graced the stages of the world, and who probably single-handedly has populated more orchestral flute sections than any other teacher, the Eastman School is proud to salute Joseph Mariano.”