Friday April 19, 2013

The sirens are still screaming past my home in Cambridge. They did the same on Monday outside my office just before 3:00 p.m. when the news was not yet known but the portent of something momentous suspected. The sound then grew and grew until thinking was difficult. Meeting faces and concerns in the corridors of NEC and outside on the street with people who were actually there, who had been at the finish line just a second before, or were half a block away.

The questions, the need to share this awfulness, the warmth of people’s humanness in wanting to console and be consoled, was about the best of ourselves, our lives, our species. But there was that almost overwhelming darkness. The darkness that reminded one of 9/11, of horror, of the tumult and chaos that man can create in his most nihilistic and destructive state.

Then we learned of one of our students caught in the second blast, thrown headlong to the ground and taken to hospital. That sharp intake of breath, that feeling of incredulousness, of someone we know and love and admire, caught in the vortex of this craziness. Finally we hear she is ok, but traumatized and the next day she flies home to be cosseted and loved by her family. Of course, we offer counseling to our students, but faculty speak of individuals suddenly crying “for no reason” in a lesson. That darkness is in the air, in the walls, in our gazes and voices.

But then there is music. The balm of our lives, touching our souls and feeding our creativity with its poetry, its architectural purity, turning us away from the darkness. First the Wind Ensemble with Charles Peltz, then the Chamber Orchestra, Randy Weston with the student jazz big band, leading us like an army of mighty musical heroes. We become the band of brothers in our civilization’s aspiration for peace and we reach out to our audiences and community with the salve of music.

This terrible week will stay in our memories. It is with us now. Unresolved. A scream like the mighty dissonance of that Mahlerian scream in his 10th Symphony. But we will conquer its summit and plumb its depths. We will be stronger and give more of ourselves because we have been reminded of how precious life is and how precious our human connections.

About the author

Tony Woodcock
Tony Woodcock

New England Conservatory President [b]Tony Woodcock[/b] grew up in the Middle East, England, and Wales, where he studied music at University College, Cardiff. After leaving the university, Woodcock took positions with regional music promoters, and later ran the newly opened St. David's Hall, the National Concert Hall and Conference Centre of Wales.

Before coming to the United States, Woodcock held top positions with the City of London Sinfonia/Richard Hickox Singers, the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra. In Liverpool, he played a significant role in planning the 150th anniversary and commissioned Paul McCartney to write his first-ever classical piece, The Liverpool Oratorio.

Woodcock came to the US in 1998, when he was invited to take over the Oregon Symphony. He remained in that position until 2003, when he became President of the Minnesota Orchestra.

Deeply committed to education, Woodcock led the Minnesota Orchestra to win back-to-back ASCAP Leonard Bernstein Awards for Excellence in Educational Programming and secured underwriting to make the orchestra’s popular family
series admission-free.

A self-styled "recovering Brit," Woodcock took steps to permanently cure his condition. In summer 2009, he and his wife Virginia were sworn in as American citizens.

Read Tony Woodcock's blog [l=]here[/l].

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