Longy School of Music of Bard College has been transforming the lives of musicians for decades. Today, we will be chatting with Dr. Claire Garabedian about life, music, COVID, mentors, and what she’s been up to since earning her Master of Music in Historical Performance at Longy in 1997.
How has music played a transformative role in your life?
I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without music. I was surrounded by music as a child and learned to play recorder and then tuba from my uncle and his wife. When I was nine years old, I transferred to a different elementary school, which happened to have a music program! I wanted to learn to play the trumpet, but as it was already October, the only instruments on offer were the violin and the cello (I had no clue what either of these instruments were). My mom said I should try the cello, because “the violin is so screechy when you start”…and that was THAT! I fell in love with the largeness and physicality of this instrument.
Music has introduced me to so many exceptional people. It taught me discipline, kept me challenged, curious, and engaged, and gave me a sense of identity much earlier than many of my peers. It’s taken me to many interesting places throughout the world—and into the worlds of research, health, and academia…for a start!
I also had the huge and invaluable gift of studying with cellists who were amazing women mentors and role models (Eleanor Schoenfeld, Millie Rosner, and Margaret Rowell), and who very much informed my outlook on life and music making.
In what ways has music grounded and connected you in the time of COVID-19?
This lockdown has been a surprisingly positive experience for me. I’ve redeveloped a more extensive daily practice regime on both my baroque and modern cellos (and also on my 6-string electric!), and have so enjoyed feeling and hearing myself improve. I have taken part in several amazing “camps” focusing on improvisation. And I’ve been able to launch my own online presence with virtual baroque cello recital/talks and virtual workshops on music as a conduit for connection with a focus on people living with dementia, delivered via my website https://drclairegarabedian.com/.
What aspect of your artistic career do you find most fulfilling?
Playing and performing on the cello(s); therapeutic music work; teaching cello and coaching chamber music; inspiring and educating musicians and listeners about the power of music; co-creating with other musicians…all of it, really!
How has your career evolved since leaving Longy?
My baroque cello career was full-on for quite a while before, during, and after my time at Longy. That was my primary focus for a long time. But I’ve also become a certified therapeutic music practitioner through MHTP (Music for Healing & Transition Program), which eventually led to my earning a PhD in sociology at the University of Stirling in Scotland and doing my own research playing cello for care home residents in palliative care or living with dementia (https://drclairegarabedian.com/media/).
How do you believe Longy helped prepare you for your career in music?
As I’ve said, my career in music was well underway when I decided to pursue a Master’s of Historical Performance at Longy—my teachers were also my colleagues! My initial impetus (I was in my late 30s at the time) was wanting to learn about figured bass and theory, and to take private lessons from Dana Maiben and Phoebe Carrai. And learn I did! Not only did I manage to pass master’s theory and ear training with one of the most stringent and passionate teachers around; I also learned about baroque dance, improvisation—and writing an academic paper. Longy also introduced me to the Feldenkrais Method and Dalcroze, which were so interesting that I ended-up attending the intensive summer course as well.
What were some of the major factors that drew you to Longy?
The faculty, the smaller size, the diverse and interesting offerings, and the affordability.
Which faculty members were instrumental to your growth and development as an artist while at Longy?
- Francis Fitch—she was an amazing and dedicated teacher, especially for our research course.
- Lisa Parker—a singularly talented and inspirational teacher of Dalcroze.
- Dana Maiben—there is no one else like her, and her concepts have continued to inspire and inform my playing.
- Peter Sykes—again, such a talented, dedicated, intelligent teacher.
What wisdom have you gained since you left Longy that you could share to help someone making an important decision about which school they should attend?
Consider faculty: Who will be your private teacher? Who will teach the other courses and chamber coaching you intend to take? Size: A smaller institution makes for greater intimacy, more attention, and a greater sense of community. Course offerings: Do they offer what you’re interested in? Is there enough diversity in the range of courses? And, of course, affordability.
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