Rochester Report: An Interview with NAOC Councilor Roberta Zalkind

NAOC Councilor Roberta Zalkind (right) with Stephanie Griffin in Rochester, NY

On October 25, 2023 I traveled to Rochester, NY to record Robert Morris’ Carnatic String Quartet at the Eastman School of Music with the Momenta Quartet. As I so often do on my travels (and encourage you all to do the same!), I reached out to ACMP’s local NAOC councilor and fellow violist Roberta Zalkind. She gave me a tour of the Eastman Community Music School (a repeat ACMP grantee), introduced me to the school’s director Petar Kodzas and invited me to her home for dinner, where we got acquainted with one another and discussed the state of amateur chamber music in Rochester.

After our visit, I followed up with this interview with Roberta.

Stephanie Griffin for ACMP (SG): Can you please tell me something about your background and how you ended up living in Rochester, NY?

Roberta Zalkind (RZ): I grew up is Southern California more specifically, the San Fernando Valley as did my husband, trombonist Larry Zalkind. We met at USC [University of Southern California] and continued our studies at the University of Michigan. We later won positions in the Utah Symphony. Larry was the principal trombonist and I was the associate principal violist for more years than I care to admit. In 2014, Larry began his tenure as Professor of Trombone at the Eastman School of Music. I was unable to join him at that time, because I had  commitments in Utah and was emotionally unprepared for Rochester winters. After commuting back and forth for about 4 years, I packed up my Prius and moved to Rochester, where I began teaching viola and coaching chamber music at the Eastman Community Music School.

SG: It turns out that both the cellist and first violinist of my own string quartet went to school with and have played with your son Matthew Zalkind. Can you tell me more about Matthew and his career path?

RZ: Matt has a career primarily centered around chamber music and teaching. He is the cello professor at the University of Denver. With his wife, cellist Alice Yoo, cofounded the Denver Chamber Music Festival, a relatively new venture that has grown dramatically since its inception in 2019. Last year, they held their own first Adult Amateur Chamber Music Workshop as part of their festival and are planning their next one this June! Matt and Alice are also grateful of the support of ACMP and to be a part of this community.

SG: How long have you served on the viola faculty of the Eastman Community Music School and what is the scope the ECMS’s programs, particularly as pertains to adult amateur musicians?

RZ: I’ve been on the faculty of ECMS for 5 years. The scope of the classes, ensembles and lessons available is vast.  I’ll just mention what’s available to all adults: Individual lessons are available for all instruments. Classes offered include: composition and orchestration, all levels of theory, music history, computer music, film scoring, aural skills, jazz history and more. Ensembles include: Adult Guitar Ensemble, Baroque Ensemble, Beginning Mandolin Workshop, Chamber music, Collaborative Piano Skills, Klezmer Ensembles, Community Band, Music Educators Wind and Jazz Ensemble, Antique Brass Ensemble to name a few!  

Last and certainly not least is the New Horizons program. The New Horizons Program began in 1991 at the Eastman School of Music under the guidance of Roy Ernst, now Professor Emeritus from that school. Since that time, the idea has been adopted throughout the U. S. and in Canada, resulting in the forming of more than 100 organizations. 

There are many opportunities not only at ECMS, but all around the Rochester area. The Irondequoit Community Orchestra is a wonderful organization, as is the Penfield Symphony, the Greece Symphony Orchestra at Charles Borromeo Church and the Brighton Symphony Orchestra.

SG: ACMP has been honored to support your own local adult amateur chamber music workshop. Could you please let our readers know more about that program?

RZ: I began my own adult chamber music workshop at the Eastman Community Music School in July, 2022, thanks to the assistance we received from ACMP! The first summer was very successful as was this past summer, with significantly more applicants. For our upcoming program that begins on July 26th, we are planning to include both an Alexander Technique class and a Dalcroze class. Some of our planned repertoire will include movements from the Brahms piano quintet as well as a group reading of the Brandenburg Concerto #3. We welcome pre-formed groups!  

Register for Roberta’s summer Adult Chamber Music Workshop

Matt Zalkind Master Class at the Eastman Community Music School

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