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Student Commencement Addresses

Curtis Commencement, May 11, 2013

George V. Goad (Trumpet)

President Díaz, Chairman Lenfest, Dean Bryan, Honored Guests (Simon Rattle!), and colleagues, good morning! I am George Goad, and this is quite a place to be standing! We’re graduating! This is a day that confirms something I heard quite a bit at orientation: It was not a mistake that you got in George, you belong here.

Thinking back to orientation is quite fun to do now. In fact, I am sure I enjoyed and needed the help more than any of my classmates. The term “prodigy” was never used to describe my musical ability. I went to a public high school that did not have an orchestra, and I’d never been away from home for longer than two weeks. The city loomed. Self-defense was even discussed! But these streets were soon to become the stomping grounds for running; the rivers, serene sites for strolling.

I had the unique experience of being a two-year freshman in the trumpet section. No, I was not held back, it’s just that in our studio of five students, nobody graduated between my first and second years. I got the 9 am lesson slot for those two years (thanks, Paul), and I observed my older colleagues play in the orchestra while I studied parts from the sidelines. Integration into the orchestra came slowly for me. I was the second trumpet specialist on concerti during my first two years. I quickly learned from Maestro Mueller that one “f” means “forte ONLY!” or the “dreaded hand” would be given, and I was often reminded that this was not marching band.

I was fortunate to be involved in highlights including trips to Carnegie Hall and Dresden. By this year, I had the terrifying privilege of playing principal on Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, which was the performance highlight of my time here. The community feeling of performing in an ensemble such as the Curtis Symphony is so special. Working with such creative and disciplined friends and colleagues elevates the experience all the more.

Though we were studying our music and some schoolwork (tip of the hat to Dr. McGinn), I know I was studying the words of my teachers all the more. The emphasis on line and phrasing brought some of music’s abstract mysteries into focus. Whether through Maestro Mueller, one of the conducting students, or a private teacher or coach, we were learning how to say something. The beauty of that simplistic goal is astounding.

We’ve also learned of the change in art, culture, and entertainment, being musicians in this century.  My teacher, Mr. Bilger, has been an inspiring example of musical integrity, reminding me to keep the music first, not some shtick, or my hairstyle!

I urge us all to learn how to speak this language, in our own way, and take pride in how you speak. After four years (or ten) here, the practice room hours are surely in our favor, and we know more than our “abc’s.” Thanks to Chris Hodges, some students can now dance “Gangnam Style.” Thanks to Mrs. Sokoloff, we all know proper tea etiquette. And thanks to student council, a few of us even gained skills on the soccer pitch. In all seriousness: Trust in the people who support you (the most important of them are likely in this room right now), and trust in the work. Thanks again!

Zoë H. Martin-Doike (Violin)

Good morning, my name is Zoë Martin-Doike. I’m sure many of you know and love the popular children’s’ book series, Harry Potter. Maybe some of you even fantasized about having an owl deliver an acceptance letter to the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to your doorstep. I know I did. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I would one day attend a school even more special and magical than Hogwarts. Instead of an owl, however, I was notified of my acceptance in a slightly less poetic, but equally as exciting manner: a phone call from President Díaz. That phone call turned out to be the beginning of the incredible journey that the past few years have been for me and for each one of my classmates. 

There is an African proverb that says, “It takes a village to raise a child.” It is truly an honor to stand in front of you, my dear musical brothers and sisters, and you, the lovely “villagers,” our parents, teachers, staff members, supporters, and friends, who have raised us and helped to shape and mold us into the musicians and citizens that we are today.

We all entered Curtis as talented and proficient instrumentalists, and we all leave with an embarrassing wealth of experiences. How many undergraduate music students can say they had the privilege of playing under the baton of Sir Simon Rattle on two separate occasions?

Through the diligent labors of our musical studies and liberal arts professors, we leave with a good knowledge of history - the musical sort as well as the “impress your friends at the dinner table” variety, solid writing skills - Dr. McGinn tells me there are a few budding poets graduating this year, and an understanding of harmony, counterpoint, form, and analysis, that will inform our musical decisions and interpretations for the rest of our lives.

Thanks to the patience of our instrumental and voice teachers, we leave with great respect for the score and for the composer’s wishes, as well as a deep connection to an incredible legacy and tradition of Classical music-making, linking us to such musical grandparents as Leopold Auer, William Primrose, Rudolph Serkin, and Marcel Tabuteau, to name a few.
I, for one, will always hear the voice of Pamela Frank in my head, reminding me to love the “foreigners (her nickname for non-chord-tones);” and that when it comes to sliding to a note, the line between sexy and sleazy is a thin one, albeit a fun one to explore; and most importantly to “play it like you mean it, and nothing bad will happen. Tell your friends!” 

George mentioned Maestro Mueller. I certainly can’t neglect to express my gratitude for having had the chance to work with him. He taught me to pay special attention to the line and connections within a phrase, that the second note of an appoggiatura needs beautiful sound quality too, and that a bass section should not sound like a herd of elephants, nor should a conductor conduct in a manner reminiscent of dancing in a nightclub.

On behalf of my class, I would like to extend heartfelt gratitude to the magical Curtis village that brought us up to be musicians and artists first and musicians second. I can’t wait to see all the exciting things that we will accomplish in the bright futures that we all have to look forward to. 

Thank you.