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Fisher Center

Undergraduate Program

Student Profiles

Emma Schmiedecke '14

Emma Schmiedecke Where are you from?
New Jersey, just outside of New York City
What are your two majors?
Cello performance in the Conservatory and Art History in the College.
Who is your teacher?
Peter Wiley
Why did you choose Bard?
I chose Bard for two primary reasons: my teacher, Peter Wiley, and the multitude of performance opportunities the Conservatory offers its students. My friends at other conservatoires often don’t believe me when I tell them all the well-known musicians I’ve worked with and how many performances I’ve done here, often alongside the faculty members.
What or who are your musical influences?
Jacqueline du Pré was the first cellist with whom I really connected through her recordings. I first heard her recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto, her signature piece, around the time I thought I wanted to begin studying the cello and that sealed the deal for me! I fell in love with her playing, vivacity, and spirit; she was and still is a huge inspiration.
What is it like to work with your teacher?
My teacher, Peter Wiley, was one of the primary reasons I chose to attend the Bard College Conservatory. I had my first masterclass with him when I was 11 years old and had wanted to study with him ever since, so working with Peter as my primary teacher was a huge goal for me. He has truly shed new light on the way I approach playing and preparation over my years of study with him here at Bard. His standards are extremely high, but it is a welcome challenge to try and meet them, and those standards are ones that he stresses we make for ourselves more than anyone else, to always keep raising the bar. Thinking about the music before I even pick up the cello, hearing it in my head long before I play it - those were concepts I learned from him that I know I will carry with me the rest of my playing life.
What are the facilities like?
We have three main facilities for teaching and practicing: the new Bitó Conservatory Building which was just dedicated last spring, the small practice room building nicknamed “Little Bitó” just down the path from the main Bitó building, and the Blum Music Building. My favorite music facility, and probably my favorite building on the entire campus, is the Frank Gehry designed Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts. It is truly a magnificent space and work of art, all in one building.
How do you spend your free time at Bard?
When working on a double major, free time can be rare! However, when I do have some free time, I enjoy spending it with my friends - we often try out new restaurants in the surrounding area since there are so many to choose from.
What would a day in the life of a Conservatory student look like?
Art History, my second major, is more writing intensive rather than exam based, so if I am not practicing or rehearsing, I am most likely in the library writing papers. However, a typical day for me would begin by practicing in the morning, followed by a lunch break, a seminar class, rehearsals and/or more practicing, dinner, and then coursework in the evening. I do my best to plan my days around how and when I tend to work the most efficiently, depending on the task; I prefer practicing in the morning and studying in the evening, with rehearsals and classes scheduled in between.
What are the last 5 songs you listened to?
  • “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” by Ralph Vaughn Williams, performed by the City of London Sinfonia
  • “Angels” by Wax Poetic featuring Norah Jones
  • “Dance for Victor”
  • “La Caravane” by Caravan Palace
  • by Toots Thielemans
  • “Burn” by Ellie Goulding
What is the best musical or life advice you have received?
A quote from my parents through the words of Henry David Thoreau: “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” That basically says it all.
What surprised you about Bard when you started studying here?
The thing that most surprised me when I started at Bard was something that became one of my favorite things about Bard: the diversity of the people and their many interests. I have never met a more inquisitive, interested, and adventurous group of college students whom I am lucky to call my friends!
What is the relationship between your college major and your musical studies?
Since I chose an artistically academic field, the similarities and connections between art history and music are numerous and very strong. My Senior Project for art history was titled From Muse to Musician: Portraits of Women and Music at the Turn of the 20th Century, which I completed in my fourth year. I deliberately chose to combine music and visual art for this project in order to study the impact of one art form on the other. You would be surprised how many visual artists were avid musicians and/or music lovers, as well as how many musicians were visual artists as an avocation. Almost all of these artists, both visual and musical, worked and socialized in the same circles and often influenced each other’s work. I find studying these webs of association fascinating!
What is your favorite performance experience?
There are so many to choose from, it would be so difficult to pick just one! Performing the Septet in E-flat Major, Op.20 by Ludwig van Beethoven with Daniel Philips on violin and Marka Gustavsson on viola was a true highlight and wonderful performing experience. Members of the Conservatory performed a special, very select side-by-side concert of Bach’s St.John Passion with Maestro Botstein and Rufus Müller in March 2013, where I not only performed as a continuo and obbligato soloist with the American Symphony Orchestra, but was also mentored by and performed alongside leaders in the field of historical performance, such as cellist Myron Lutzke, all of which made for an unforgettable experience. The Bard Conservatory Orchestra tour of China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan in the summer of 2011 was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. We do so much here at the Conservatory, it truly is hard to pick only one!
What are you most excited about this year?
I am thrilled that the orchestra will be embarking on another tour this summer, this time of Eastern Europe. We will be performing in Poland, Russia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Austria, and Germany. I can’t think of a better way to see that part of the world than by performing, especially with the Bard Conservatory Orchestra!
Major accomplishments:
Most recently, I was a visiting artist at The Banff Centre in Canada, where I coached with composer John Corigliano on his piece for solo cello Fancy on a Bach Air, which I played to open The Banff Centre’s Music for a Summer Evening concert series. In addition, I am the featured cellist on international opera/pop singer Measha Brüggergosman’s forthcoming holiday album to be released this winter, recorded at The Banff Centre. I won first place in the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra’s Young Artist Competition with whom I played the Lalo Cello Concerto, and I recently appeared with the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra performing Bruch’s Adagio on Celtic Themes. In the recent past, I have been principal cellist with the The Banff Centre Festival Orchestra, Round Top Festival Institute Orchestra, and the New York Youth Symphony.
Why would you recommend Bard to a prospective student?
For students who are interested in conservatory level musical training but who also consider a solid academic education very important, the Bard College Conservatory of Music offers a chance to pursue both without having to sacrifice one or the other, offering a high- level musical education through the Conservatory as well as an education from a top liberal arts school through the College.
Future goals:
I am passionate about solo performance and chamber music, as well as both historical and contemporary performance, so I would like to forge a path for myself in the performing world that includes all of these musical facets!