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Kimberly Marshall's directorship ends on a high note

July 02, 2012

Every musician knows the terms “crescendo” (growing or progressively louder) and “vivacissimo” (very lively).

They also can be used to describe Kimberly Marshall’s six-year term as director of the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: much has happened, at a lively pace.

Even with budget cutbacks, the School of Music has formed new community partnerships, launched a new off-campus concert series, organized a nationally acclaimed new prototype for large ensembles and opened the doors for new internship possibilities.

All the while, Marshall, who holds the Patricia and Leonard Goldman Endowed Professorship in Organ, has kept up a busy recital schedule and taught seven or eight graduate students each year.

She has even managed to practice a bit.

But now it’s time for Marshall to return to her role as a professor and recitalist. As of June 30, she has relinquished her title of director of the School of Music.

Her recital schedule is already full. Just back from performing at the Lufthansa Baroque Festival in London, she will travel to Ireland in August to chair an organ competition. September will see her in Winston-Salem, N.C., for a fund-raising concert at historic Salem College, where she will play on the school’s Flentrop Organ, and then Cornell University, where will she will perform and give a presentation on American organ music.

In mid-October she will go to Sion, Switzerland, to give a concert on what is considered the oldest playable organ in the world. “Parts of the Sion organ may date to the 14th century,” Marshall said.

Following Sion, she will head to northern Sweden to give a talk at the Piteå Organ Symposium & Festival 2012, where she also will perform on the Acusticum, a new instrument that fuses organ, MIDI and computer-generated music.

Her presentation there is titled “Changing Approaches to the Interpretation of the Music of J.S. Bach in the Second Half of the 20th Century.”

At home, she also will stay busy. “I plan to make my own pedagogic videos, similar to Kahn Academy videos, and practice three to four hours a day. I need time to learn contemporary music.”

Marshall also is already planning her annual concert with a colleague. This year, she will perform with trombonist Doug Yeo, who is retiring from the Boston Symphony and joining the ASU faculty. “The concert will be titled ‘Sonic Awakening,’ and it will be on Nov. 11,” Marshall said. That concert also will feature Yeo performing on the serpent, an early version of the trombone.

The new director, when he or she comes aboard, will find a school that, Marshall jokingly says is “The New American Music School.”

She says she is grateful to ASU President Michael Crow for his support of the school, which has enabled it to establish partnerships with Arizona Opera, the Phoenix Symphony, ASU Gammage, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Phoenix Theatre and the Musical instrument Museum.

“Despite budget cuts in every year which I served as director, we have been able to move forward in important ways, creating bridges to the profession for our exceptional students,” Marshall said.

With Phoenix Theatre, ASU students obtain roles, understudy positions and earn Equity points.

Student ensembles and faculty are featured in a new Monday evening concert series at the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, and perform at the Musical Instrument Museum. At the MIM there are also internship possibilities, Marshall added.

Marshall also played a key role in creating the MIM’s organ display, according to Bill DeWalt, president and director.

“Kimberly was one of the first people I sought out when I moved to Arizona to oversee the creation of MIM,” DeWalt said. “She has been extraordinarily helpful in so many ways. We did not want to devote the space that would be needed for a huge pipe organ so Kimberly suggested that we commission the building of a small organ that would be playable and that would help to demonstrate how much larger organs function.

“We have also sent a film crew to document her playing of significant organs in Guanajuato, Mexico; in Toulouse, France; and in Florence, Italy. Through Kimberly we also established the great collaboration with ASU's music school to have students and faculty do afternoon concerts in the acoustically superb MIM Music Theater.

“In these and so many other ways, Kimberly has facilitated the partnership between MIM and ASU. I am personally honored to count her as a friend.”

The Phoenix Symphony’s new partnership with ASU moved the finals for the biennial Bösendorfer Piano Competition from ASU to Symphony Hall, where the finalists will perform with the orchestra.

New also is a “study cover” program with Arizona Opera, where ASU students can study any role that’s being performed and work with the cast.

Scott Altman, general director of Arizona Opera, said, "I have had the privilege of working closely with Kimberly Marshall over the past two seasons as we launched a unique collaborative enterprise between Arizona Opera and the ASU School of Music.

“Thanks to Kimberly's exceptional leadership and open-mindedness to new partnerships we have created a new program for voice students at the School of Music whereby singers get unprecedented access to a professional opera company.

“Working with Kimberly has been a distinct pleasure and yielded a very positive groundbreaking program for both the opera and the school."

The School of Music also has collaborated with ASU Gammage to bring in noted guest artists to work with the students, such as pianist Menahem Pressler.

The school’s Visiting String Quartet residency, which has featured the Juilliard, Tokyo, Brentano and St. Lawrence string quartets, has afforded ASU students unparalleled opportunities to work with professional musicians.

Also, the school “created a mariachi leadership council to foster a vibrant new mariachi program in conjunction with the School of Transborder Studies,” Marshall said.

Following ASU’s ties with schools in China, the school has started working with Nanjing University to recruit students. “At Nanjing University, 60 music students audition for every space,” Marshall said. “Our goal is to find spaces here for some of those students.”

Also under Marshall’s direction, the school revamped the way students participate in the traditional music school ensembles such as concert band and orchestra, creating a more flexible, student-centered program.

Gary W. Hill, the Evelyn Smith Professor of Music and director of ensemble studies, said, “Kimberly Marshall served as our school's director during the most difficult period in the institution's history. What is remarkable to me is that Kimberly not only dealt with the problems inherent with multiple and extraordinary budget reductions, but regarded each setback as an opportunity to think creatively about the school's future.

“As a result, we have become a School of Music that is looked upon by others as a center for innovation."

Marshall is also proud of the faculty’s accomplishments during the past six years. “We have a 94 percent student retention rate,” she said. “Also, during my administration, 14 faculty received tenure. Two of those were exemplars. Three were promoted to full professor.”

The School of Music also supports the Arcadia residential community, where students in the Herberger Institute can live together and support each other as freshmen. “There are four practice rooms for music students there, with two new pianos,” Marshall said. “Professors meet the students, and they have dinners together.”

Marshall, who has taught at the Royal Academy of Music, London, and Stanford University, emphasized that she does not take credit for all of the school’s accomplishments on her own. “I had a fabulous team,” she said: Jeff Bush, associate director; Jody Rockmaker, assistant director; and Theresa Cox, business operations manager.

Now that someone else will be taking over as director, Marshall’s teaching and performing career will be soaring once again.

She’ll be “volante” – flying.