The PRISM Quartet Presents Color Theory 2.0!

The Walden School is thrilled to announce long-term Walden collaborator PRISM Quartet's upcoming series Color Theory 2.0: Saxophones and Percussion / PRISM Quartet with Susie Ibarra and Tyshawn Sorey in Philadelphia and New York. The series will feature a piece by Walden alumnus Max Chung, winner of the PRISM/Walden School Commissioning Award. Click here for more information!


Walden Celebrates in D.C.

On the evening of February 10, 2018, more than 50 guests visited the Arts Club of Washington to share a few hours of refreshments, friends, and music together.

The evening was part celebration of the time and effort our board members devote to Walden and part raising Walden awareness in Washington. Walden alumnus Mackenzie Melemed played an outstanding set of piano music, adding an exclamation point to a wonderful evening with selections from Bach, Medtner, and Dorman.

Pre-concert refreshments

Our gathering of new and longtime Walden friends contributed more than $4,500 to Walden’s summer programs, making the evening a huge success! We want to extend special thanks again to Mark W. Ohnmacht of the Arts Club, Mackenzie for his wonderful artistry, and to members of the event host committee, for all that they did to make the evening a wonderful celebration of Walden.

Mackenzie performance

Sasha - Young Musicians Program

On September 20th, Sasha received a text on the year-round Walden group chat. It read: “Only 40 weeks, 00 days, 19 hours, and 22 minutes ‘till Walden 2018 begins!”

Her brain was on fire, because she did not feel so far away from the place she loves most. Sasha began her time at Walden at age 10. She remembers knowing, from her first hug by a faculty member she had just met and a roommate who welcomed her from the start, that Walden was special. She was surprised and encouraged to find that people reached out to her, wanting to discover more about her talents and her personality. She believes part of Walden’s sense of community comes from everyone learning to reach out to those around them and discover what makes them special. It made her want to learn about others and celebrate the diversity of her peers.

The first time Sasha sang Goodnight Music, she felt she would never forget the people at Walden. Everyone came together to commemorate the events of the day and the progress made as individuals and as a group. People come to Walden expecting a typical camp, but Walden helps people get comfortable being themselves in a community. For Sasha, Walden helped her learn to trust herself more and to be more assertive in school, with friends, and as a composer.

In 2016, Sasha wrote a festival piece at Walden that helped her discover, for the first time, her personal style.

It was a piece about dreams. The feedback and acceptance by her peers and mentors at Walden was life-changing. Hearing other people her age affirm her music inspired her to continue writing music. She now attempts to think about relationships and emotion with every piece she composes. She attributes this important aspect of her life to the community of Walden, and she thinks about it every day.

Sky - Teacher Training Institute

I 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 Young Musicians Program 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.


Francesca - Young Musicians Program

Francesca first came to Walden at age 9. She attended summer camps before, but usually felt lost and found it a struggle to fit in.

She immediately noticed that Walden was different. This camp emphasized not only creativity and music, but also acceptance and respect, which were just as important. Instead of feeling like she didn’t fit in, Francesca felt encouraged to open up and risk showing more of her personality and talents. She discovered that Walden faculty, even though they were professionals in their fields, collaborated with her as musical colleagues.

As she returned to Walden summer after summer, Francesca found herself taking a leadership role at Walden, encouraging young and new students to find their voice as she had. This past summer, an experience at a Composers Forum caused her to reflect on her own journey at Walden. A young boy was surrounded by incredibly talented musicians asking him questions about his composition. She felt as if she was watching him grow as an artist right before her eyes, and realized that her growth had started with experiences like these when she was new to Walden. Francesca attended Walden for the 7th time in 2017.

Walden has broadened Francesca’s understanding and knowledge of composition, music, and artistic creativity.

Music is a much more significant part of her life now. She takes composition lessons throughout the school year, she understands the importance of new music and new music ensembles, and, as a composer, she has gained invaluable experience collaborating with professional performers.

Walden means much more to Francesca than a place where her musical abilities grow. Walden helps her in her journey to better herself. She attributes her growth as an autonomous, confident leader, both among her Walden and non-Walden peers, to her time at the Walden School. She now has a network of supportive and creative friends all over the world. And, she understands how a strong community can foster creative thinking and personal growth.

Evan - Young Musicians Program

Evan sums up Walden as “a small paradise that opens you up to a whole world.”

At 15, he already loved music, but Evan was surprised at the depth and intensity of Walden’s curriculum, finding it challenging and intense. A prevalent attitude in the classroom was the idea that he should explore what it is about music and composing that drove him to succeed as an artist. Walden faculty and peers helped him realize how important it is to develop an individual voice by putting your own humor, passions, and personality on display. He was thrilled to discover a love for Bach at Walden, as well as a love of nature through music that was completely new to him. His abilities as a pianist grew exponentially throughout the summer and won an award for a piece he wrote at Walden. Now, he can’t imagine a future in music without composing. After attending Walden, Evan also feels like he has lifelong friendships in the Walden community and a network of friends and professionals in the music world.

