What Walden Means to Me…

  • She said it was the best summer of her life.

    – Parent of a Young Musicians Program student

A letter from Sky Macklay, TTI alumna & YMP Faculty Member

Sky Macklay- web resI first learned about Walden when I was an undergraduate music composition major at Luther College. My composition professor Brooke Joyce, who was an amazing teacher and mentor, had taught at Walden in the past and Walden’s musicianship pedagogy infused his teaching. Brooke encouraged me to attend Walden’s Teacher Training Institute and I went in 2009 (the summer between my junior and senior year). There, I immediately experienced the magic of Walden and was supported and challenged, learning how to teach the Walden musicianship course while improving my own musicianship and stimulating my compositional creativity. I was hooked. Thanks to my training at Walden, I was hired as a music theory and ear-training tutor at Luther during my senior year and I thus began my work as a practitioner of creative musicianship and composition pedagogy.

The summer after I graduated from college (2010) was my first summer as a faculty member at Walden’s Young Musicians Program, and I have been on faculty every summer since. I feel truly privileged to be able to spend my summers enmeshed in the caring, positive, and brilliant Walden community. It feeds my soul to see the positive impact that Walden has on students’ artistic, intellectual, social, and emotional development, and I am extremely proud of the high level of music that we create each and every summer. I met my husband at Walden; it is the kind of place where we could quickly see and fall in love with each others’ best selves.

I certainly would not be where I am today professionally if not for Walden. My first “big” commission, an orchestra piece for the Lexington Symphony, came through my involvement with Walden. This piece helped me gain admission into the DMA program at Columbia University, which has given me the financial support to study music, hone my craft, and build my career in New York City for the past four years. When I first moved to New York, I already knew many of the stars of the contemporary music scene from our interactions at Walden. I have had many collaborations and projects that blossomed from connections formed at Walden.

Just this summer, I received my biggest commission yet from Chamber Music America to write a new piece for Splinter Reeds, the quintet of Walden faculty member and Walden Players bassoonist Dana Jessen. One of my most critically acclaimed pieces, my string quartet Many Many Cadences, was originally commissioned by Walden for the 2014 YMP ensemble-in-residence Spektral Quartet. I went on to revise and rehearse the piece with Spektral over the next year and they recorded it on their 2016 album Serious Business.

Everything I know about teaching I learned at Walden. I am now in a place where I can use the Walden model to design a lesson about any musical topic. My pedagogical methods from Walden translate into the college classes, private lessons, and pre-college classes that I teach. Yet, my favorite place to teach is Walden, where I really get to know my students, have the freedom and support to create exciting new classes, and contribute to the ever-expanding body of Walden musicianship knowledge. Walden has deeply and profoundly changed my life and I’m sure it will continue to open doors and connect like-minded souls for every person who gets involved.

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