The Graduate Conducting Program admits relatively few students each year to ensure individual attention. Due to this, all students receive ample podium time. All conducting students work regularly with three types of ensembles: community, collegiate, and professional. They work with the Bard Symphonic Chorus and the Bard Chamber Singers on Bard’s campus and they travel to New York City to work with the professional Bard Conductors Chorale.
Podium TimeStudents also have opportunities to conduct on chorus concerts and assist with the Graduate Vocal Arts program mainstage opera. Additionally, all conducting students have biweekly sessions with the Orchestral Conductors Ensemble, a small ensemble of members of The Orchestra Now and the Bard Conservatory Orchestra. Preparation for these sessions is done through regular class work with piano. Students also work once each semester with full orchestra in special reading sessions with the Bard Conservatory Orchestra.
Emanuel Cohen ’22
A. Second year
Q. What is your focus of study?
A. Orchestral Conducting
Q. Where is your hometown?
A. My hometown is Hewlett, New York.
Q. Where did you study before Bard College?
A. I spent my undergraduate years at the University of Rochester.
Q. What did you do this past summer?
A. I spent the summer of 2021 working as a lifeguard, beginning to run a new Dungeons and Dragons campaign with some friends, and continuing my application for citizenship in Spain, in addition to near constant score study in preparation for the current semester.
Q. What were your main reasons for choosing to attend the Graduate Conducting Program at Bard?
A. What initially stood out to me about Bard was the shared emphasis on orchestral and choral conducting regardless of track. While I knew that I wanted to focus on orchestral conducting, I have been a choral singer for most of my life so that repertoire holds a special place in my heart. Here at Bard, not only do the conductors sing in the choral ensembles, but we also have multiple choral conducting sessions with professional singers in Manhattan every semester! Additionally, I am working with the Undergraduate Opera Workshop this semester which is another wonderful opportunity to work with singers, as well as experience with a pit orchestra. As the application and audition process went on, another stand out feature of Bard was the incredible conducting faculty. James Bagwell is a pleasure to study from, week in and week out. He constantly pushes us to improve while being open to our individual interpretations. He is always accessible for a private lesson to work through a difficult passage, adjust technical details, discuss different approaches to the repertoire, offer advice, and anything else that I've wanted in my time here.
Q. What were the last three things you listened to?
A. Joseph Rheinberger - Symphony No. 1 in D minor, "Wallenstein"; Ola Gjielo - Nocturnal; Beethoven - Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (technically, I just conducted this but that counts).
Colin Roshak ’23Second year
What is your focus of study?Orchestral Conducting
Where is your hometown?Boston, MA
Where did you study before Bard College?I completed my undergraduate degree in clarinet performance at Oberlin Conservatory with Richard Hawkins before spending three years teaching and performing in Alaska.
What did you do this past summer?Since 2018 I've spent my summers teaching at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp (Tlingit Aaní, Tlingit and Haida lands). Sitka is a magical little arts haven in southeast Alaska. I spend the summers hiking mountains, performing alongside my fabulous colleagues, fishing for salmon and working with marvelously talented young artists.What were your main reasons for choosing to attend the Graduate Conducting Program at Bard?There are countless reasons, but the decision principally came down to Bard's artistic values and my conducting professor James Bagwell. Bard is a place that celebrates entrepreneurship, and I was excited by the prospect of being encouraged to carve my own path. Early on, James demonstrated a unique commitment to his students. He offered extra trial lessons and was always willing to answer questions. His welcoming nature and enthusiastic advocacy for the program was a strong indicator that Bard would be the place for me.What were the last three things you listened to?The birds outside my window, Anna Thorvaldsdottir's In the light of Air, and Carry Me Over by R.O. Shapiro.
Emmanuel Rojas ’24
I am currently a “first” year graduate student at Bard.
What is your focus of study?
Where is your hometown?
Boyle Heights, Los Angeles, CA.
Where did you study before Bard College?
I obtained my BM in bass trombone performance from the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach. Then I got my first MM (bass trombone performance) at the Thornton School of Music at the University of Southern California and continued there to pursue a DMA in the same major but with music theory/analysis, arts leadership, and opera conducting elective fields.
What did you do this past summer?
I made the last minute decision to move to Bard earlier than planned and work for the Health and Safety team for Summerscape/Bard Music Festival. The highlight of the summer was last minute subbing and performing with the American Symphony Orchestra for Summerscape’s production of Richard Strauss’ Die schweigsame Frau on bass trombone.
What were your main reasons for choosing to attend the Graduate Conducting Program at Bard?
One of the main reasons in choosing to attend is the well-rounded curriculum the program offers that is needed for the modern day conductor, all thoughtfully curated by Professor James Bagwell. Another is the resources that the college offers to the Conservatory, such as having our own Frank Gehry concert hall that our orchestras can not only perform in but even regularly rehearse in. It is literally a home away from home after working as an usher at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles for 7 years. Another is the Inclusive Excellence in Music Scholarships offered within the conservatory. Coming from an immigrant/working class family, this scholarship allowed me to finally pursue a conducting degree by eliminating the financial obstacles that would otherwise deter other talented musicians from similar backgrounds in pursuing our dreams.
What were the last three things you listened to?
Der Leiermann, Winterriese Franz Schubert, Thinkin Bout You, channel ORANGE Frank Ocean, and Weird Fishes / Arpeggi, In Rainbows Radiohead.
Photo by Aya Rebai
Class of 2014
"I had an amazing time studying with the faculty at Bard and am so grateful to have made great friends who happen to be stellar musicians. I had way more enthusiasm than skills on my first day at Bard...my teachers and colleagues together really challenged me to improve my musicianship without ever defeating my passion."
