UVA Arts, University of Virginia

Vol 05 Fall 16 Library
Sarah Cramer Shields
Charlottesville Symphony

Kate Tamarkin: Conducting Community Through Music

Where words fail, music speaks.
Kate Tamarkin

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Next spring, Kate Tamarkin will complete a remarkable eleven-year run as music director and conductor of the Charlottesville Symphony at the University of Virginia. Her tenure will be remembered for transcendent moments of beauty shared with packed houses at Old Cabell Hall and two local high schools, where she led an orchestra made up of students, faculty, and community members in what she likes to call “the Prius of orchestras, because it’s a hybrid.”

The spirit of youth has been a source of inspiration and excitement for Tamarkin, from the energy she gains and supports from her students at the University to the scores of children who have attended the orchestra's Youth Concerts. These annual performances – designed around themes such as sports, jazz, and superheroes – are often a young listener's introduction to the concert hall. Tamarkin collaborates with Director of Youth Education and UVA Bassoon Instructor, Elizabeth Roberts, to create programs for fourth and fifth graders from a six-county region that introduce the range of orchestral instrument options available to them in middle school and beyond.

Tamarkin’s commitment to sharing the power of music is also highlighted in Music by the Bedside, a program she created and pilots at the Hospice of the Piedmont in which she and other musicians provide music for critically ill or dying patients. Tamarkin, an accomplished harpist, also plays regularly at the UVA Medical Center, where she serves as a musician in residence, and at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital.

The Music by the Bedside program captures the essence of one of Tamarkin’s favorite sayings, “Where words fail, music speaks.” The language it speaks in this case is one of compassion and understanding, and is delivered not to her customary music hall audiences but often to audiences of one or two facing the final days, hours, or even minutes of their lives. The notes that fill those rooms and halls often reach beyond the patients and find their way into the hearts of family, friends, staff, and administrators.

“Music,” Kate recently told the Daily Progress, “is a bridge to extend love.” So while Kate Tamarkin may be exiting the Old Cabell Hall stage, she is hardly retiring from sharing the magic of music with those who need it most, and continuing to build bridges across generations and life passages.

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