Message from Seth Brenzel, Executive Director

Dear Walden friend,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying the holiday season. In this December edition of InterNetzo, be sure to read our “In the Spotlight” section to hear some inspiring reflections from Walden alumna and faculty member Renée Favand-See. You can also check the Community News section to read about some of the happenings in the lives and careers of fellow Walden community members. And be sure to check out information on the next installment in the Walden Online Workshop (WOW) series, coming up on January 13.

As we reach the end of 2020, I am filled with gratitude for the Walden community. Thank you for your participation, support, and enthusiasm through this unprecedented year. We have so much to look forward to in the year ahead. From all of us here at Walden, best wishes for a healthy, hopeful, and peaceful New Year!


In the Spotlight

Renée Favand-See

Renée Favand-See a composer and soprano who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her works explore the music of words, of natural and made environments, of emotions and spiritual questions. These investigations yield vocal music of all stripes, Musique Concrète-esque electronic pieces, lyrically driven instrumental music, and counterpoint or the relationships that unfold in the spaces between voices. She is also a Walden alumna and faculty member.

How and when did you relationship with Walden begin, and what has been your involvement since then?

I started going to Walden in 1985, and I heard about Walden from Rosie Hollander, a friend from middle school. So thanks, Rosie! We both loved music–she played the piano, and I sang in a children’s choir in Maryland. She told me about the camp, and I went the next summer. I was there for five summers, starting when I was 12.

Since then, I taught on the Young Musicians Program (YMP) faculty for more than 10 summers. I started when I was a senior at Eastman School of Music. I really appreciated the spirit of apprenticeship in the Walden community; my mentors had been my teachers, and those relationships evolved as we became peers. That was a special experience, and very affirming for me as a young musician. I’ve been teaching at the Creative Musicians Retreat (CMR) since 2015 and have loved that as well. I think all teaching at Walden is connected by a foundation of gratitude. Teachers and students alike are so grateful to be in this incredibly nurturing, stimulating, and creative environment. I look forward to CMR every year, knowing I will feel how much the participants appreciate the experience, a nurturing environment which is unique in adulthood.

Could you describe a favorite memory from your time as a Walden student?

It is hard to pick! There is one memory I bring up often when I’m teaching text setting (how to set text to music). As a student, I wrote a song cycle called Bird Songs, and one of the songs had a text by Walt Whitman from Leaves of Grass. He’s looking up at the sky and he sees a flock of geese, and the poem reads, “Ya-honk! And it sounds down to me like an invitation.” I took the word Ya-honk, and I just went for it in my song, writing, “YA-HONK! YA-HONK! YA-HOOOOONK!” I got grilled in the Composers Forum, and was asked, “Did you have to be so obvious in your text-setting with the word Ya-honk?” It was a type of text-setting where the melody line kind of Mickey-Mouses, really doing what the text means.

That lesson stayed very much on my mind. I write a lot of songs these days, it’s my favorite thing to do as a composer, and I always think about Ya-honk. For the longest time, I put any kind of text-setting thing in the piano, and just kept the voice steady. I was probably 16 when I wrote that piece, and maybe 15 years later, I realized my mistake wasn’t setting ya-honk so dramatically–my mistake was choosing a poem with the word ya-honk in it! What else are you going to do? But that lively discussion has stuck in my mind, and I always tell my students the ya-honk story when we’re discussing tasteful setting of a vocal line of text.

Another memory is from one of my first classes at Walden, which was a eurythmics class with Dede Ondishko. We sat in a circle and the first thing we did was say our names and notice the accent structure. That was when I realized that my name was totally iambic–Renée Louise Favand–and that has stuck with me. These seeds from when I was quite young have taken root and borne fruit in so many ways, all my life. It has been amazing. When I set a text now, the first thing I pay attention to is the natural rhythm of the words. The music of a poem is rhythm-based, so I’m always trying to listen to that. That first exercise where we got sensitized to the accent stress and the syllables of spoken word has been a part of me ever since.

Then of course the hiking and joy of the dances and the joy of singing…just being in your body. Music-making at Walden is embodied in a beautiful way that lives in me now.

