April 23, 2008

Michael Pratt, University Orchestra conductor
Michael Pratt, University Orchestra conductor

David Carpenter ’08, the young violist profiled in our cover article, is unique among Princeton orchestral musicians for attempting to carve out a career as a soloist. But he is just one example of the gifted classical musicians who bring their years of practice to Princeton. Michael Pratt has been conducting the University Orchestra for the last 30 years and says that there has been steadily increasing interest in Princeton and the orchestra from top music students. “The Class of 2011 is very strong, and I can say that the applicant pool for the Class of 2012 is much deeper than it ever has been,” Pratt observes. The talent, he says, is “astonishing.”

Competition for an orchestra seat can be intense: Between 150 and 175 musicians audition for the 95 or 100 spots. So many talented students were being turned down that years ago, Pratt started a second orchestra — the Sinfonia — so that these students, too, could have a chance to perform.

If you want to hear the orchestra perform, its last concerts this academic year take place April 25 and 26. On the program is Mahler’s Ninth Symphony — probably, Pratt says, “the most difficult symphony in the repertory.” You also can hear the orchestra play outdoors at Reunions, when it is scheduled to precede the traditional fireworks display — with musical fireworks of its own. With sadness, PAW reports on the death of President Robert F. Goheen ’40 *48 (page 8), who in many ways built the Princeton that we know today. In the fall of 2006, Princeton marked 70 years since Goheen arrived on campus as a freshman. At the time, PAW contributor Merrell Noden ’78 spoke at length with the former president, who seemed frail but mentally sharp. Noden’s story (Nov. 8, 2006) recounted the life of the man who had so changed Princeton: making a smooth transition to coeducation (at first he had opposed it), diversifying the student body, overseeing construction that nearly doubled the size of the campus, strengthening the faculty, and guiding Princeton through an era that tore many universities apart. After the interview, Noden commented upon Goheen’s great humility, which was striking in a man who had accomplished so much.