Message from Seth Brenzel, Executive Director

Seth Brenzel headshot

Season’s greetings!

I hope you enjoy this edition of InterNetzo, filled with both seasonal and evergreen Walden goodies.

We are very excited to be hosting Walden holiday parties (New Year’s parties?!) in January. Please read on to find details about these wonderful events, and to RSVP!

We are so grateful to the many donors who have already given generously to support Walden’s 2024 summer programs through contributions to Walden’s 2024 Annual Fund. Will you support Walden today with a year-end contribution?

Applications for Walden 2024 are open, and so far this year, we have received a record number of applications for both of our programs! Our next application deadline is February 1, and there are several Young Musicians Program (YMP) information sessions coming up. Please spread the word, and I hope to see you (or your family member, friend, teacher, student, colleague, neighbor, etc.) in Dublin in June!

This edition of InterNetzo also features a profile of Tessie McGough and Solon Snider Sway, two YMP alumni who recently joined Walden’s Board of Directors, along with a roundup of competitions and calls for scores, and some exciting community news.

I wish you a very Happy New Year, and I hope to see you at a Walden event soon!


Seth Brenzel signature

Seth Brenzel
Executive Director

Walden Holiday Parties

Warm up with Walden holiday parties!

Walden community members will be gathering for holiday potlucks in cities throughout the country in January. So far, we have three confirmed dates:

  • New York City: Friday, January 5, from 6 to 8 pm
  • Portland, Oregon: Saturday, January 6, from 3 to 5 pm
  • Seattle: Sunday, January 7, from 3 to 5 pm

These events are open to Walden and Junior Conservatory Camp (JCC) alumni, faculty, staff, artists, donors, and board members, as well as friends and family. Please save the date and help us spread the word!

RSVP by email or call (415) 587-8157. When you RSVP, please let us know what you would like to bring, and we will send you the address.

And if you are interested in hosting a party in your area, please email us. We are so grateful to this season’s hosts and the many volunteers who have hosted Walden holiday parties over the years.

Year-End Giving

Thank you to the many generous donors who have made year-end gifts to Walden! Your contributions will help us offer life-changing musical experiences next summer to 100 students across our two programs, including critical student scholarships and inspiring artist residencies.

It’s not too late to make a contribution! Make a donation online, or see below for more ways to give. Gifts postmarked on or before December 31, or online gifts made before 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on December 31, can be counted toward the 2023 tax year.

Donate Today

Thanks again to our loyal and generous donors for empowering our students to pursue their love of music and creativity. Your gifts keep Walden flourishing for generations of creative musicians to come.

Ways to Give

  • Send a check payable to The Walden School at 7 Joost Avenue, Suite 204, San Francisco, CA 94131. If your check is postmarked on or before December 31, 2023, your gift will count in the 2023 tax year.
  • Give onlineYour gift made online by 11:59pm Eastern Time on December 31, 2023, will count in the 2023 tax year.
  • Arrange a matching gift from your employer.
  • Make a pledge. Contact us for more information.
  • Make a gift of stock shares.
  • Donate your car through Donate for Charity.
  • Join the David Hogan Society by including Walden in your estate plans. Contact us for more information.

Contributions to The Walden School, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law.

For more information, call (415) 587-8157 or email us.

Give the Gift of Walden

Bring some summer magic to the holiday season and support Walden School programs and initiatives with your order of Walden merchandise.

For the Holiday Season, enjoy 30% off of all merchandise orders through January 31.

We have shirts, baseball caps, canvas totes, stickers, mugs, magnets, keychains, pens, pencils, and more.

See what’s available and fill out an order form here.

Orders can be placed by check or money order, or via credit card/PayPal. Please contact Mindy Williams, Walden’s Administrative Manager, or call the Walden office at (415) 587-8157 if you have any questions.

Call for Memories and Photos

Attention alumni! We are renewing a call for treasured memories and photos from your time at Walden or the Junior Conservatory Camp (JCC), to be included in a 50th/70th-Anniversary memory book.

Please aim to keep your reflections to a maximum of 250 words.

Alumni are also invited to share up to five treasured photos with the community to be included in the memory book.

Please send your memories and photos to us at We look forward to hearing from you!

Apply for Walden 2024

The winter-round deadline is February 1

The winter-round deadline to apply to the Young Musicians Program (YMP) and Creative Musicians Retreat (CMR) is February 1. We encourage you to share the news with your friends, family, colleagues, students, and teachers.

Walden’s 2024 programs:

  • Young Musicians ProgramJune 29 – August 4, 2024, Dublin School, Dublin, New Hampshire (for pre-college musicians, ages 9-18)

Application materials for both programs are available on our website.

Write to us at with any questions.

Apply Today

Young Musicians Program (YMP) Online Information Sessions

Join us to learn more about the music camp that changes lives.

Do you know a student who writes songs or arranges music? Or a young improviser who wants to strengthen their musicianship and meet like-minded peers? Or a music teacher who might like to learn about Walden’s unique curriculum?

