ROCHESTER, NY — Pursuing an avid interest in a particular musical niche has resulted in nationally acclaimed Fulbright Awards for two Eastman students fresh from graduation. Oboist Bethany Slater and violinist Will Knuth are winners of the 2004 Fulbright Study Grants, which cover tuition and expenses for a full academic year of study — including a stipend for travel — to Paris and to Vienna, respectively. The grants are awarded through the presidentially appointed J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board and the Institute of International Education at the United Nations. Slater’s award is the Lusk Memorial Fellowship. Both Slater and Knuth have newly-minted undergraduate degrees from Eastman with the added benefit of a University of Rochester minor in the language of their Fulbright country.
It is the search for common ground between two distinctly different schools of oboe playing that will bring Slater to Paris for private independent study with oboist David Walter, faculty member at the Paris Conservatory. According to Slater, these two camps of playing — the European style and the American style — have polarized the oboe community for years. The European style of playing features, for example, a completely different method of using air and vibrato. Walter has been very active in trying to bridge the gap between these two divergent schools of playing, and Slater hopes to come away from her experience with a way of combining the best of both worlds. Although trained in the American style, Slater grew up listening to European oboe recordings. Her Eastman professor, Richard Killmer, supports Slater’s desire to be an oboe “peacemaker.”
Violinist Will Knuth received his bachelor’s degree in music performance as a student of Lynn Blakeslee, and was a participant in the Take Five Scholars Program program through the University of Rochester’s Modern Languages and Cultures department, with a focus on German cultural studies. (The Take Five Scholars Program, unique to the University of Rochester, provides students with an additional semester or year of study, tuition-free.) Knuth’s Fulbright Award will allow him to study in Vienna to explore the music of what he calls the “Third Viennese School” — compositions from Vienna written during the second half of the 20th century. (The first “School” encompassed the Viennese classical style of Haydn and Mozart, and the second comprised the works of composers such as Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern.) Knuth’s performance-based study will be with violinist Ernst Kovacic at the Universität fur Musik und darstellende Künst, Wien. Mr. Kovacic was a recipient and dedicatee of compositions by Ernst Krenek and H.K. Gruber, two of the composers that Knuth will be studying as possible exemplars of a “Third Viennese School.” Kovacic himself has been instrumental in encouraging the performance of new music in Vienna.
“All the proposals this year were truly impressive,” said Tim Scheie, associate professor of French at Eastman and Fulbright program advisor. “Bethany and Will already have won grants to competitive countries, and two other students have been designated alternates and could still receive awards. This is the stongest showing I have seen in my 10 years at the school. I am delighted, though not surprised, to see Eastman outperform schools many times its size in the Fulbright competition.”