Could you describe a favorite memory from your time on faculty?

I had this hotshot group of three girls in my musicianship class who were close friends, all around the same age and were very goofy and playful and sweet. We were doing a dominant-seventh pivot drill, and they were nailing it–they were doing all the resolutions, all the pivots, and it was amazing. It was so much fun to teach them because they were so hungry to learn and so facile with their musical language because of the wonderful grounding they had-they had all been studying Walden musicianship for a few years already. But the V4/3, the second inversion dominant seventh chord, made Danielle Oberdier laugh. Every time we got to singing V4/3, she would just break into giggles. It was a running joke, because we would try to get through the pivot drill and Danielle would start laughing in the middle every time.

Along with that, constantly witnessing students’ excitement around learning and creativity. It’s so inspiring–I learn so much from that and Walden is where I learned to teach. I really felt that beautiful exchange-I was teaching the students and they were teaching me all along the way how to be a better teacher.

I was also thinking about CMR, and we always do Pauline Oliveros’ Rock Piece as an orientation activity. There was one year when we did Rock Piece and the silence after was this velvety, sacred silence. My ears were burst open with bird song and the breeze and the breath and the not-silence of it, and the feeling of connection in our little community that had only been together for a little while but somehow that piece connected us. The sensitive responses of the participants after, how moved everyone was, grew out of how we shared that moment.

Outside of Walden, how are music and creativity part of your life?

I’m a composer, largely of art songs and choral music, and I think Walden planted some beautiful seeds with all the singing we do. I’m also a teacher–I teach composition, theory, and orchestration at Portland State University. And also as a mother! I am realizing that mothering is a very creative activity, and all my training as a teacher is bearing fruit in this other context, which is really interesting. Improvisation is a core idea at Walden, making you flexible in the moment so you can adjust and shift with the direction things are going in. Listening is such a big part of teaching, and such a big part of mothering. Just being in the present moment for what might happen. The first year of mothering felt like a living meditation–“Pay attention. What is happening? Respond in the moment in the most authentic way you possibly can.”–and that is the core of creativity as far as I’m concerned.

I also wrote a song at the beginning of quarantine for my friend Arwen, who is a vocalist. She asked 12 composers to write songs she could sing and play herself. It was such a tricky time with my son’s napping, so I really had to leave the house to compose, but it was early enough in the pandemic that no one was really leaving their houses, and going to my studio felt totally taboo. I actually composed in my car using a water bottle drone. We had this water bottle that made a gorgeous gong-like drone, so I figured Arwen could tap the water bottle and sing. So I composed with a water bottle gong in the car while my son napped. I felt proud of my flexibility in that moment, finding a way through.

What is a non-musical hobby that’s part of your life?

Hiking is probably my favorite. We try to go hiking all through the year, no matter the weather. It’s a way to get the squirrels out of your head if you’re feeling stressed or anxious, just get moving on the trail and breathe. For me, nature is a connector to the sacred. It brings you into the moment; “I’m here now, and this place is so captivating, I’m just here to enjoy it.” My son Morgan, who is turning three, loves hiking. He keeps telling us, “I want to live where I can walk to the woods.” That is a great dream to have. My first taste of hiking was at Walden, and it has been in my life ever since.

What is your hope or dream for Walden’s future?

Just that Walden continues to thrive, bringing deep personal growth to people – participants, teachers, performers, listeners – across all socioeconomic and geographic boundaries, and continues to touch hearts through the sacred ritual of music. Walden is doing that. That’s the amazing thing. It branches out more and more to places all over the world, and tries to offer students of all different backgrounds the opportunity to study there. It’s a healing force in the world, and I just want it to keep sending ripples outward in all these branching, beautiful ways.

News and Goods

WOW! Walden Online Workshops!

More Walden Online Workshops (WOW) are on the horizon in 2021! We are excited to continue sharing this series of lectures, demonstrations, classes, and presentations on a variety of musical topics presented over video call by The Walden School’s teaching faculty, artists, and special guests. Alumni of CMR, YMP, OYME, OCME, TTI, and JCC, parents, donors, faculty, staff, and artists are especially encouraged to attend WOW presentations. Members of the general public are also welcome to join.

