CONTACT: Diane Manuel, News Service (650) 725-1945;
Talent showcase spotlights faculty musicians Jan. 30
As the Saturday afternoon rehearsal got under way in Dinkelspiel Auditorium Jan. 17, the classical quintet was jazzed.
"We're hoping there will be a talent scout or two in the audience," said violist Paul Brest, who holds down a day job as dean of the Law School when he isn't appearing in concert.
Pianist Condoleezza Rice nodded approval in rhythmic time, digging into the ivories and building up steam for an approaching molto crescendo.
"Yes," she said, easing off the sustaining pedal. "Paul and I are really looking to step down as dean and provost."
Music lovers, prepare. The All-Campus Faculty Showcase that opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 30, in Dinkelspiel Auditorium will be a debut to remember.
Sponsored by the Music Guild, the benefit performance will support student scholarships in the Music Department and spotlight the talents and stage presence of faculty from a number of departments. Tickets are $15 general admission, $10 students, and can be purchased through the Music Guild, 723-1780, or at the Stanford Ticket Office, 725-2787.
"My family's gotten used to hearing the cello at every hour of the night," Walter Hewlett, director of the Center for Computer-Assisted Research in the Humanities, said about the hours of practice he's been putting in. "Even the cats sleep through it now."
Jim Gibbons, former dean of the School of Engineering, current special counsel to the president and self-taught trombonist, hesitated when he was first asked to perform. But he counted up the months to show time and decided he could get his lip in shape by late January.
"It is only likely to get me into trouble," he said of the upcoming performance. "But I'm putting my mouth where my money is."
Gibbons has been a long-time advocate for music on campus and in 1991 established an "Engineers in the Arts" fund to provide scholarship money for engineering students to pursue lessons at the Music Department. The fund has been continued under his successor, John Hennessy.
Other faculty headliners include Art Barnes, former director of bands; George Barth, associate professor (performance) of music; Michael Marmor, professor of ophthalmology; Brad Osgood, professor of mathematics; Alan Sklar, associate clinical professor of psychiatry; Richard Sogg, professor of ophthalmology; and Paul Stark, professor of radiology.
"When I first approached Dean Gibbons three years ago about having a faculty talent performance, he howled with laughter," said Barbara Greenwood, program coordinator for the Music Guild. "But then he said he would help me identify suspects, and all the key people we contacted were more than willing to help out. Our only guideline was, 'We want it to be informal and we want everyone to have fun.'"
Alan Sklar was one of the first to sign up. The founding violinist of the Manzanita Piano Quartet and a solo and chamber music performer in numerous stage and radio recitals, Sklar often plays in the weekly Bing Music Series concerts at the hospital.
"It's a pleasure to be involved in something with the Music Guild because it's such a helpful organization in promoting music on campus," he said. "When Barbara said she wanted this to be fun, we decided to play something light, to break up the more serious numbers."
Sklar and his accompanist, pianist Carolyn Smith, will perform Fritz Kreisler's Variations on a Theme by Corelli and Pablo de Sarasate's Romanza Andaluza, Op. 22, No. 3, and Tarantelle, Op. 43.
"Sarasate was the greatest violinist at the turn of the century, a prodigy who got his first Stradivarius from Queen Isabelle at age 12," Sklar added. "He drew on Spanish dances in composing the brilliant, catchy encore pieces for violin and piano we'll perform."
Leading off the program on Jan. 30 will be the recently constituted "Trombone Ensemble" of Gibbons, Barnes, Osgood and Stanford graduate Phil Salsbury, a founder of SEEQ Technology and former lecturer in electrical engineering, who was one of the first graduate students of Stanford's Integrated Circuit Laboratory. The quartet will perform a Bruckner composition, some of the Goldberg Variations of Bach and "Here's That Rainy Day," plus a number of closely guarded "surprises."
Osgood will perform on the trombone that his father used to play with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and Gibbons will follow in the footsteps of his brother, who was a trombonist in the U.S. Navy Fleet Band.
After playing first trombone in the Texas All State High School Band, Gibbons said he chose a career in engineering because he thought "playing music as an engineer would be easier than practicing engineering as a musician."
Michael Marmor, a clarinet player and former drillmaster in the Harvard University Band, has assembled a trio with two colleagues from the medical center to perform Beethoven's Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11. Paul Stark will perform on cello and Richard Sogg will accompany on piano in what he refers to as his "Dinkelspiel debut."
Then there's "The Surprise Ensemble," also known in Peninsula music circles as the Paul Brest Quintet. Violinists Andrea Chavez and Karen Lindblom join Brest on viola, Rice on piano and Hewlett on cello for the first and fourth movements of Robert Schumann's Quintet in E-flat, Op. 44 for piano and strings.
"I'd like to play the first movement non-legato section well enough not to trip up the strings," Rice says of her performance goals.
Although she played parts of the Schumann when she was in college, Rice added, "If you don't play it for 25 years, no, you don't have it in your fingers anymore."
Rice gave her first concert at age 5 in Birmingham, Ala., and at age 10 she was the first black student enrolled in the Birmingham Southern Conservatory of Music. After her family moved to Denver, she enrolled at the Lamont School of Music at the University of Denver and at age 15 won a regional "Young Artist" competition.
Rice began college as a piano performance major at the University of Denver. But after participating at a summer Aspen Music Festival, she decided her future probably did not lie in music.
"I had to come to terms with the fact that I was pretty good but not great," she said. "Thank God I found the study of Russian and changed my major in my junior year of college to political science."
For the past three years Rice has been playing on Wednesday nights with the Brest quintet and also studying piano with George Barth. Rice and Barth will perform the finale of the faculty talent showcase, playing Brahms' Variations on a Theme of Haydn for two pianos.
As Barth circled the stage in Dinkelspiel during the recent quintet rehearsal, he jotted down notes in his Schumann score and snapped his head in time to the accelerating measures.
"I'm listening for what Condi's doing to make every solo as comfortable as possible for the quintet members, helping them into and out of solos," he said. "This has got to be one of Schumann's best pieces, written at one of the really good moments of his life, and it's filled with joy."
Back at the Steinway, Barth's student was concentrating on accented half-notes and color changes and promising her colleagues that she would keep the sustaining pedal down, "by popular demand."
"There are so many things you're never asked to do in solo music that you have to do in chamber music," Rice said. "But there's a lot of room in these great Romantic pieces for experimentation, too. Ideas keep popping into your head and you just have to try them out."
Following their Dinkelspiel date, what's the next gig for the Brest Quintet?
"We're a lot like the football team," Hewlett said. "We never look past the next point."
By Diane Manuel