Saturday, February 16, 2013


Linda first popped into my life when I had an office on the 6th floor of the Education Building and had just finished my stint as Chair of Music and Performing Arts and assumed directorship of the music education program. She struck me as buoyant and youthful, and reminded me of a bobbysoxer from the days of my past. She was a charming southern belle, and she was passionate about music. She had visited the musicology department in Arts and Sciences but did not feel at home there, so she decided to seek out the School of Education which is now called The Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development.

Right from the start I felt a rapport with Linda. I could sense her passion for music and her determination to continue to grow. She said little about her family life, except to say that her husband Greg was undergoing a crisis in his health and that she was devoted to caring for him and his well being. But she had a sense that music was calling her to explore new possibilities for herself. She wanted to know if NYU music education would provide her the freedom and support to do serious research. She pointed out she was a teacher, but she was also an organist with an enthusiasm for scholarly excellence. "Your experience will be what you make it,'' I said, "and you will find strong support and room to be original." She began her study as a part-time student with a true love for learning. She was an explorer and was constantly researching, writing, working for causes, and engaging her students in her personal and musical discoveries.

Her presence with her colleagues was uplifting, sustaining, and refreshing. She was constantly reassuring her fellow doctoral cohorts. She was critical but constructive, engaged in dialectical exchange, and most of all, a source of inspiration and encouragement. In everything she touched, there was a thirst for excellence and quality.

Her NYU odyssey began about seven years ago, and it has been a joy to be a witness to her inquiry and to help shape its direction. As she was entering the final stages of her research we made plans to meet in October, but then she sent a message that it was determined she was fighting cancer. I was optimistic that she would recover. As Christmas was approaching, she encouraged me to finish putting music to a Christmas poem I was writing. On November 24, she asked "How is the song coming?" Actually, I was so discouraged by her illness that I was struggling.

In replying to how the song was going, I wrote "Slowly... Trying to be traditional with a twist... Know what I need to do, but doesn't jell. Waiting in Favela Cubana for brunch with a friend ... Nice cold day with the promise of winter in the air..."

Linda wrote back: "Yeah, even looked like snow earlier.  Maybe that could be in the song, too.  I love it that you are such a Romantic, in addition, of course, to being a profound creator of new music!"

And so these lyrics came so fast:

"Maybe it is snowing
Christmas from above
Maybe winds are blowing
New Year hopes of love."

And these lines came as I thought of Linda and the extraordinary adventure we shared in music and her research and the ordeal she was facing:

"Fears disappear
And all that's here
Is all the Love of every year..
We see the truth of who we are
As bright as any Christmas star."

It was with great joy for me to learn that the music therapist at Sloan Kettering sang the song for her while Linda was able to follow the score with Greg's help.

Sadly, we lost Linda. Her husband Greg sent a message: "Following 2 weeks of Hospice care in our home, Linda died on Monday afternoon, January 28th.  Our daughter and I were with her, and our son joined us soon afterward. "

Her research was on the Third Chorale Prelude of Cesar Franck, his final composition which was not finished. Although fully notated, on the day he intended to put in the registration and interpretative markings he passed away, thus leaving a mystery concerning his intentions for the work. Linda's research is original, inquisitive, and inspiring. Almost in symmetry to her musical inspiration Franck, Linda had completed her research, transcribed the materials and needed only to add the finishing touches to her dissertation when she left us.

She was just beginning as a professor at NYU, mentoring M.A. students with their thesis requirements. I see her touches in the department everywhere. She continued to attend Proposal Seminar long after she had finished coursework to listen to our critiques and comments about the ongoing research. Her presence was such a source of inspiration. I see her still, sitting in the seminar, still inspiring students, still looking to me like a bobbysoxer in her pale blue sweater, wonderful smile, and buoyant optimism.

1 comment:

Frank Martignetti said...

A beautiful remembrance of a wonderful, thoughtful person I enjoyed knowing, but wished I'd gotten to know better.