Founded in 1905 as a single position within the Department of Agriculture, Charles Seeger (father of Pete) established the department and the first musicology course in the country. His composition student, Henry Cowell, became California's first major composer. Leading 20th-century composers Ernest Bloch, Roger Sessions, and Andrew Imbrie subsequently taught at Berkeley.
Today, about 3,400 undergraduates enroll each year in more than 70 music courses and master classes. About 70 graduate students work toward MA and Ph.D. degrees in composition and scholarship, the latter with options in the history and literature of Western music and ethnomusicology.
The department's interdisciplinary Center for New Music and Audio Technologies is one of three leading centers of computer music in the world.
Ranked first of its kind in the country, the music library contains 160,000 books and scores, 45,000 sound and video recordings, and impressive collections of rare manuscripts and musical instruments, including a Stradivarius violin.
Department performing groups - most open to the community - include the Chamber Chorus, Collegium Musicum, Gospel Chorus, Javanese Gamelan, University Chorus, University Symphony, and Wind Ensemble. About 60 concerts are presented annually in 700-seat Hertz Hall, including, for 44 years, free Wednesday noon concerts that have become a campus and community tradition.
The Campaign for Music
As part of Cal's $1.1 billion New Century Campaign, the Department of Music's $10 million fund-raising effort is well under way. Its three "bricks and mortar" projects include:
A new music library: The library's holdings far exceed present shelving capacity. For every volume acquired, another must go into off-campus storage. In honor of a major gift from a Music Department alumna, the new building will be named the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library.
Renovating Morrison Hall: Housing classrooms, offices and practice rooms, Morrison needs updating and enlarging.
Restoring the Powerhouse: Designed by John Galen Howard in 1904 and currently used for storage, the old Powerhouse will be restored to an intimate performance and rehearsal space. No changes will be made to the exterior, known for its WPA mosaic murals depicting street musicians and artisans.
For more information on the campaign, phone (510) 643-1113.
For more information about the Music Department, phone: (510) 642-2678 or check out its web site at www.ls.berkeley.edu/dept/music/dept.html
Olly Wilson, composer and chairman of the Music Department, grew up in St. Louis with music all around him: jazz, blues, gospel, popular, and classical. His father, an excellent tenor, had all his children learn to play the piano so they could accompany him.
Wilson took up the clarinet in grade school, adding the string bass in high school. By age 15 he was earning money as a jazz and rhythm & blues musician, backing up the likes of Chuck Berry. He was also starting to write down and perform his own jazz melodies.
Wilson went on to Washington University in St. Louis, thinking he would become a band director. He studied clarinet and bass with top players in the St. Louis Symphony, later joining the bass section of the St. Louis Philharmonic. And he continued to play jazz piano and clarinet.
"All this was invaluable preparation for composing," he notes.
Encouraged by music professors and intrigued by the formal study of music theory and composition, Wilson decided that composing was for him. Before graduating in 1959, he won acclaim for two chamber works.
"Composition was a way of expressing myself," he recalls. "It was exciting."
Wilson earned his M.Mus. in composition at the University of Illinois - at the time one of only two places in the country where you could study electronic music. He became a pioneer in the field, winning first prize in the first international competition for electronic music in 1968 for "Cetus."
Wilson came to Berkeley in 1970, where he has risen through the ranks to become the Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers Professor of Music.
In 1971, thanks to a Guggenheim Fellowship, he traveled to Ghana to study the music of West Africa for a year. Simultaneously he was named director of UC's Education Abroad Program there - an experience that led to his appointment as Berkeley's Assistant Chancellor for International Affairs 1986-90.
In 1974 Wilson was asked to be the first Faculty Assistant for Affirmative Action. In that role, he spearheaded development of affirmative action programs that have changed the face of Berkeley over the past two decades.
Meanwhile, he continued to compose prolifically and eclectically. His "Sinfonia" for orchestra, commissioned and recorded by Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, has been performed as far away as Moscow.
His most recent composition for orchestra, "Shango Memory," was commissioned by the New York Philharmonic and premiered Feb. 19. Now he's at work on a large commission for the Chicago Symphony, "Hold On," based on the spiritual of the same name.
Bonnie Wade claims several Music Department firsts: first woman professor, first ethnomusicologist, first specialist in a non-Western culture. After graduating from Boston University in 1963 with a B.Mus., she spent 2 l/2 years working her way around the world with two friends.
What prompted the odyssey was an earlier experience in Cuzco, Peru, high in the Andes mountains. She suddenly heard "a wonderful flute melody come floating up from below, and it changed my life. It was unlike anything I'd heard before. I decided it wasn't a good thing that we grow up not knowing or appreciating music from other cultures."
Returning to UCLA's Institute of Ethnomusicology, she put her international experience to good use, producing an MA on 19th-century Japanese koto music. After another year in India, she wrote her Ph.D. dissertation on Indian classical vocal music.
Wade came to Berkeley in 1976, after four years teaching at Brown University, quickly establishing a program in ethnomusicology.
"I'm fortunate to make my living doing what I truly love: teaching and research," she says. Administrative duties, however, have pulled Wade away from these two loves. Since 1992, she has been Dean of Undergraduate Advising for the College of Letters and Science.
Richard Taruskin has done it all: performed as a professional gambist and choral conductor, taught music history and performance practice from the Renaissance to the present, written music criticism for The New York Times and The New Republic, and become the world's top scholar of 19th- and 20th-century Russian music.
All this is most fitting for the Music Department's eclectic, inclusive style. In recognition of his achievements, Taruskin has just been named the Class of 1955 Professor of Music.
His latest publication - a two-volume, 1,757-page opus on the works of Stravinsky - was recently called "a magisterial study" and "a staggering achievement" by The New York Times Book Review.
In 1987, Taruskin left his tenured post at Columbia, where he had received all his degrees, for Berkeley. "I liked the (Berkeley music) department's style," he says. "It combines history, analysis, and critical work. The job was heaven-sent. The only thing I miss about New York now are the delis."
Taruskin started playing cello at age 11, then became interested in all things Russian because of family roots and relatives there. His mother was a piano teacher and his father, a lawyer, played violin and viola.
Having learned Russian as an undergraduate, Taruskin spent 1971-72 in Moscow on a Fulbright Fellowship researching his doctoral dissertation on Russian opera and drama, published as a book in 1981.
Rebekah Lee chose Cal over a conservatory because she wasn't sure how serious she was about the piano. But after considering a double major in music and molecular and cell biology, and enjoying courses in sociology and Chinese, she decided, with some trepidation, to go for a career as a musician.
"This is something I can live with for the rest of my life," she says. "Anything else would be just a job. This is a way of life."
She has applied for graduate work at most of the top East Coast conservatories. At press time she was awarded the Music Department's Hertz Fellowship - an opportunity to study for a year anywhere in the world with an outstanding teacher. Her choice is Paris, where she hopes to study with Yvonne Loriod, widow of composer Messiaen.
"To be a professional musician or not is something I've struggled with all my life," she says. "It's both an inspiring and a discouraging life. But coming to Cal has shown me what I want."
On "good days," Lee practices about four hours. She has been known to exhibit the "Morrison tan" - the distinctive pallor of students who spend too many hours in the basement practice rooms of Morrison Hall.
Of her music courses, Lee cites chamber music as the most important. "It teaches you to listen in a new way, to be musically flexible, and the importance of communication."
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