In the Spotlight

Tamar Bloch

Tamar Bloch spent four summers as a student at the Junior Conservatory Camp (JCC), Walden’s predecessor program, and more than fifteen summers on Walden’s faculty. An accomplished music educator, composer, and performer, Tamar is a wonderful member of the Walden community, and has many stories to share.

How and when did your relationship with JCC and Walden begin?

My lifelong relationship with JCC and Walden began in 1969, as a student at JCC. I had never composed before, and my first summer, I didn’t write a note. During my second summer, I saw that everyone else was composing, so I started as well. I am continually amazed that Grace Newsom Cushman founded this extraordinary summer program in the 1950s, and that her legacy is going strong! It really was a life changing experience for me, in so many ways, and I’m still close with some of my former JCC roommates to this day, including Robin Seto and Sheree Clement. It’s wonderful to have these lifelong connections. My 4 summers at JCC have informed my life as a musician and teacher throughout my varied careers.

What has been your connection with Walden since then?

After spending four summers at JCC, I started teaching at Walden in 1975. Since then, I spent many years on the faculty at Walden, both in Vershire, Vermont, at the Mountain School, and in Dublin for many, many summers. Since then, I’ve moderated composers forums in New York and at alumni reunions. It was wonderful to hear music from alumni and students, and to lead the discussion. I’ve helped organize alumni reunions, and was sorry to miss the last one.

I have always felt a very strong connection with JCC and Walden on a deeply personal level. Now that connection is consciously fostered, but there has always been a sense of community and deep-rooted friendships. During my 15 years living in Budapest, I often taught at Walden during the summers, and it always felt like coming “home.”

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

There were so many musical and non-musical wonders. I remember one night Mrs. C woke us all up to go out to watch the northern lights. It was extraordinary, standing outside Burklyn Manor in our pajamas, watching the northern lights. I remember Alan Shewmon playing Chopin etudes, the thrill of singing in a choir, Nelson Max’s films, not to mention the composers forums. In class we analyzed Bartok’s Music for Strings Percussion, and Celesta, still one of my favorite pieces, as well as George Crumb’s Ancient Voices of Children. The mountain hikes were epic, and somehow we made it up and down Mt. Washington!

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

One of my most amazing experiences was Pauline Oliveros’ residency. We did many of her meditations and performed her music. She was an amazing presence, and I had the good fortune to attend her second International Conference on Deep Listening. My experiences at JCC and Walden prepared me for that. Taking on new challenges, trying out new sounds, and being pushed outside your comfort zone were and are ongoing at Walden.

Although I don’t like to single out students or classes, I had one class which we called the “Future Presidents Club.” There were three girls in it who did amazing work.  We sang atonal melodies, they could read anything, they sang musically and in tune. Sam Adler, who was composer-in-residence that year, came to my class and complimented me on the beautiful singing. There are so many memories, I could write a book!

How are music and creativity part of your life now?

I really enjoy listening. I love listening to leaves rustling in the air and different bird calls. Just standing still and listening to what’s around me. I also love helping students to open their ears and hear the sounds around them. Right now, I’m preparing to move, which is a huge operation. However, once I move to Rhinebeck, New York, with my partner, I plan on taking lessons with Marilyn Crispell (JCC alumna and past Walden visiting artist), who lives nearby. My first jazz teacher, Ellen Hoffman, is also a JCC alumna — full circle.

What is a non-musical hobby you love?

I’ve always enjoyed cooking and find that to be a very creative activity. I can’t give anyone my recipes because I make them up as I go along!

I love to travel, and I love going to museums, concerts, films, theater, etc. I’m a ‘culture vulture’. I’ve been having movie nights with Peter, my partner, since sheltering in place started, and we’ll get back to traveling when it’s safe, even if that won’t be for a while.

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

One of the great things about Walden is that it’s non-judgmental, and a very safe place to try out new ideas. It’s a safe place to fail–which you do in composing, in life, in everything–and then you figure out how to make it better. Walden is unusual in the depth of mentorship and learning from one another–it’s really free-flowing knowledge, which you certainly don’t find in every teaching situation. I feel that knowledge is to be shared and distributed, not to be held onto. We’ve all gotten the knowledge from somewhere, so I think it’s our duty to pass it on.

I also find Walden is a great place to be able to dream and create, in classes as well as independently. I really love watching my former students grow and become adults and have their own families and careers. It’s great to follow them and see what they’re doing, and I love seeing pictures of their children. That sense of community and connection is so much a part of Walden.