Orchestral Ties

Jeffrey Turner

Carnegie Mellon alumni populate the ranks of the world's most prestigious orchestras, opera companies, musical theater productions and conservatory faculties (see snapshot).

Alumnus Jeffrey Turner, principal bassist for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (PSO), is proud to be among the ranks.

Returning to academia to pursue his master's degree in orchestral conducting was a longstanding goal for him. When the opportunity came along to study at CMU with Robert Page, the Paul Mellon University Professor and director of Choral Studies, it was one he simply couldn't pass up.

"Dr. Page has had a profound effect on me as a musician and as a person," Turner said. "We might discuss Mahler one day during a studio class, and he'd pull out a score that he used to lead the Cleveland Orchestra."

Page has conducted many of the nation's top choruses and orchestras, which includes previously serving as music director for Pittsburgh's Mendelssohn Choir and as guest conductor of the PSO on many occasions.

Additionally, Turner says the insight gained from Professors Donald Wilkins and Reza Vali — whom he counts among his faculty mentors — enables him to give current students instruction unlike what they'd receive elsewhere. His graduate education also affords his students a better view of their role in an orchestra as a whole.

With his ears now attuned to an entire ensemble, Turner looks forward to continuing his performance career, and one day, to expanding his role on the podium.

"The best thing about performing is that it continually inspires me to grow in musicality and expression, and not become too technical when teaching my students," Turner said.

When the day comes to trade in his bow for a baton, Turner will relish the changing role thanks to his studies at CMU.

"Students' enthusiasm when first playing a Mahler symphony is incredible. You know you're witnessing a landmark experience for those young musicians — and to be on the podium leading that is a dream come true for me."

Turner is one of 21 PSO members who also teach at Carnegie Mellon. Their instruments cover the gamut of strings (violin, viola, cello, double bass, harp); woodwinds (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon); brass (trumpet, horn, trombone, tuba); percussion (timpani, drums, marimba, xylophone); and piano.

Two of Turner's fellow PSO members are also fellow CMU alumni: cellist Charlotta Klien Ross and violinist Claudia Mahave earned their master of music degrees here.

The diverse and distinguished list of alumni below represents a sampling of what the School of Music's students have gone on to accomplish in their respective fields:

  • Jeffrey Behrens (BFA '03), Baritone, The Metropolitan Opera
  • Liam Bonner (BFA '03), Tenor, The Metropolitan Opera
  • Gary Chang (BFA '75), Hollywood composer of movie scores
  • Vivian Choi (AD '10), Recipient, Guido Alberto Fano Prize for Best Performance of Guido Alberto Fano's piano music in Italy's Guido Alberto Fano International Piano Competition
  • Andrew Clark (MM '02), Director of Choral Activities at Harvard University
  • Dale Clevenger (BFA '62) Principal Horn, Chicago Symphony Orchestra
  • Ilana Davidson (BFA ‘88), Soprano; featured on William Bolcom’s Songs of Innocence and of Experience (Naxos, 2004) which won Grammy awards for Best Classical Album, Best Choral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and Producer of the Year, Classical.
  • Valerie Debaele (AD '02) Principal Flute, l'Orchestre Philharmonique de Liege
  • Michelle DiBucci (BFA '82) music and drama faculty member, The Juilliard School
  • Ellen Dooley (MM '02) Flute, President's Own United States Marine Band
  • Graham Fenton (BFA '05), Tenor, Frankie Valli in Jersey Boys
  • Brook Ferguson (MM '06), Principal Flute, Colorado Symphony
  • Jacinthe Forand (PRP '98) Principal Flute, Quebec Symphony
  • Cristian Ganicenco (MM '97) Principal Trombone, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
  • Ricky Ian Gordon (BFA '80), Composer of critically-acclaimed opera and musical theater productions such as Orpheus and Eurydice, The Grapes of Wrath and Sycamore Trees; recipient, 2003 Carnegie Mellon Alumni Merit Award
  • Dr. Xin Guo (MM '95), Professor of Music Theory & Analysis, Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, China
  • Nathan Hall (MM '08), Composer, 2010 Fulbright Scholar
  • Bud Holmes (MM '10), Tuba, United States Air Force Heritage of America Band
  • I-Chun Hsieh (MM '95), Professor of Violin, National Taipei University of Education in Taipei, Taiwan
  • Patricia Prattis Jennings (MM '62), Steinway Artist; Principal Keyboardist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (1966-2006); first African-American musician to be awarded a full contract by a major American orchestra
  • Patrick Johnson-Whitty (MM '10), Bassoon, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
  • Keith Lockhart (MM '83), Principal Conductor, BBC Concert Orchestra; Conductor Laureate, Utah Symphony; Conductor, Boston Pops; Artistic Advisor and Principal Conductor, Brevard Music Center
  • Elisabeth McCafferty (Plunk) (MM '03) Flute, President's Own United States Marine Band
  • Emma Hancock McGrath (MM '06, AD '08), The Clowes Family Associate Concertmaster, Seattle Symphony Orchestra
  • Charles Metzger (BFA '71), Principal Trumpet, San Francisco Ballet
  • Philip Meyers (BFA '64) Principal Horn, New York Philharmonic
  • Freddy Varela Montero (PRP '03) Concertmaster, Orquesta Estable de Teatro Colon
  • Sarah Yunji Moon (BM '08) Principal Flute, Nova Scotia Symphony
  • Christiane Noll (BFA '90), Principal role in Broadway's Ragtime, 2010; Tony Award nominee
  • Asher Raboy (MFA '81), Music Director, Napa Valley Symphony
  • Sheela Ramesh (BFA '09), Mezzo-soprano, 2009 Marshall Scholarship recipient
  • Joel Reist (BFA '93) Principal Bass, Nashville Symphony
  • Gil Rose (MM '90, AD '92), Founder and Music Director, Boston Modern Orchestra Project
  • Carol Rosenberger (BFA '55), Pianist and co-founder of Delos Records
  • Martin Rosso (MM '05), Double Bass, Brussels Philharmonic
  • Brandon Schantz (MM '10), Percussion, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
  • Michael Skloff (BFA '81), Composer, wrote title theme of Friends sitcom
  • Heidi Skok (BFA '90) Mezzo-soprano, The Metropolitan Opera (1991-2003) - Founding Artistic Director, RESONANZ Albany Singer Intensive Festival
  • Howard Wall (BFA '72) Fourth Horn, New York Philharmonic
  • Susan Witt-Butler (BFA '67), Chorister with San Francisco Opera
  • Cody Wright (MM '04), Composer and member of the Apple Computer Music Group

Pictured: Jeff Turner (A'09) is the principal bass for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and a faculty member at the university

Related Links: School of Music

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