Tag Archives: Mimi Stillman

Mimi’s speech at Curtis commencement

Dear friends,

I was very honored to have been invited to speak at commencement at the Curtis Institute of Music on May 12, 2018. Curtis has been my musical home since I first arrived as a student when I was 12 years old, so it was particularly meaningful for me to give the welcome to the new alumni. At Curtis, we share transformative experiences and rich traditions, and come away with a sense of belonging to a community.

I was in august company at graduation, with Joseph Polisi as keynote speaker and George Walker as honoree, in addition to Curtis President Roberto Diaz and Deans Bryan and Grady.

I’m pleased to share my speech below.

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Congratulations to you all on your graduation from Curtis. I am honored to have been asked to address you as you join the ranks of Curtis alumni, and it is my privilege to welcome you to the Curtis alumni family.

When I was thinking about what I’d like to say to you today, I decided to share with you something that happened as I was preparing to perform as soloist with an orchestra in North Carolina last weekend. As I reviewed the score for one of the pieces I was going to perform, Charles Tomlinson Griffes’s Poem for Flute and Orchestra, I saw the handwriting of my teacher at Curtis, the legendary flutist Julius Baker. I learned the piece my first year at Curtis when I was 12 (so I’ve had the score a very long time!). Mr. Baker had corrected an accidental in my part, changing a B natural to Bb. In the performance history of this piece that note is actually somewhat controversial, but those of us who are Baker students play Bb there because Baker’s teacher at Curtis, William Kincaid, told him it’s a Bb which he had learned from his teacher Georges Barrère, for whom the piece was written. As I practiced the passage with the Bb, I felt an enormous sense of the significance of this note and what it represents for me – a strong feeling of tradition. The lineage that we feel as Curtis-trained musicians, knowing that we are continuing and adding our voice to rich traditions of interpreting music. I felt a profound sense of loss about my beloved teacher while feeling connected to him through this fond memory.

This one note made me reflect on what tradition means as a Curtis alumna. The tradition we are part of is alive, and is constantly evolving. To graduate from Curtis is a major achievement and a milestone, and you are going on to do great things. This step is an ending and it is also a beginning – a deceptive cadence? – no, more like a phrase that dovetails into the next. With the impeccable training and transformative experiences you’ve had at Curtis, you are poised to forge your own path in music, to hone your craft and pursue your individual artistic vision.

As you well know, being a musician involves intense attention to detail – getting us back to that one note – while never losing sight of the big picture and music’s unique power as a universal form of communication. Thinking about the way I sometimes obsess over the tiniest details of the music I’m playing – I suspect you can relate – I thought of the 17th– and 18th-century Dutch scientist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek. He was one of the earliest developers of the microscope and the first to observe bacteria and other microscopic organisms. It’s hard to imagine the world around us without his discoveries. He wrote of the time he spent in scientific experiment, saying that “on these observations I have spent more time than many will believe, but I have done them with joy.”

Just as Leeuwenhoek is known for illuminating the world contained in a drop of water, you as musicians get to seek the meaning in every note, striving for understanding of the organic whole. As you take this momentous next step in your lives, I encourage you to work tirelessly, to bring your talent, your intellect, your creativity to bear on every note – from the smallest detail to your grandest dream. And to do it with great joy – go forth and make the world a more beautiful and illuminating place! Thank you. – Mimi Stillman

 

“Syrinx” at the Brandywine River Museum

I performed Syrinx after viewing the spectacular Andrew Wyeth: In Retrospect exhibit in preparation for Dolce Suono Trio’s performance at the Brandywine River Museum on September 9. Here I was playing on the bank of the Brandywine River outside the museum.

Our program will include music by Dvořák, Debussy, Sibelius, Gaubert, Bernstein, Andrea Clearfield, and Jennifer Higdon’s American Canvas for Flute, Cello, and Piano, a DSE-commissioned work with each of three movements devoted to a great American painter: O’Keeffe, Pollock, and Wyeth.

Eclipse “Syrinx” for Debussy’s Birthday

For Debussy’s birthday today, August 22, I performed Syrinx outside during the solar eclipse yesterday. In Philadelphia the eclipse was partial, and while I played Syrinx the moon passed in front of the sun, darkening the mid-afternoon.  As I played the music of Debussy during this awe-inspiring phenomenon I thought of tuning myself to the music of the spheres.

This will be a particularly rich season of Debussy, as our Dolce Suono Ensemble will be marking the centennial of his death with a festival of performances in March and April 2018.

“Syrinx” for Debussy’s Birthday

Today is the 154th birthday of Claude Debussy, and I wish him a bon anniversaire with a special edition of Syrinx Journey. I enlisted the Marquis de Lafayette to join me in the felicitation as I performed Syrinx at the statue of Lafayette by Raoul Josset at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This rendition of Syrinx unites two projects I am passionate about: “Syrinx Journey” and “Music in the Second Capital,” which my Dolce Suono Ensemble will debut this season. “Music in the Second Capital” is an exploration of musical life in late colonial and early republic Philadelphia, when it was the second capital of the United States and the cultural center of the new nation. We will perform music that the Founding Fathers listened to and in some cases played or composed.
The Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat and military officer, supported the cause of American independence and played a critical role in the birth of the United States. He fought heroically as a general in the American army and was a close friend of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton. Lafayette returned to France, where he applied his experience in America to his service during the French Revolution and throughout his illustrious life, earning the nickname “Hero of Two Worlds.”
Please stay tuned for more of my Syrinx Journey entries, and join Dolce Suono Ensemble throughout our season!

Recent Press

Mimi’s recording “Freedom” with Charles Abramovic, piano and premieres by Mieczyslaw Weinberg, David Finko, and Richard Danielpour (with Yumi Kendall, cello, in the Danielpour) continues to receive fantastic reviews.

Among the recent accolades for the album and Dolce Suono Ensemble:

  • Interview and Review of “Freedom” and Dolce Suono Ensemble in the Huffington Post by Lew Whittington

Stillman and Abramovic, the core players of DSE, have been performing together for 14 years, their stellar artistic clarity and chemistry is palpable onstage and is vividly captured on their recent recording “Freedom” (recorded in Gould Hall) a collection of flute and piano pieces.”

  • Dolce Suono Ensemble’s “The Americas Project / Musica en tus Manos” review in The Philadelphia Inquirer by David Patrick Stearns

“So much of this music simply invites you to enjoy life. But that enjoyment starts with the musicians, who were in the right zone.”