the piano program at cornell
Reflections by Xak Bjerken on making music of the past, present, and future
My studio is my sanctuary, my students, my inspiration and work. I try to create an atmosphere of sharing and striving for excellence without competition. My students learn the canonical repertoire and pair that with more adventuresome pieces outside their comfort zone. We all learn to question the score and articulate choices in terms of character, sound, articulation and phrasing in an historical context. Since coming to Cornell over twenty-five years ago, I have seen undergraduate and graduate students go on to performance and teaching careers, to be composers and music historians, and many combine their passion for music with “real life” jobs liked ER doctors, professors of philosophy and mathematics, quants on Wall Street, engineers, attorneys, genetic researchers, naval officers, and one is, I think, in the CIA!
During my time at Cornell, I have become an advocate for new music, inspired by my close friendship with the late Steven Stucky, and by the many brilliant composition students who have gone on to write some of the best music of their generation: Marc Mellits, Anna Weesner, John Fitz Rogers, Steven Burke, James Matheson, Yotam Haber, Jesse Jones, Chris Gendall, Xi Wang, Eric Nathan, Man Fang, Christopher Stark, Sean Shepherd, Loren Loiacono, Norbert Palej, Tonia Ko, and Jihyun Kim. My wife Miri Yampolsky and I look forward each year to inviting some of the greatest musicians from around the world to our annual festival, Cornell’s international chamber music festival, Mayfest.