April 28, 2011

New England Conservatory to Bestow Honorary Doctorates on Jorja Fleezanis, Speight Jenkins, Steve Reich, Leo Treitler

Commencement Exercises May 22 Will Feature Address by Fleezanis, Former Minnesota Orchestra Concertmaster, Indiana University Professor, Soloist and Chamber Musician

New England Conservatory will award honorary doctorates to four distinguished musical figures at its annual Commencement Exercises, May 22 at 3 p.m. in NEC’s Jordan Hall.  President Tony Woodcock will confer the awards on Jorja Fleezanis, Speight Jenkins, Steve Reich, and Leo Treitler. Fleezanis (pictured at right), who served as the Minnesota Orchestra’s long-running concertmaster and is now a professor at Indiana University, will give the commencement address. At the ceremonies, the Conservatory will also bestow degrees and diplomas (Bachelor of Music, Master of Music, Doctor of Musical Arts, and Graduate Diploma) on approximately 250 undergraduate and graduate students.  The exercises are open to the public.

The honorary degrees pay tribute to musicians who have made outstanding contributions as performers and teachers, administrators, composers, and musicologists.

Violinist Jorja Fleezanis is Professor of Music and holds the Henry A. Upper Chair in Orchestral Studies at the Jacobs School of Music, Indiana University. 
She was concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1989 to 2009—the longest-tenured concertmaster in the orchestra's history and only the second woman in the U.S. to hold the title of concertmaster in a major orchestra when appointed. Prior to Minnesota, she was associate concertmaster with the San Francisco Symphony for eight years.

A devoted teacher, Fleezanis became an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota's School of Music in 1990. She has also enjoyed teaching and mentoring roles with Round Top International Festival Institute in Texas; the University of California, Davis; the San Francisco Conservatory, the Music@Menlo Festival; the New World Symphony, and The Boston Conservatory, Juilliard School, and Interlochen Academy and Summer Camp.

Fleezanis has had a number of works written for her, including John Adams’ Violin Concerto and John Tavener’s Ikon of Eros, both commissioned by the Minnesota Orchestra. The latter was recorded on Reference Records. Fleezanis’ recording of the complete Beethoven Violin Sonatas with the French fortepianist Cyril Huvé was released in 2003 on the Cyprés label. Other recordings include Aaron Jay Kernis' Brilliant Sky, Infinite Sky on CRI, commissioned for Fleezanis by the Schubert Club, and, Stefan Wolpe's Violin Sonata performed with Garrick Ohlsson, on Koch International.

Speight Jenkins, General Director of Seattle Opera since 1983, is recognized nationally as a leading authority on opera, a politically active arts advocate, and one of the most influential and accomplished general directors in the country. His knowledge of opera is reflected in his company’s many innovative productions, substantial publications, and comprehensive education programs and services.

Jenkins has strengthened and extended Seattle Opera’s reputation as a Wagner center by producing all ten of Wagner’s major operas—including two very different Ring productions. In 2006, Jenkins held Seattle Opera’s first International Wagner Competition, developed to discover and promote outstanding young singers who show promise of major careers in Wagner operas.

Because of his passion for the arts and energetic leadership style, the Seattle Times named Jenkins one of the 150 most influential people who have shaped the character of Seattle and King County, ArtsFund presented him with its “Outstanding Achievement in the Arts” award, and Opera News cited Jenkins as one of the 25 “most powerful” names in American opera.

In 2008/09, Jenkins celebrated his 25th Anniversary season at Seattle Opera. In honor of his “immeasurable contributions to the city’s cultural arts and civic life” Mayor Nickels proclaimed April 25, 2009 as Speight Jenkins Day in Seattle. Jenkins received a Mayor’s Arts Award in September 2009.

Steve Reich has been called  "our greatest living composer,"  “...the most original musical thinker of our time” and “...among the great composers of the century.” From his early taped speech pieces It's Gonna Rain (1965) and Come Out (1966) to the digital video opera Three Tales (2002), a collaboration with video artist Beryl Korot, Mr. Reich's path has embraced not only aspects of Western Classical music, but the structures, harmonies, and rhythms of non-Western and American vernacular music, particularly jazz. "There's just a handful of living composers who can legitimately claim to have altered the direction of musical history and Steve Reich is one of them," states The Guardian (London).

In April 2009 Steve Reich was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Music for his composition Double Sextet.

Performing organizations around the world marked Steve Reich's 70th- birthday year, 2006, with festivals and special concerts. In the composer's hometown of New York, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Carnegie Hall, and Lincoln Center joined forces to present complementary programs of his music, and in London, the Barbican mounted a major retrospective. Concerts were also presented in Amsterdam, Athens, Brussels, Baden-Baden, Barcelona, Birmingham, Budapest, Chicago, Cologne, Copenhagen, Denver, Dublin, Freiburg, Graz, Helsinki, Los Angeles, Paris, Porto, Vancouver, Vienna and Vilnius among others. In addition, Nonesuch Records released its second box set of Steve Reich’s works, Phases: A Nonesuch Retrospective, in September 2006. The five-CD collection includes fourteen of the composer’s best-known pieces, spanning the 20 years of his time on the label.

In October 2006 in Tokyo, Mr. Reich was the recipient of the Preamium Imperial award in Music. This important international award honors achievement in the arts not covered by the Nobel Prize. Former winners of the prize in various fields include Pierre Boulez, Luciano Berio, Gyorgy Ligeti, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Richard Serra and Stephen Sondheim.

Leo Treitler is one of the central figures in American musicology.  He was born in 1931 in Dortmund, Germany, and is Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He is much admired for both his writings on Medieval and Renaissance music and for his influential work on historical analysis.
Having emigrated to the United States in 1938, Treitler studied at the University of Chicago under Grosvenor Cooper, receiving a BA in 1950 and an MA in 1957. He received an MFA from Princeton University in 1960 and a Ph.D. in 1967; there he studied under Oliver Strunk, Arthur Mendel, and Roger Sessions. From 1961 to 1965 he taught at the University of Chicago, and following this at Brandeis University and SUNY Stony Brook.

Treitler's major focus has been Gregorian chant and the earliest polyphony. He has also published a series of essays exploring historiography in music history, which were collected, with other works on music history and theory, in Music and the Historical Imagination. In this elegant book he develops a powerful statement of what music analysis and criticism in relation to historical understanding can be. His aim is an understanding of the music of the past not only in its own historical context but also as we apprehend it now, and as we assimilate it to our current interests and concerns. He elucidates his views through unique new interpretations of major works from the fifteenth through the twentieth centuries.

For further information, check the NEC Website. NEC’s Jordan Hall, Brown Hall, Williams Hall and the Keller Room are located at 30 Gainsborough St., corner of Huntington Ave. St. Botolph Hall is located at 241 St. Botolph St. between Gainsborough and Mass Ave.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, Contemporary Improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Collaboration Programs, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave
Boston, Ma 02115