Hello, Friends,

I’m working on the years Jan studied at Juilliard from 1951-1955. For those of us lucky enough to have studied with Jan, we know the names of her beloved early teachers, men she often spoke of and wrote about in 1988 when she tried to express what their early mentoring meant to her.

Henry Brant was a Pulitzer Prize winning composer and professor of L&M (see more below)who experimented with spatial and taped music and stereophonic settings for his large works: he staged both vocal and instrumental ensembles in multiple areas in his concert halls. He was called a collagist who “used space as compositional element,”  calling it “the fourth dimension,” according to Allan Kozinn in 2008 at the time of Brant’s death at age 94.

Henry Brant

Jan may have been his student in the L&M course; she was a second- or third- year student in 1953 when Brant’s spatial piece Antiphony 1 was premiered at Carnegie Hall where five orchestral groups were placed throughout hall. She may have even sung for him.

Norman Lloyd not only taught L&M courses, he was behind its inception, worked with faculty to design the curriculum, and directed the program as the Director of Education at Juilliard.  He was known to sniff out talent and certainly would have snatched up Jan for his Saturday morning madrigals ensemble as soon as they met. (This is the group that became The Riverside Chamber Singers, see Cross Roads to see what Jan said of this group.) Lloyd became a dear friend to Jan. They remained close until his death at age 70 in 1980.

Norman Lloyd

Here’s what I find remarkable: In the mid-40’s, Juilliard President William Schuman, with the help of faculty, argues for and designs a new pedagogy for teaching theory and calls it Literature and Materials of Music (L&M), a four-year, two-term course to be taken by all students. Essentially, no large-scale music pedagogy based on a whole approach or contextual approach to learning music existed in the US.(The argument, of course, is a departure from the traditional European approach.) I found many articles in the Juilliard archives written by Schuman detailing his argument. This new course of study privileged the music–beginning with the composer’s vision, intent, purpose–over the rote study of “systems” (as he called it) so that the young musician would “understand the concept of performance that combines skill with a truly humanistic understanding of music.” It was a desire to guide young musicians to more than only proficiency in one language–that of their individual instrument– to an engagement with and understanding of the entire work of art. Holistic vs Technique. Process vs Product. Integration.

This is remarkable because Jan arrives at Juilliard in the fall of 1951, just a few years after this new pedagogy is incorporated. Henry Brant also arrives at Juilliard in 1947, one can assume, to teach on the L&M faculty, a group of diverse artists Schuman wanted to hand pick based on their creative approaches to music. And Norman Lloyd not only teaches in the L&M department, he chairs it as Director of Education, as well as helped to conceive it.

Timing is everything. In the right place, at the right time.

Jan arrives with her sharp intuition, her intense work ethic, boundless curiosity, undeniable talent, and lands in the classrooms and studios of these musicians and mentors. It was perfect.

And of course, there is Sergius Kagen, Jan’s beloved voice teacher who was not a trained singer, but a pianist, composer, musicologist and vocal coach beside Madame Sembrich, his beloved mentor. At her death, he was given all her students and soon promoted to Professor of Voice. (See my post on Sergius Kagen.)

Sergius Kagen

Any serious voice student trained in the United States from the mid-1940’s on would have used until soft and threadbare any of the 39 volumes of songs and arias Kagen edited for the International Music Company. For nearly two decades, he edited vocal literature ranging from opera arias to Baroque to German Lieder to 20th century French composers for the powerhouse publishing company. This work culminated in his own catalog of vocal literature published in 1949 titled Music for the Voice.

But perhaps his most important legacy is that small book On Studying Singing in which he clearly and intelligently shares his knowledge of, theories and personal opinions about the study and performance of the vocal arts: a study which must engage all the singer’s senses, beginning with her first instrument, the ear. Intelligence. Curiosity. Passion. And above all, love of music.

The ear. Intelligence. Curiosity. Passion. Love of music. It’s as if she’d been guided from her small-town home directly to the front doors at 120 Claremont Avenue in Morningside Heights in order to find him, all of them. Just as I found her at Eastman, lucky lucky lucky. All the lessons: Be a student of yourself.

Be aware of all the things that happen (the juice) between pitches. Your ear can never rest. You must know the sound you want and always work towards that. When you finish singing, your body should feel fine and relaxed, and your mind should be exhausted. Every piece has a right tempo for each performer.  (from handwritten lesson notes graciously offered by Jane Bryden)

Until I began researching for this book, I thought what all I’d been given by Jan began there, with her. But she had a beginning, too, and all of us, we are part of this lineage set in motion long before we got here.


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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