When Hajime Teri Murai, the Ruth Blaustein Rosenberg Director of Orchestral Activities, retires from active teaching at the end of the 2015–16 season, his legacy will include a generation of students who have reaped the rewards of his devotion to education, his insistence on quality and professionalism, and his passion for 20th-century symphonies.
During more than 25 years at Peabody, the music director of the Peabody Symphony and Concert Orchestras earned nine awards from ASCAP for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music.
Linda Goodwin, executive director of ensemble operations, says Maestro Murai elevated the entire ensemble program during his time at Peabody. “He has a great way of getting students excited and engaged about a program because he’s so enthusiastic about it,” Ms. Goodwin says.
Dariusz Skoraczewski (BM ’94, GPD ’96, Cello) remembers when Maestro Murai first arrived at Peabody. Immediately impressed by the new conductor’s focus on his students, Mr. Skoraczewski, now principal cellist for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, places Maestro Murai on the same level as many of the dozens of guest conductors he’s known over the years. “It was great exposure to a high-level, well-crafted conductor who will actually teach you how to play in an orchestra at the same time,” he says.
It’s impossible to talk about Maestro Murai without mentioning Gustav Mahler. Works by Mahler introduce students to playing with more flexibility, to the give and take of tempo and dynamics, and Maestro Murai did not shy away from these complexities.
When Marcia Kämper (BM ’98, GPD ’00, Flute) joined the Omaha Symphony, she realized how much she had gleaned from Maestro Murai’s interpretations — especially Mahler. “Playing for him was really eye-opening, because these pieces can go any where,” says Ms. Kämper, now second flute in the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. “Watching the conductor and being able to interpret what they want; that training helps tremendously.”
From making himself available to students before and after rehearsals, to leaving candy on everyone’s music stand at Halloween, to bowing in greeting, Maestro Murai, in his understated way, shows enormous respect to his students, says master’s student Jeongmin Lee (BM ’14, Violin), the PSO’s current concertmaster.
“Teri Murai has dedicated most of his career to the training of young musicians — with great dedication, commitment, and integrity,” notes Peabody Dean Fred Bronstein. “We are most grateful to Maestro Murai for everything that he has done during his long career at Peabody.” Maestro Murai plans to spend the 2016–17 academic year on a leave of absence and will subsequently hold the honorary title of music director laureate.
— Rachel Wallach