Skip to main content

Robert Meese ‘20: Summer Musical Immersion

Project Date:
Project Date: Summer 2020

My pre-pandemic plans involved performing orchestral and wind music in the United States and Austria at several summer festivals. Instead, I spent the summer studying orchestral scores and preparing for my first semester as a graduate student in Conducting.

About the Project

My original proposal would have funded my travel and tuition for the Los Angeles Conducting Workshop and Competition as well as travel to the World Youth Wind Orchestra Project in Austria. I was also planning on attending the National Music Festival in Maryland on a full scholarship.

Since these summer festivals were canceled, I instead attended the fully-virtual Medomak Conductor’s Retreat and studied newly purchased orchestral scores, including Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Symphony no. 7,” Benjamin Britten’s “Les Illuminations,” Johannes Brahms’ “Academic Festival Overture,” Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Symphony no. 29,” Igor Stravinsky’s “Suites nos. 1 and 2 for Small Orchestra,” and George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings.” I also purchased a new baton from Mollard Custom Batons upon beginning my Master’s of Music in Orchestral Conducting at the University of Michigan.

Reflecting on Arts Amidst COVID-19

The Benenson Award allowed me to continue to study new orchestral works which I had not already own in full score. The high cost of scores makes it difficult for young conductors to build a library of music, and I feel lucky that the Benenson Award allowed me to study new works when that was the most productive use of my time.

I was fortunate enough to receive the Benenson Award four times during my time at Duke and I can say that, without doubt, my artistic trajectory has been changed for the better as a direct result of this program. I cannot thank the Benenson Award and Mr. Edward H. Benenson enough.