The appointment of Jamal J. Rossi as the Joan and Martin Messinger Dean of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music was formally celebrated today, Sunday, Oct. 26, during a ceremony in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.
In his remarks, Rossi described the event as “our day to celebrate the future of our school.” Talking about the Eastman School of Music’s historical legacy and noting some of its famous faculty, he said, “I am convinced that the core values on which this school was built will remain the keys for educating future generations of musicians—musicians who can best meet the challenges of yet-unknown obstacles, and musicians who will take best advantage of unanticipated opportunities.”
Rossi noted that major changes over the past 50 years in the music world — such as fewer orchestras, fewer public school teaching positions, and a reshaped recording industry — challenge students to make their own opportunities. At the same time, he said, “opportunities for creativity and exposure may be greater today than at any time in the past two hundred years.” Rossi pointed to the cello rock group Break of Reality, formed at Eastman in 2003, whose cover of the Game of Thrones series theme had just surpassed 5 million views on YouTube.
“I have no idea how many people ever saw or heard Pablo Casals in his lifetime, but I’ll bet he would have been pretty pleased to reach 5 million listeners,” Rossi said.
The ceremony included jazz and classical music performances by students and faculty, including Rossi himself. A saxophonist, Rossi was joined by pianist Nelita True to perform the second movement of Paul Creston’s Sonata “With Tranquility.” Prefacing his performance, Rossi explained he originally wanted to be a jazz musician until he heard classical saxophone. One of the albums which showed him the beauty of classical saxophone was a recording that included the Creston work performed by saxophonist Donald Sinta and True. To be playing the sonata with the pianist on the Kodak Hall stage, said Rossi, “was a dream come true.”
The inaugural ceremony also featured the presentation of the Eastman School of Music’s Luminary Award to Martin Messinger, a life trustee of the University of Rochester and long-time supporter of programs and initiatives across the University. The award recognizes individuals for extraordinary service and support for music and arts at the national and community levels.