Carnegie Mellon University
February 23, 2018

Volunteer of the Week Ben Tisherman

By Jay Farrell

“It’s not enough to say ‘Oh, I like that,’ or 'Ewww, I hate that,' about a piece of music," Ben Tisherman told his Osher at CMU class Beyond the Notes last week. “You need to be able to formulate an aesthetic argument for or against the piece, to figure out why you connect with it or not. That’s what I hope people will be better able to do after they take my class. I want to make your next visit to the PSO a better one, whether you’re a seasoned or more occasional concertgoer.”

In case you’re wondering, what all of this means is to analyze a piece of classical music for its character, harmony (consonance/dissonance), texture, timbre (which instruments), and melody.

Ben, 23, is a 2018 Master’s Degree candidate in Clarinet Performance at CMU’s School of Music. After graduation, he plans to stay in Pittsburgh. Though he entertains the idea of getting a Doctorate in Musical Arts (DMA), he says it’s time for a break. “I’ve been in school since I was four years old. I think it’s time for a little time off.” And he performs. In addition to playing with CMU’s Philharmonic and Wind Ensembles, he has taken outreach performances all over Pittsburgh, including a Wind Quintet that tours various Pittsburgh Public Schools, and has developed concerts for the Bruderhof Christian Community.

He comes to Osher at CMU via paternal grandmother, Barbara Tisherman, who brought her family up on Beeler Street and who has been an Osher member since the 1990s.  It’s his mother’s side of the family, though, that’s musical. Filled with clarinetists, to be specific. An uncle played Principal Clarinet for the Louisiana Philharmonic. A cousin is a freelance clarinetist in New York, playing for the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and others. “You should also include,” Ben said, “that my mother’s father was my very first clarinet teacher.”

Ben’s twin brother Nick, whom Ben calls his best friend, is also a musician, but he’s the renegade of the family, playing oboe in the Colorado Symphony.

You can take Ben’s next Beyond the Notes class during the second session of Osher at CMU’s 2018 summer term. If you took the first class and liked it, sign up again: this time, the class will deal more with music from the Classical period.

This Sunday, February 25, Ben will be playing principal clarinet in Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 with the Carnegie Mellon Philharmonic, 7:30 pm at Carnegie Music Hall, 4400 Forbes Avenue in Oakland, between the Carnegie Museum and Library.