Join us at one of our online interactive information sessions, featuring presentations and Q&A with Walden’s Executive Director, Seth Brenzel, alongside YMP leadership, faculty, staff, and students.

All YMP Info Sessions are held on Zoom and begin at 7 pm Eastern / 4 pm Pacific.

Learn more and register for one of the info sessions below:

Thursday, January 18, 2024

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Thursday, March 21, 2024

These events are open to prospective students, music teachers, and anyone else who would like to learn about Walden’s flagship program for musicians ages 9 to 18.

Competitions and Calls for Scores

Featured opportunities for composers

Walden encourages the sharing of opportunities and resources for composers, including competitions and calls for scores that may be of interest to our community. We maintain a searchable list of competitions, awards, and calls for scores on our website. Opportunities are often posted in Walden’s community Facebook group as well.

Here are some opportunities we are highlighting this month:

Walter Beeler Memorial Composition Prize

The Ithaca College School of Music, Theatre, and Dance invites composers to submit original compositions for wind ensemble/concert band. The winner will receive a cash prize of $5,000. There may also be the opportunity to perform the winning work with the Ithaca College Wind Ensemble in the following academic year, with travel and accommodation support of up to $1,000 for the winning composer. Apply by January 8, 2024. 

Heartland Symphony Composition Competition

Heartland Symphony Orchestra is a 50-piece volunteer, nonprofit, community orchestra located in and serving the central Minnesota area of Brainerd, Little Falls, and the surrounding rural communities. HSO invites composers nationwide to submit original orchestral compositions. Winners will receive a $1,000 monetary prize, an opportunity to work with HSO and its conductor, and a recording of the concert. Apply by January 21, 2024.

The Robert Avalon International Competition for Composers

Through this competition, Foundation for Modern Music honors its late Artistic Director Robert Avalon. The competition is open to submissions of solo and chamber music (up to 5 performers) composed by junior, high school, college and professional composers, with awards for first and second place in each category. Apply by January 30, 2024.

Eight Strings & a Whistle Composer Competition

Held every two years, the Eight Strings & a Whistle Competition invites composers of all ages enrolled in an accredited degree program at the time of application to submit a work composed for flute, viola and cello. Eight Strings & a Whistle will perform the World Premiere of the winning composer’s work in the Fall of 2024. The winning entrant will also receive a working rehearsal with Eight Strings & a Whistle, a featured interview on the Eight Strings & a Whistle website and a stipend of $300 to help defer travel expenses. There is a $12 application fee. Apply by February 1, 2024.

If you’re aware of an opportunity that Walden students, alumni, faculstaff, and friends should know about too, please contact us.

In the Spotlight

Tessie McGough and Solon Snider Sway

Tessie McGough

In the midst of last summer’s Young Musicians Program (YMP), Walden’s Board of Directors held its annual summer meeting on the campus of the Dublin School. For two days in July, this group of dedicated volunteers met to work on plans for Walden’s long-term growth and sustainability.

Walden is very grateful to Christine Dokko and Loring Catlin, Jr., who both rotated off the board after completing their board terms. Both Loring and Christine made numerous contributions to the work of Walden’s board during their service to Walden, and we look forward to staying in touch for many years to come!

Two new directors joined the board at its July meeting: Tessie McGough and Solon Snider Sway. Both YMP alumni, Tessie and Solon are currently the youngest members on the board, and we are excited to profile them in this edition of InterNetzo. Tessie attended YMP from 2005 through 2007, and Solon attended in 2011 and 2012. Below, they share their reflections on Walden and the perspectives they bring to their new roles on Walden’s board.

How did you first get involved with Walden?

Photo: Tessie as a YMP student (right) with Freya Waley-Cohen

Tessie: My mom somehow found out about Walden and suggested that I should apply. This is when I was 11, and I thought it sounded great. And thanks to Walden for providing a lot of generous financial aid that made it possible for me to attend, and to come back for a second summer after that. Then when I got to high school, I moved on to other things, but I had three incredible summers at Walden.

Solon: I did a lot of music growing up, mostly performance-based music study, but then decided that that wasn’t the path I wanted to go down and heard about Walden from a close friend and about its amazing programming and community and decided to try it out, and I immediately fell in love with everything about it. I went back again for my last two years of high school. I wish I had discovered it earlier because I would have gone more, but it totally changed my trajectory in terms of my relationship with music and also my career path in so many ways.

Do you have any favorite memories from your time at Walden?

Photo: Solon as a YMP student (left) with Ted Moore, Tyson Laa Deng, and Meade Bernard

Solon: My first “Apple” dance, hearing my teachers play that song and sing it, and just being around so many friends that I felt really comfortable with—that was one of my first moments of feeling true community through music. I immediately sensed how much that song meant to people at Walden, even though it was my first time hearing it. I think that’s a really good example of what Walden can be, community through music, that song and the whole spirit and energy of Walden dances. I felt so included at those events and nobody was alienated. I feel like it was a space where people felt really comfortable and free to express themselves. It’s kind of like taking all the stuff we learn about how to make music in the classroom and putting it in a social space or a dance hall.

