It is an annual ritual at the School of Music: sending our talented students off into the wider world to pursue their dreams as they are able. We will begin with a story written by Philip Bergman, a cellist graduating with a master’s in music performance. We congratulate Philip and wish him many successes!
“I grew up in Iowa City, Iowa, which I describe to Madisonians as a kind of mini-Madison: a Big-Ten college town with an enormous culture-to-population ratio. Iowa City was a spectacular place to grow up, especially for someone with hopes of becoming a classical musician. I began studying cello at the age of five after seeing my pediatric dentist play acoustic bass with his bluegrass band (it’s a long story). I studied for several years with a local Suzuki teacher, and then with a neighbor, a talented cellist and teacher. Later I studied with Amos Yang, the cellist in the Maia String Quartet (who is now a member of the San Francisco Symphony), and then with his successor in that position, Hannah Holman, who is now a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra.
“I began my bachelors degree in 2008 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where I studied with Brandon Vamos of the Pacifica String Quartet (now in residence at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University-Bloomington). I am so grateful for the time I spent at Illinois working with Brandon and the many other incredible musicians on faculty, as well as the friends and colleagues I had there, and the many performing opportunities I had available to me. When I was assembling my list for grad schools, I had the opportunity to study with Professor Steven Doane from the Eastman School of Music for several weeks at a summer festival. I asked Professor Doane for some suggestions of schools to consider and he said, “You must look up my friend Uri Vardi at the University of Wisconsin.” With little more information than that, I took a lesson with Professor Vardi, and was immediately struck by his warmth, creativity, and musicianship.
“I applied to several other schools, but chose to come to UW to study with Professor Vardi in part because I was lucky enough to be offered a Paul Collins Distinguished Wisconsin Fellowship. I had the opportunity to meet Mr. Collins this past fall when I performed with a quintet at a banquet. I thanked Mr. Collins not only for his support of my education, but for his role in creating some of the finest positions available to student musicians in this country. The last two years have been two of the best years of my life. Living in Madison is spectacular, and working with Professor Vardi has been a life-changing experience for me: truly some of the most inspirational work I have ever had the opportunity to do. I’ve found the whole faculty here to be incredibly supportive, seeking to create a nurturing environment in an effort to encourage students to become not only fine musicians, but fantastic human beings. I will take the lessons I’ve learned in Madison with me for the many years ahead.
“This September, I begin a new adventure. Following an application process, and a live audition in Chicago, I was offered a position as a Core Member of the Hyogo Performing Arts Center Orchestra (HPAC), a resident orchestra affiliated with Hyogo Performing Arts Center, which was built after the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995 (special note: cellist and SOM alumna Andrea Kleesattel (DMA, 2012) is currently performing with the orchestra). The position is offered on a year-by-year basis for up to three years. HPAC is located in Nishinomiya, Japan, just between Osaka and Kobe, about 300 miles west of Tokyo. The organization was founded in 2005, and in many ways resembles the New World Symphony in Miami. Members are paid a salary and housed by the orchestra. They perform a full season of subscription concerts, chamber orchestra concerts, and masterworks concerts with the orchestra, as they would with a professional symphony, but are also provided opportunities to work with guest artists and perform chamber music recitals, often with those guest artists. HPAC is also dedicated to community outreach, performing educational concerts, as well as a variety of concerts throughout the area. I currently speak no Japanese, but I am excited to begin learning useful phrases, and hopefully when my time in Nishinomiya is over I will have learned enough to do more than figure out where I am and how to eat (speaking of which, I have always loved seafood, especially sushi, so I think I’ll be fairly happy with the food in my new home).
“I’m certain that the freedom and inspiration I gained during my time in Madison was a large reason why I was able to gain such an exciting position. I am so thankful for my time here, and I’m ready to move forward and begin my journey as a professional cellist.”