Since 2018, The Orchestra Now has graduated more than 100 musicians who have fulfilled requirements for the three-year Master of Music degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies or the two-year Advanced Certificate in Orchestral Studies. TŌN alumni/ae are making a difference in orchestras, ensembles, and educational institutions in the United States and around the world. Recent graduates have earned positions with the Alabama, Albany, Atlanta, Boston, Glens Falls, Hawaii, Huntsville, Oregon, Pacific, and Virginia symphonies; Buffalo and Las Vegas Philharmonics; Opera Philadelphia; the Hallé (Manchester, U.K.); Guiyang Symphony Orchestra (China); Hong Kong Philharmonic; the ADDA-Alicante (Alicante, Spain); and the U.S. Coast Guard and Army bands, among others. Several graduates play regularly with the New York Philharmonic; the Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Minnesota Orchestras; and the North Carolina, Greenville, and Baltimore symphonies. Still others hold administrative positions at institutions such as the Gifted Music School, Decoda, ENCORE Chamber Music, and the Bach Akademie Charlotte.

Photo by Jito Lee

Alumni Cover Photo

TŌN Alumnus Spotlight: Milad Daniari TŌN '18

What you are doing now? I perform actively as a freelance bassist on the East Coast and all over the country (and sometimes abroad!), with both orchestral and chamber music ensembles including American Ballet Theatre, New York Classical Players, Musica Sacra, Frisson Ensemble, New York Oratorio Society, and more. I’m also the General Manager of Decoda, the Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall, an organization that is on the cutting edge of creative community engagement and chamber music. Decoda’s work with incarcerated composers in South Carolina was recently featured in The Washington Post.

Why TŌN? It was a very special experience to be in the inaugural class of TŌN and a part of something so innovative from the ground up. The program offered something beyond the typical graduate performance degree or training orchestra by inspiring us to think deeply about the role performing arts play in communities while also preparing us for the many demands of a professional orchestral career. TŌN and Maestro Botstein’s approach to programming is singular. I performed so many incredible pieces which I would never have gotten a chance to otherwise.

How did TŌN help to further your career goals? I knew early on in my studies that I wanted to be a professional musician and also understand everything that goes into making a performance possible behind the scenes. I find myself very fortunate to have a dynamic and varied performance career, all the while serving in a leadership role at a world class arts organization. The TŌN program provided the ideal groundwork for my vocation: in addition to orchestral and chamber music performance, it incorporates the full spectrum of professional development—grant writing, curatorial skills, public speaking, and teaching artistry—training us to consider the message our audience is receiving and how a concert program can inspire a deeper connection. I use these skills every day.

Describe a favorite concert, class, or other special memory from your time in TŌN. I had the chance to perform the famous Pulcinella bass solo with Maestro Gerard Schwarz at Town Hall in NYC my first year as part of TŌN’s Free Concert series. I will always remember the opportunity to play it somewhere besides a practice room and get a bow at the end of the concert! Also, the Bard Music Festival every summer is a joy. Each year you get to dive deep into the world of a different composer and the orchestral programs are innovative and eye-opening. (My favorite was Puccini and His World in 2016.)

No doubt, performing with TŌN as the soloist for Tan Dun’s Bass Concerto at Lincoln Center this past Sunday, with Maestro Tan Dun conducting, is also a concert I’ll never forget!

What does it mean to be a classical musician in the 21st century? Being a 21st century classical musician is exciting because more than ever before, you have to be able to create your own opportunities. Being in NYC, the amount of innovation and entrepreneurial drive in the classical music scene is exhilarating. It also means that you can’t just sit in your seat and play the notes, you need to engage with the issues and ideas that are captivating society and then find a way to bridge them to your music. I’m always amazed at how enthusiastic audiences are when a concert or program manages to express ideas beyond the music itself by sheer way of how each piece relates to another, and how they all connect to form a full experience. I think that’s the key.

What does TŌN mean to the world of classical music? A true classical music education means preparing pre-professional musicians not just for the current moment, but the future musical landscape. TŌN is guiding a generation of classical musicians to make a difference and chart new paths in a field that is very much in need of fresh perspectives.

What would you say to other young musicians who are considering TŌN? Apply! It’s an amazing program and I’ve made life-long friends and connections from it. Also, the Hudson Valley is gorgeous!

Photo by Matt Dine

TŌN Alumnus Spotlight: Elias Rodriguez TŌN '18

“The Orchestra Now played a pivotal role in my growth and development as a musician.”

Mexican-American clarinetist Elias Rodriguez TŌN ’18 was among the first class to graduate with Bard’s Master of Music degree in Curatorial, Critical, and Performance Studies. A passionate musician and educator, he has performed internationally throughout the Americas and Europe. This season, he joins the acclaimed WindSync, a vibrant chamber ensemble performing wind quintet masterworks, adapting beloved music to their instrumentation, and championing new works by today’s composers, based out of his home state of Texas.

During his final year in TŌN, Elias won the prestigious 2018 Harriet Hale Woolley Scholarship, which granted him a three year artist residency at La Fondation des États-Unis in Paris, where he performed as a clarinet soloist for the U.S. Embassy France, served as a guest artist with Ensemble Calliopée, and studied with Patrick Messina and Jean-Marc Volta of the Orchestre National de France.

A native of Dallas, Elias worked in the area as a public school band director before embarking on his performing career. His training includes a degree in Music Education from Baylor University School of Music and graduate-level study in clarinet performance at University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris – Alfred Cortot.

“The Orchestra Now played a pivotal role in my growth and development as a musician. As a former Jr. High band director with big dreams, TŌN permitted me to perform with and sit alongside graduates of the most distinguished music schools in the country, several of whom won positions in major professional ensembles.. I learned just as much from my colleagues as I did from the incredible Bard faculty, guest artists, and staff. 

“The three years I spent on the Bard College campus represent some of the most inspiring and beautiful years of my life. The opportunities are endless to those who seek them. I am eternally grateful to President Botstein and the Bard faculty, administration, and staff for their personal investment and dedication to The Orchestra Now and its musicians. This program changed my life.”

Keep up with Elias:

Elias Rodriguez

Photo by Jake Luttinger

Visit this page often for profiles, class notes, and other news on TŌN alumni/ae!

TŌN Alumni/ae: Stay in touch! If you would like to submit class notes, please contact Nicole de Jesús at [email protected].