Classical Instrumental Performance
Performance has been a longstanding emphasis of the BA music major at Bard College. Students who wish to concentrate their musical studies in performance areas of piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion receive world-class guidance and teaching within the context of a liberal arts education. Additionally, while students may pursue training in solo, orchestral, and chamber music skills, the program is home to musicians who engage in a broad spectrum of styles, from the Baroque to the contemporary — including notated, aural, and improvisatory, together with the genres of jazz, rock, experimental, and electronic music.
The requirements for classical instrumental performance majors are:
- Lessons: a minimum of two semesters prior to Moderation, and each semester through completion of the Senior Project
- Workshops and Ensembles: two semesters prior to Moderation, and each semester thereafter—to include orchestra, as well as chamber music where applicable to the instrument
- Performances: Moderation and Senior Project
Moderation should consist of a 25-to-40-minute concert that presents a variety of the student’s musical strengths, together with program notes and an explanation of the student’s proposed plan for further study. The Senior Project should consist of two parts: two substantial concert programs (60 minutes of music), supported by program notes and brief introductions from the stage; or one such concert and one lecture recital. Additionally, a substantial (60–80 pages) research or analytical paper on an approved topic, overseen by an adviser, may be substituted for one of the two concerts.
Course work: By the time of graduation, all music majors are expected to have successfully completed three semesters of music theory and three semesters of music history, including at least one course at the 300 level or above. In addition, music majors are required to complete one class in composition or, with the approval of the Music Program director, 4 credits in an equivalent course involving musical creativity.
Classical Instrumental Performance Faculty
Alexander Bonus is assistant professor of music at Bard College, where he founded and directs the Bard Baroque Ensemble. His role at the College also extends to the teaching of music history, theory, and performance practice courses. Bonus holds a PhD in musicology from Case Western Reserve University as well as MM and BM degrees from the Eastman School of Music. In 2011, the American Council of Learned Societies awarded him a competitive New Faculty Fellowship. Bonus previously taught at Duke University and directed Duke’s vocal and instrumental Collegium Musicum. His scholarship appears in Current Musicology, and Nineteenth-Century Music Review, as well as the new edition of the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments. He is author of the Metronome handbook for Oxford Handbooks Online and is a significant contributor to the forthcoming Cambridge Encyclopedia of Historical Performance in Music. His chapter “Refashioning Rhythm: Hearing, Acting, and Reacting to Metronomic Sound in the Experimental Sciences” appears in the sound-studies volume Cultural Histories of Noise, Sound and Listening in Europe, 1300–1918 (Routledge, 2017). He regularly presents lectures about musical time and performance practices at academic conferences across Europe and America. In September 2016 he lectured at the “Making Time in Music” international conference held at the University of Oxford. As an active continuo keyboardist and historic brass player, Bonus has performed with ensembles including the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Tafelmusik, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, Chicago Opera Theater, Folger Consort, Tragicomedia, Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra, San Francisco Bach Chorale, Musica Angelica, Apollo’s Fire, and the Newberry Consort. He is heard on the Boston Early Music Festival’s Grammy-nominated recording of Lully’s Psyché. Bonus regularly appears as continuo player with the American Symphony Orchestra, the Bard College Conservatory Orchestra, The Orchestra Now (TŌN), Bard’s Opera Workshop, and the Bard Festival Chorale. In 2016 he prepared TŌN and soloists from the Vocal Arts Program for performances of Handel’s Messiah at the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts.
Luis Garcia-Renart is professor emeritus and visiting professor of music at Bard College. He has also served on the faculties of Vassar College, the Piatigorsky seminars at the University of Southern California, and Yale University’s summer programs in chamber music. Garcia-Renart’s “supreme gift as conductor is his ability to inspire and elicit depth of expression from all his musicians, whatever level of technical ability,” writes music critic Kitty Montgomery in the Daily Freeman. He was born in Barcelona, Spain, and studied at the Music School of the National University and the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico. From 1951 until 1956, his cello studies were supervised by Pablo Casals. He also studied directly with Casals in France and in Puerto Rico until 1960, when he won a scholarship to study at the Conservatory of Moscow with Rostropovich and Khachaturian. Garcia-Renart attended the conservatories of Bern and Basel, Switzerland, and Trossingen, Germany, where he was a pupil of Sándor Veress and Sándor Vegh. Prizes awarded Garcia-Renart include the Casals International Contests in Paris in 1956, Xalpa in 1959, and Israel in 1961. He also received the Harriet Cohen Cello Prize in London in 1959. He is the former music director of the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra (1962–2004). In addition to conducting, Garcia-Renart has performed as a soloist in recitals and chamber concerts nationally and abroad. He joined the Bard faculty in 1962.