Tessie: I remember getting to Walden and thinking, “Oh my God, everyone’s older than me,” and then immediately these older girls—Morgan [Kusmer] and Danielle [Oberdier] and Cara [Haxo] and Lydia [Shaw]—they all immediately welcomed me. And we all hung out on the swing for a while and I remember thinking, “They don’t even know me, why are they being so nice to me?” They just had an incredibly generous spirit. That kind of encapsulates Walden. Even today, I think like all the people I’ve met are just kind of similar in that respect, the minute you say, Walden, then it’s like “you’re one of me!”

Recently I was at a friend’s place for Diwali, and we were watching a lot of Bollywood music videos. One of them came on and I said, “Wait a minute, I recognize this”—because of Walden! One of the specialty classes I took involved pop music from around the world, and I impressed a lot of people. And it was just an amazing moment that showed much I was exposed to at Walden.

What are you engaged in currently, and what are you excited to bring to Walden’s board?

Solon: I teach music mostly. I have a youth choir, 6th through 12th grade, and I teach college. Since leaving Walden, I’ve taught all the way from kindergarten up to age 80, and I’ve been hugely influenced by everything I learned at Walden. It’s one of the main motivators for how I approach teaching music: encouraging people to think about what music is on the broadest level when they start their relationship with music. And I try to carry what Walden taught me, which is that you can create your own path through music, by improvising and composing, figuring out what music means to you and finding your own language. I found that to be extremely useful as a teacher and as a student. As I’ve gotten involved with more and more organizations, and continued to realize how important Walden was to me, I thought joining the board might be a good way for me to give back to Walden.

Tessie: After Walden, I went to Harvard and studied economics, and I also played in the Pops Orchestra and the Mozart Society Orchestra, which is smaller chamber orchestra. That was really fun. After graduating, I worked at the Brattle Group in Boston for three years as an economics consultant. Now I work at Meta as a data scientist. I finished my MBA at Chicago Booth in 2022 and now I work supporting the VR devices team. In joining the board, I’m really excited to have an opportunity to contribute back to Walden after Walden gave me so much. And hopefully some of my tech experience will be useful. I want to appreciate the flywheel that is Walden and help support it as much as possible.

Community News

Laura Cocks included in Top 30 Musical Professionals of 2023

Flutist Laura Cocks has been named by Musical America as one of the Top 30 Professionals of the Year, a distinction awarded to musicians, administrators, and educators whose unique efforts “ensure the health of the artform and its essential value in our lives, now and for generations to come.” Cocks has been a visiting artist at Walden in multiple roles: as a member of The Walden School Players, and with TAK Ensemble and the International Contemporary EnsembleMusical America’s profile highlights Laura’s accomplishments as a performing flutist and commissioner of new repertoire for flute, as well as the activities and collaborative ethos of TAK , of which Laura is Executive Director. In addition to performing and commissioning new music, TAK also has a record label focused on emerging composers, and a podcast featuring interviews with composers and performers.

Riley Ferretti’s Dona Nobis Pacem performed by the Washington Master Chorale

A choral work by CMR alumna Riley Ferretti, originally composed for Walden’s Creative Musicians Retreat (CMR) last summer, was given a Washington, D.C. premiere on December 10 by the Washington Master Chorale under the direction of Thomas Colohan, who served as choral director at CMR for the past six summers. Ferretti’s Dona Nobis Pacem was premiered in June by the CMR chamber chorus. The work was included on the Washington Master Chorale’s program “Sweet was the Song” alongside a program of Christmas carols and other holiday repertoire.

Audiobook by Alicia Jo Rabins released

The audiobook version of Even God Had Bad Parenting Days, by YMP alumna Alicia Jo Rabins, was released this month. Rabins, who read the audiobook herself, describes the book as “a series of micro-essays, many of them quite personal, about how Jewish traditions can support us through the difficulties and joys of pregnancy, birth and raising little ones.” Rabins is a writer, musician, composer, performer, and Torah teacher based in Portland, Oregon.

Felix Jarrar named Resident Artist Coach at Opera Naples

Felix Jarrar, a CMR alumnus, has been engaged as the Resident Artist Coach at Opera Naples in Florida for winter 2024. He will spend two months coaching in the company’s young artist program and serve as principal rehearsal pianist for its production of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly. Felix is a pianist, coach, and composer who recently contributed the art song Sun of the Sleepless to soprano Laura Strickling and pianist Daniel Schlosberg’s 2024 Grammy-nominated album 40@40.

Osnat Netzer circle portrait

Osnat Netzer releases debut portrait album

Osnat Netzer, a veteran faculty member at both of Walden’s programs, has released her debut portrait album on New Focus Recordings. Dot : Line : Sigh features performances by past Walden visiting artists Ensemble Dal Niente and Mivos Quartet, among other performers. Netzer’s music engages with various abstract concepts, including cognitive linguistics and the experience of physicality.

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 at

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. You can also find us on InstagramTwitterYouTubebandcamp, and at

A dance during the 2019 Young Musicians Program
A dance during the 2019 Young Musicians Program