Juli Anna, Evan’s mom, believes Walden was life-changing for Evan.

As a musician, the difference between Evan before and after Walden was like night and day. He seemed a year ahead after 5 weeks at Walden. She loved that students have the opportunity to disconnect from the outside world (specifically no phones or computers), focus on their talents, and enjoy the community activities and interaction. All this and more had an extremely positive effect on Evan. He matured by leaps and bounds as a musician, but she is also thrilled with how calming and eye-opening it was for Evan personally.

Kevin - Creative Musicians Retreat

“My experience with Walden started as a 25th anniversary gift from my wife.

She felt I needed to broaden my musical horizons and connect with other like-minded composers so her gift was to send me to the 2012 Creative Musicians Retreat. The experience was exhilarating, challenging and uplifting! I have since returned for the Creative Musicians Retreat in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

In addition to learning about contemporary music topics, Walden has given me the opportunity to compose for each of these retreats and have my music performed by first-class musicians. More than that, Walden gave me the confidence to pursue a degree in Music Theory and Composition at the State University of New York at New Paltz, which I just completed this past May. Aside from the Creative Musicians Retreat, Walden has also provided me opportunities to submit scores for two Composers Forums which they sponsored at New York City locations.

But the Walden experience is much more than learning the nuts and bolts of a particular set of topics.

It is much more than just composing pieces and getting them performed. Simply put, Walden is a family affair. Of course many organizations aspire to create a “sense of family” with staff, instructors and students, but the difference is that Walden delivers! One leaves Walden with a sense of belonging to a musical community much bigger and far more important than whatever one might bring to Walden. And the proof of this is so clear when one considers that many of the staff and faculty at each of the Creative Musicians Retreats I attended had spent many summers in their youth at Walden’s Young Musician Program.

So you see, Walden is not about some event you attend or some particular set of subjects to be learned. Rather, it is a unique family environment where creativity is encouraged and where everyone (faculty, staff and students) learns from each other. It is an experience you don’t forget and a feeling that only grows each time you attend an event.


Nathan - Guest Artist

In 1999, a Walden faculty member happened to be at the concert where Nathan’s sextet, Non Sequitur, was performing.

After the invitation, Non Sequitur arrived as an ensemble-in-residence in 2000. Nathan played student and faculty pieces until 2010, and he was able to return in 2017 with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Nathan fell in love with Walden. He never could have imagined such a wonderful environment existed for young musicians, and he wished he had attended something like Walden when he was younger. He reached Walden at a crossroads in his early career as a professional, and Walden became an influential and inspiring part of his journey as a performer. It reminds him of why he does what he does, and he considers himself lucky to have played hundreds of world premieres by faculty and students during his time at Walden. Now, 18 years after he first played at Walden, he often finds himself working with composers with whom he last worked when they were children attending Walden.

Nathan appreciates that although the focus and content of Walden’s programs is primarily music, what Walden really addresses is a sense of community needed by everyone. It is an enduring community of talent that has the same feelings of acceptance and inspiration year after year. It benefits students, performers, and faculty alike. Nathan feels truly privileged to be a part of Walden’s influence in the music community.

Alex - Young Musicians Program

“I have been involved with the Walden School as a student, faculty member, and administrator for many years and I have found that my experience in each of these roles continues to shape all aspects of my life. As a student, Walden let me discover my passion for music and develop a work ethic that set me on my artistic and career path as a composer and educator.

I would not currently be pursuing a PhD in composition if it were not for my time at Walden. I would not have taught music at a university for 5 years, traveled to Paris to study electronic music, or made most of the friends I have if Walden had not helped me realize my passion. It was the supportive community of inspiring people that led me that way. I try to create this environment in every musical, educational, and even personal part of my life.

What is particularly special about Walden is that it doesn’t just teach music. The people at Walden teach each other how to build and care for creative communities full of diverse perspectives. We just happen to do this through music. As a former student and current faculty member it is a privilege to be a part of this community, but it is not something that everyone gets to experience. The power of such a community is special and something worth creating in every part of our lives and sharing with the people around us.

There are plenty of musical programs and organizations that want to ‘make the world a better place.’ This is, of course, a daunting challenge and something that sometimes feels intangible or even unreachable. My time at Walden, however, has shown me that, under the right circumstances and with the right people it’s not so out of reach. I have witnessed time and time again how Walden creates creative, vibrant, and supportive environments for all of its participants. These environments are new worlds and by creating these worlds we also learn how to care for them and share them with others.

This is the most important lesson I’ve learned from my time at Walden and it is a lesson that can be applied to any field.

Walden students, faculty, staff, administrators, and supporters all create this community and are able to take this perspective into any other aspect of their lives. I think about it and live it every day when I meet with my students, when I design classes and curricula, when I collaborate with other artists, when I perform and compose, when I am in class, when I am with my friends and family, and when I think about what it means to be part of a community that is bigger than myself and bigger than music.

– Alex