Alumni SpotlightYou're such an advocate and pioneer for new works and living composers, having conducted over 200 world premieres--has new music always been a passion of yours? If not, when did you discover your passion for it?
New music has been a passion for me from the instant that I discovered it, but it was not until a year or so before I started at Bard that I learned that composers were alive and well and creating incredible work. In fact, one of the things that I enjoy the most about working in new music is that I am in a constant state of discovery--I get to discover new music everyday! My most important goal is to help as many people as I can to enjoy that same thrill of discovery that I've made into my life.
How has Contemporaneous developed as a group, since its inception at Bard in 2010? It is thriving in New York and throughout the country, and it seems like it will only keep growing! What has it been like to go on that journey with the group?
The early years of Contemporaneous could truly only have happened at Bard, and I'm sure many alumni reading this newsletter know this story quite well--even from an insider perspective! The currency of Contemporaneous is, and always has been, imagination, which Bard students have in spades, so it should be no surprise that so many amazing musicians and composers came together to play and create the music we all wanted to hear. Yet, I still wonder at the immense amount of work that Bard musicians put into Contemporaneous as long as eight years ago, as well as the outpouring of support for the ensemble from faculty, staff, the student body, and the broader community. I am exceedingly grateful to every single person who made music with us or came out to hear us at Bard am so glad to be working with and playing for so many of them still today. This is a thrilling and meaningful journey that would never have even begun without the people of such a special place.
Contemporaneous has a largely educational component to it, and you are also on the faculty of the Special Music High School in the city, as well as a conductor for Face the Music (the nation's only youth music program dedicated to the works of living composers). What is your favorite part of working with young musicians? Has working with them influenced your own work in any way?
The most important thing that I think making music can offer young people, whether nor not they are conservatory-bound, is a practice of empathy. I strive to lead rehearsals, classes, and workshops in a way that emphasizes creativity, listening, collaboration, and ownership among students. Because music requires both a strong sense of individuality and a sublimation of the ego, it is particularly good means of creating an empathic experience in a room. i think the world would be a better place if all young people had that experience on a regular basis. Far from teaching it, I would say that I learn empathy from the experience of teaching, and when that sense is really palpable in a classroom, it's incredibly rewarding.
What are you most excited about in your upcoming season?
It's impossible to choose for me, but I'm always the most excited about the project that I'm working on at any given moment. Right now, I'm in Bethesda, Maryland, where I am working on Iron & Coal , a Beth Morrison Projects show set to premiere May 3 and 4 at the Strathmore Music Center. It's an evening-length multimedia production with music by Jeremy Schonfeld, a singer/songwriter with an amazing voice and a really keen dramatic sense, who wrote this song cycle about his relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor. I have arranged the songs for a cast of singers, Contemporaneous, several DC-area choirs, and the Maryland Classic Youth Orchestra--a total of about 250 performers! This is such beautiful and moving material that I have been immersed in for the past two years, and I cannot wait to share it with a metropolitan area particularly in need of true stories that affirm life and love.
How has your education from Bard shaped you as an artist?
I had an amazing time studying with the faculty at Bard and am so grateful to have made great friends who happen to be stellar musicians. I had way more enthusiasm than skills on my first day at Bard. Throughout my six years at Bard, my teachers and colleagues together really challenged me to improve my musicianship without ever defeating my passion. The broad liberal arts education I had at Bard is also very formative to who I am as an artist. So much of my work today is about giving context to the music that I perform, both instrumental and operatic--I find myself drawing on the courses I took outside of the Conservatory frequently.
What is your favorite memory from your time at Bard?
I'm struggling to isolate a single moment from my time at Bard that stands out as my favorite--there are so many great times! A random memory that I love, though: does anybody remember when somebody kept pulling the fire alarm in Robbins and nobody fessed up? This must have been 2012. All the residents of the biggest dorm on campus had to work several hours in lieu of compensating the Tivoli volunteer fire department for their troubles. Jimmy Haber (UG '14) had the idea to get together all the musicians in the dorm and form the Robbins Philharmonic, and we ended up doing a few concerts on and off campus. I can't help smiling at that memory--talk about turning lemons into lemonade!
What do you like to do in your down time from conducting and teaching?
Luckily, my work is also my favorite pastime, so I love to spend time studying scores, making production plans, and listening to music I've never heard before. At Bard, I got into the habit of attending multiple shows per week, and I still do so. One fun side project I'm working on is a podcast that Contemporaneous is currently producing. We'll be releasing a six-episode season later this year--please stay tuned! Hiking and backpacking are longtime passions that I'm only able to indulge occasionally these days, but I always leap at the opportunity. Lately, I've also been reading a lot of Virginia Woolf, James Baldwin, and Yuval Noah Harari.
What is the most important piece of advice that you would give to current students and recent alumni?
The community at Bard is particularly encouraging to students who have creative ambitions, so I hope that current students will make as much of that asset as they can. The connections with students and faculty that they work with will be lasting and meaningful personal and professional connections. I can't say that I'm in any kind of position to give advice to recent alumni, but I will say that I recently went back to campus to see the opera triple bill and was blown away. I hope you'll all go back and see a show at Bard sometime!
Life after Bard
The unique and hands-on opportunities available to the Bard Conservatory Graduate Conducting Program have lead our students to exciting and varied careers. Distinctions of our graduates include:
Ensembles and Institutions: BBC Symphony; Brooks School, director of choral and classical music; Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music Orchestra, assistant conductor; Collegiate Chorale, assistant conductor; Hilliard Ensemble; Luzerne Music Center; New York Youth Symphony; Opera Philadelphia; Tulsa Oratorio Chorus, assistant artistic director
Festivals: Bang on a Can Marathon; Night at Proms; Opera Company of the Highlands
Venues: Carnegie Hall; Le Poisson Rouge; Lincoln Center; Merkin Concert Hall