Conversation with the Lyric’s Joan Kretschmer
Thomson Kretschmer is the Lyric Chamber Music Society’s founder,
Artistic Director and pianist. Founded in 1997, the Lyric had
its first concert in1998 and continues to be dedicated to providing
musicians an opportunity to perform chamber music. “We seek to
draw national attention to the positive effects of music and to
elucidate the ways in which music helps to develop the human mind
and spirit,” explains Kretchmer. The Lyric’s concerts feature
award-winning, established musicians, first-chair players in major
orchestras, and young performers who perform in The Kosciuszko
Foundation, a turn-of-the-(20th) century Manhattan mansion, where
audiences sit a few feet away from the musicians. Following is
a conversation with her about her life as a musician and her thoughts
on music education.
What made you decide to make a professional career as a musician?
That decision was made only relatively recently, in the late 1980’s.
A friend, who went to medical school and became a doctor in his
40s, encouraged me to go to music school. Becoming a professional
musician has been a “late-blooming” activity.
What were the major musical milestones in your life?
First, getting a piano as a child. Next, playing the trombone
in junior high and high school. Then, getting an MA and Ph.D.
from Columbia in Musicology. Then, studying with Jascha Zayde,
and recently, performing with great musicians from the New York
Philharmonic such as Joseph Robinson, principal oboe and Sheryl
Staples, principal associate concertmaster.
What is your greatest achievement to date?
My two sons: nurturing and watching them develop their talents,
their good hearts, and their fine minds.
Has being a woman factored into your professional activity?
Yes. My mother encouraged me to get academic degrees, in case
I’d have to support myself. I think being a woman both hindered
and helped my career development. I was taught at home that I
should never show my intellect, that men wouldn’t feel comfortable
with a smart woman. That was ridiculous, and it took me years
to find those who encouraged me to stand on my own two feet. Being
a mother and a woman, in the role of nurturer, volunteer and enabler,
helped me to deal with people, as I stepped out into the “real
world” beyond suburban life.
Do you believe that the young people receive an adequate musical
Music is often treated as a peripheral activity, not a serious
pursuit that can train the mind and enrich our emotional life.
It is usually taught after school, relegated to a low rung on
the list of educational priorities, and entrusted to teachers
who credentials are often not even evaluated. Those we remember
in history—Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and other great composers—have
left us great legacies, which should not be ignored.
How could this be changed?
First, people need to understand how important music is and can
be to our lives, to our brain and to our emotional well-being.
We need to make sure that children study instruments and the great
works of art which have been handed down to us.
What does the Lyric Chamber Music Society do to further music
We give students an opportunity to attend dress rehearsals, and
we have sent musicians to schools for master classes, coaching
and concerts. Our Encounters with Great Artists of Our Age was
inaugurated by the world-renowned flutist, the late Jean-Pierre
Rampal. We are now searching for dynamic music teachers and students
who will want to study the music and history of the program being
more information about the Lyric
Chamber Music Society, visit www.lyricny.org.
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