The first workshop of 2021 will be on Wednesday, January 13, led by percussionist Matthew Gold.

In a Sound Place
Found Object Percussion
January 13, 2021, 7:30 pm Eastern

Discover the musical potential in the everyday objects all around us in this exploration of found object percussion. Using only materials collected from our environment, as well as our voices and bodies, we will discover new ways of making music together and new modes of listening. This workshop will trace a history of found object music through works by John Cage and Pauline Oliveros and will explore strategies for discovering, creating, and notating new sounds made with everyday objects. Learn to see the whole world as your instrument and be ready to make some noise(s) as we connect, create, and perform together!

Stay tuned for details, and write to for more information.

About Matthew Gold

Percussionist Matthew Gold is a performer, ensemble director, and educator who appears across the U.S. and internationally presenting concert programs with a focus on new and experimental music. He is a member of the New York-based new music group Talea Ensemble and the Talujon percussion group. Matthew is an Artist in Residence in Percussion and Contemporary Music Performance at Williams College where he directs the Williams Percussion Ensemble and New Music Williams, and is the Artistic Director of the annual I/O Festival of New Music. He is a frequent visiting artist at Walden, most recently at the Online Creative Musicians Experience in 2020.

Will you close 2020 with a gift to Walden?

The generosity of Walden’s donors-an extraordinary community of approximately 400 individuals-makes possible all that we do, both in-person and online. We are so glad you are part of our Walden community. As we plan for the coming year, will you donate to Walden to help us get there? Your gift of any amount helps keep Walden thriving for generations of creative musicians to come.

You can make a gift online at, or mail a check payable to The Walden School to our administrative office at 30 Monterey Boulevard, Suite E, San Francisco, CA 94131.

YMP students at a concert with Aurora Nealand & the Royal Roses in 2019

On behalf of our entire Walden community, thank you for your support. We can hardly wait to gather in person (hopefully!) in New Hampshire next summer, and for many wonderful summers to come.

2021 Summer Programs

Walden is earnestly and actively planning for a return to in-person programming in Dublin, New Hampshire, in 2021, with the understanding that pandemic circumstances may require our programs instead be offered again online next summer. Whether in-person or online, Walden is excited to offer our students, participants, and audiences another summer of transformative, creative music programs and presentations. We hope that you will plan to join us!

Our 2021 dates* are:

Young Musicians Program (YMP): June 26-August 1 (for musicians ages 9-18; 3-week option for students up through 7th grade June 26-July 18, 2021)

Creative Musicians Retreat (CMR): June 12-20 (for adult musicians, 18+, not otherwise eligible to be students at YMP)

Application materials and information will be posted on our website in early January, with a first round application deadline of February 1, 2021. Subsequent deadlines will be March 15 and May 1. Need-based financial aid in the form of tuition assistance is available. Please let us know if you have any questions or would like any additional information about Summer 2021 by writing to us at

*Dates for online programs, if necessary, will be similar to those for the in-person programming. 

End-of-year AmazonSmile shopping?

Do you still have some end-of-year shopping to do? Are you using to help you get ready for 2021? Don’t forget to use AmazonSmile! A portion of every sale will be donated to Walden.

Just go to and select “Walden School” (listed in San Francisco, CA) as your charity.

You’ll know it’s us, because you’ll see this information:

Mission: The Walden School inspires artistic expression and personal growth through experiential music programs.
Programs: Young Musicians Program, Creative Musicians Retreat

Community News

Andrew Barnes Jamieson 

On December 25, YMP alumnus Andrew Barnes Jamieson performed a live online solo piano concert, highlighting the complexity that has always been part of the holidays through unique piano reinterpretations of well-known holiday music. Andrew’s Christmas Day concert encouraged playful and meaningful celebration and reflection on this moment of our lives. Andrew’s live polytonal mashup work involves at least two recognizable melodies in two different hands, with independent/clashing tonalities and rhythms. You can watch a recording of the performance here.