A dedicated chamber musician, violist Marka Gustavsson has performed internationally in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, the Philippines, China, and Japan. She has been a guest artist at the Bard Music Festival, Mostly Mozart, Vancouver’s Music in the Morning, the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, WQXR’s Showcase Concerts, Yale Faculty Artists’ Series, and Banff. Marka has premiered and recorded solo and chamber music of composers John Halle, Joan Tower, Kyle Gann, George Tsontakis, Yinam Leef, Martin Bresnick, Richard Wernick, Tania Leon, and Tan Dun. From 1999 through 2014, Marka served as violist of the Colorado Quartet, an award-winning string quartet, with whom she performed and recorded traditional and contemporary repertoire, from Beethoven’s Complete Quartets for Parnassus, to Laura Kaminsky’s Transformations. As a teacher, Gustavsson has given master classes at Yale, Eastman, Hartt, and Oberlin, and adjudicated competitions at Juilliard, Hartt, Yale, Astral Artists, and Banff. She has taught for several summers at the Yellow Barn YAP in Putney, Vermont. A graduate of Indiana University, Mannes College, and CUNY, her formative teachers include Joseph Gingold, Mimi Zweig, Felix Galimir, and Daniel Phillips. Gustavsson holds a position on the music faculty at Bard College and the Bard Conservatory of Music.
Described by the New York Times as “prodigiously accomplished and exciting” and as one of the piano’s “brilliant stars,” pianist Blair McMillen leads a life at the forefront of contemporary pianism. He has played concert halls and festivals around the world, and his repertoire spans from medieval manuscripts to today’s generation of up-and-coming composers. He has played concertos with the American Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall and given solo appearances with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Albany Symphony. In 2015 he undertook a three-week solo tour of Brazil sponsored by the U.S. State Department. McMillen is cofounder and codirector of the Rite of Summer Music Festival, an “indie-classical” outdoor concert series held on New York City’s Governors Island. He has served on the music faculty at Bard College since 2005, and he joined the faculty of the Mannes School of Music in 2017.
Zachary Schwartzman is a recipient of a career development grant from the Bruno Walter Memorial Foundation, and has conducted around the United States and in Brazil, Mexico, England, and Bosnia. His orchestral performances have been featured on NPR, including a national broadcast on Performance Today. He has served as assistant conductor for the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Opera Atelier (Toronto), Berkshire Opera, Opera Français de New York, L’Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Gotham Chamber Opera, Oakland East Bay Symphony, Connecticut Grand Opera, Berkshire Opera, and Opera Omaha, among others. He was associate conductor for two seasons with the New York City Opera, as well as conductor in their VOX series, and has been associate/assistant conductor for 15 productions at Glimmerglass Opera, where he conducted performances of Carmen and Jeanine Tesori’s A Blizzard on Marblehead Neck (world premiere). His credits as assistant conductor include recordings for Albany Records, Naxos Records, Bridge Records, Hyperion, and a Grammy-nominated world-premiere recording for Chandos Records. He was music director of the Blue Hill Troupe from 2004 to 2016 and is currently assistant conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra. Since 2012 he has appeared as both assistant conductor and conductor at Bard SummerScape and the Bard Music Festival at The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. He was recently appointed resident conductor of The Orchestra Now and music director of the Bard College Community Orchestra.
Patricia Spencer enjoys a career full of historic highlights: her highly acclaimed New York premiere of the Elliott Carter flute concerto; her acclaimed U.S. premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Kathinkas Gesang als Luzifers Requiem (staged scene for solo flute and electronic sounds); her Chinese premiere of Ge Gan-ru’s flute concerto, Fairy Lady “Meng Jiang”; her world premiere of Shulamit Ran’s flute concerto, Voices—the list goes on and on. Solo CDs on the Neuma label, and countless chamber music CDs with the Da Capo Chamber Players. Dozens of composers have written flute works for her, and the Da Capo ensemble boasts of more than 150 chamber music pieces written for them. About the Elliott Carter Flute Concerto: “Ms. Spencer’s impressive performance had all the ‘beautiful qualities’ and ‘extraordinary agility’ Mr. Carter could have asked for” (Anthony Tommasini, New York Times).
Erika Switzer is an internationally active pianist, teacher, and arts administrator. Heard on the stages of New York’s Weill Hall (Carnegie), Geffen Hall, Frick Collection, and Bargemusic, at the Kennedy Center, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, the Spoleto Festival (Charleston), the Bard Music Festival, and Stanford Live, she has also appeared across Canada at festivals including Vancouver’s Music on Main, Toronto’s Canadian Voices, and Ottawa’s ChamberFest. During her seven-year sojourn to Germany, she performed at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden and the Munich Winners & Masters series, and she won numerous awards, including best pianist prizes at the Robert Schumann, Hugo Wolf, and Wigmore Hall International Song Competitions. Devoted to the performance of new music, recent premieres include the 5 Boroughs Music Festival Songbook II (Matthew Aucoin, Jonathan Dawe, Evan Fein, Whitney George, Laura Kaminsky, Missy Mazzoli, Paola Prestini, Kamala Sankaram), the Brooklyn Art Song Society (Andrew Staniland), and Vancouver’s Music on Main (Jocelyn Morlock, Caroline Shaw). An upcoming recording release, English Songs à la Française, features her longstanding duo-partnership with baritone Tyler Duncan. Switzer is on the music faculty at Bard College and the Vocal Arts Program of the Bard Conservatory of Music, where her work centers on diction for singers, vocal coaching, and chamber music. She also has been on the faculty of several summer programs, including the Vancouver International Song Institute, the CoOPERAtive Program at Westminster Choir College, and the St. Lawrence String Quartet Seminar at Stanford. She received her doctorate from the Juilliard School. As cofounder of Sparks & Wiry Cries (sparksandwirycries.org), she contributes to the future of art song performance through publication of the Art Song Magazine, presentation of the Casement Fund Song Series in NYC, and the commission of new works.