Peabody Johns Hopkins University Magazine

Preparatory Revives Chamber Music for Adults

Preparatory Revives Chamber Music for Adults

Pianist Michael Auerbach, a professor of medicine at Georgetown and a hematologist and oncologist, has studied music his entire life, except for a brief time during medical school. Music, he says, “is one of the great things we’ve given to ourselves as humans.”

So Auerbach is thrilled to be part of a chamber music duo with cellist Dominique Ashen, a PhD cardiology nurse practitioner. The two study with Lura Johnson (’01, Piano) through the Preparatory’s chamber music program for adults, which was revived last January.

Johnson, who regularly plays piano for the Baltimore Symphony and has taught piano minors at the Peabody Conservatory since 2002, says she loves working with adult students and finds it to be a very different experience than working with typical Conservatory students. “Adults come to the process with more specific goals related to self-improvement and growth. It’s a more self-directed motivation,” she says.

Auerbach and Ashen, who practice together at least once a week, are currently working on the Schumann Fantasiestücke. “Having a teacher like Lura is a gift,” says Auerbach, who also studies privately with Johnson. “The nuances that she elucidates for us in the lessons are filled with things that I would never notice.”

Johnson, who is also teaching a viola/piano duo through the chamber music program, says she respects and is inspired by the musicians’ willingness to be part of a group and to be vulnerable in the name of “playing music, connecting with people, and growing.”

Ensemble lessons are often more guided rehearsal times than coaching, because the students typically don’t get much practice time together, says Johnson. She’s found the students enjoy the detailed work and the opportunity for personal growth.

Johnson remembers one point toward the end of the spring semester, when an ensemble mastered an accelerando after lots of hard work and one of the players said happily, “This is why we do this!”

— Margaret Bell