Nathan and Sylvia Davis welcome first child

Nathan and Sylvia Davis have welcomed their first child, Llewelyn Milo Davis, who was born in November. Nathan spent eight summers as a visiting artist at Walden, including two summers as a member of The Walden School Players. Congratulations to the Davis family!

Maya Engenheiro to attend NYU

YMP alumna Maya Engenheiro has been accepted to New York University, where she plans to pursue a Bachelor of Music through NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, majoring in Music Business. Maya will start at NYU in the fall of 2021.

Mary Fineman featured on Art Show

Mary Fineman was featured on an Online Multimedia Art Show, Peace and Peaceful Activism, presented by the Diablo-Alameda branch of the National League of American Pen Women (NLAPW). Since 1897, NLAPW has promoted and supported the creative efforts of women nationwide. Mary performed two of her pieces as part of the show. You can watch the show on YouTube here, and a Meet the Artist segment with Mary here. Mary attended the Junior Conservatory Camp, Walden’s predecessor program.

Ofurhe Igbinedion completes PhD

Ofurhe Igbinedion has completed her PhD in Geography at the University of California, Davis. Her focus was critical race and feminist geography, and she worked on research assessing the health impacts of transportation plans in Sacramento County. Ofurhe completed her Bachelors in Geography and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago. She was a student at the Young Musicians Program for three summers. Congratulations, Ofurhe!

Digital premiere of Felix Jarrar short film

An operatic short film of Felix Jarrar and B. L. Foxley’s Stardust premiered in early December. The film was produced by Modular Opera Project, an initiative of Helios Opera, and ran December 4-13. Felix, a CMR alumnus, composed the piece and served as collaborative pianist. Each screening was followed by discussion with the creative team, with topics ranging from BIPOC representation in the arts to artmaking in the era of COVID-19 to the creation of a multi-genre solo show.

New album from Ted Moore

Ted Moore’s new album, bruit, was released on November 20. bruit is a portrait album of improvisations in conversation with collaborators Jenna Lyle, Ben Roidl-Ward, Yung-Tuan Ku, Emerson Hunton, Eric Krouse, Anna La Berge, and Tom Weeks. All tracks feature Ted improvising on electronics. Ted is a composer, improviser, intermedia artist, and educator based in Chicago. He is also a Walden alumnus, and has been on faculty since 2011. Anne LaBerge is a past visiting artist to Walden.

Amy Sham married

On October 8, Amy Sham married David Grant Smith in Cape May, New Jersey. Although a “DIY pandemic wedding” may not have been the original plan, Amy says the day was perfect. All our warmest wishes to Amy and David. Amy is an alumna of the Young Musicians Program.

January livestreaming concert with Kate Stenberg

On Sunday, January 31, 2020, violinist Kate Stenberg, cellist Mary Artmann, and pianist Ava Soifer will perform an online concert featuring works by Shostakovish, Dvorak, and Piazzolla. The concert will begin at 5 pm Pacific, presented by Music on the Hill. Music on the Hill has been presenting chamber music in San Francisco since 1998, and you can find concert details on their website. Kate is a past visiting artist at Walden.

Jonathan Thomas and Gail Nakano welcome a new baby

Jonathan Thomas and Gail Nakano welcome their new baby, Cassia Ruby Thomas, born at 3:01 pm on December 22, 2020. Jonathan was previously Walden’s Development Manager, and is now the Senior Manager of Individual Giving at Lyric Opera of Kansas City. Jonathan and Gail continue to support and stay connected to Walden, and Jonathan volunteers with Walden. We send congratulations and warmest wishes to their growing family.

We want to hear from you!

What’s been going on? If you have a recent or upcoming premiere, publication, award, new job or program, or a celebratory life event, please share the news. Email your news to

Stay in Touch
You can like The Walden School page on Facebook and join The Walden School private group to hear about events and opportunities throughout the year, including upcoming regional alumni Composers Forums and Holiday Parties. You can also find us on InstagramTwitter, YouTube, bandcamp, and at

A dance at Walden in 2019