Going Back

I am full up, Friends.

Been in Rochester since Friday night and have steeped myself in place and time–the memories swirl. And the archival materials continue to teach me about Jan’s life and art. What I’ve discovered. The words privilege and grateful circle through every minute.

Thanks to the great generosity of Joanie and Gerry Floriano (a most beautiful and alive couple), I have a place to stay this week as I speak with people and spend hours looking at archives. Photo of Joanie and Gerry to follow…

In the meantime, here are a few shots from Eastman today.


Annex window looking down on Scio Street


Kilbourn Hall just before a young singer’s senior recital begins. I heard the entire concert and thoroughly enjoyed it.










Saturday afternoon, I slipped into an informal concert in the residence halls–a jazz trio, and just before it began, I turned to find Tom Paul and his wife Esther sitting directly behind me. Tom is a baritone and taught at Eastman and performed with Jan for over 25 years. The story: I’ve been trying to connect with Paul for over a year. No answers to my letters or emails. I knew once I was here, I’d find him, even if it meant standing on his front lawn waiting for him! And there he was, they were.


Tom retired from the ESM faculty in the early 2000’s, but he was there when I went through ESM and was always a supportive friend. As I told him over a gorgeous lunch a few days later that he and Esther prepared–Tom puts together a mean pasta dish–I always felt he was in my corner and his presence in this way has always been with me. We sat, the three of us, for nearly five hours talking about Jan, music, our lives, what we’ve learned. Before I drove away from their rambling, warm 18oo’s farmhouse, Tom gave me a tour of his other passion: the Porsche. He rebuilds and restores these art pieces, and I smiled and laughed at the stories of how he came to own them. tom-paul



I also had a lovely lunch with Barbara Staropoli who was a graduate student in Jan’s studio when I was an undergrad. I remembered Barbara as a kind and supportive soul, often soothing my turmoiled early-twenties heart and mind. She was with Jan daily at the end of Jan’s life. dawn-and-barbara-staropoliI leave you this afternoon with a few photos of Jan I love and want to share. And I hope you all are well and happy and experiencing grace every day. I am.


captured for press on Ancient Voices of Children which she premiered in Washington DC in 1970.


Head shot from the late 60’s-early 70’s.


one of my favorite press photos taken in the early 80’s, the years I studied with Jan.

About dhaines54

Dawn Denham (formerly Haines) lives in the hill country of North Central Mississippi where she's writing a book about her mentor at the Eastman School of Music mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani and teaching writing at Oxford High School. Her work has been published in Poets and Writers magazine, Brevity, Zone 3, Literary Mama, and WILLA. Her book with authors Jacqueline Raphael and Susan Newcomer Writing Together: Transforming Your Writing in a Writing Group was the first book of its kind published in the US. Her essay Aleatorik about her mother’s death won the 2012 Solstice magazine Creative Nonfiction prize chosen by Jerald Walker and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She received an MFA in Nonfiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts, an MA in Rhetoric and Composition from the University of Arizona, and a BM in Voice from Eastman School of Music.
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