Piano Department faces the loss of three faculty members

Deborah Nixon

The Lawrence piano department will have a huge turnover in faculty this upcoming school year. Three faculty members have announced their resignations over this last month: Michael Kim, Kyung Kim and Dmitri Novgorodsky.
Dr. Michael Kim, Associate Professor of Music and Keyboard Department Chair, will be moving to Manitoba, Canada, and assuming the position of Dean of the School of Music and Piano Professor at Brandon University. He states that his duties will include overseeing a total of 31 full-time professors and an annual budget of about 3.5 million, in addition to teaching and performing. His past administrative experience, gained over his twelve years at Lawrence, stems from a stint as Faculty Associate to the President and as Chair of the Keyboard Department. “My experiences at Lawrence as a teacher and administrator were profoundly transformative, and I am very grateful to Lawrence for all that it has given me,” Kim commented.
Michael Kim’s wife, Dr. Kyung Kim, will also be joining the faculty of Brandon University as Adjunct Professor of Piano and Chamber Music. For the past eight years, she held the position of Collaborative Pianist and Coach at Lawrence and worked with numerous students and faculty, taught applied piano and coached chamber music.
“The best part about my job is working and performing with the students-I often perform with them in their graduating recitals, and to be part of something that is one of the pinnacles of their Lawrence experience is very joyful and rewarding,” she stated.
Mr. Dmitri Novgorodsky, Assistant Professor of Music, will be moving to New York City to pursue “personal and professional projects that require my physical presence there.” He has taught at Lawrence for the past six years, after teaching at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and Grand Valley State University in Michigan. Following his parents’ footsteps, Novgorodsky decided to become a music professor, commenting, “Many things I discuss with my students in lessons help me as a performer more than long hours of my own practicing on the piano. On the other hand, it would be hard for me to teach playing the piano without professionally doing it myself on a regular basis.”
Novgorodsky added: “Lawrence students are an incredible bunch of individuals: each one is a story and a character, and I think these multiple opportunities for personal interactions between faculty and students enrich the educational process at Lawrence and are what uniquely distinguishes this institution from the others. I would like to thank both the faculty and the students for inspiring me to follow their models and to work constantly on trying to be a better teacher and performer during my years here.”
With the resignations of these faculty members, the administration has been scrambling to find professors for the next school year. Fortunately, Catherine Kautsky has been appointed a Piano Professor and Chair of the Keyboard Department. She is presently a Professor of Piano and Chair of the Piano Department at University of Wisconsin in Madison. Before her six years in Madison, she was a piano professor at Lawrence from 1987-2002.
Robert Thayer, Dean of the Conservatory, stated that Kautsky “brings many strengths as an artist performer and a teacher committed to the kind of musical and intellectual breadth that is so much a part of Lawrence’s educational philosophy. For this reason and because we wanted to solidify our staffing as quickly as possible we invited Professor Kautsky to return to Lawrence, and to everyone’s delight she has accepted! Because we knew more about her than we could possibly learn about someone from ‘outside,’ it was unnecessary to conduct a usual search and we were able to shorten the process.”
In addition to Kautsky, the administration also continues to search for another piano professor. Presently, they are attempting to secure a one-year temporary appointment while searching for a permanent professor for 2009-2010. During this search process, Thayer said, “students will be invited to meet the proposed appointee and we will welcome their comments and advice.”
Sophomore pianist Irina Nedelcu-Erickson added, “Let’s see how much the Con will do for the piano students in terms of sustaining that standard of excellence that was so promoted for them to accept admission than with any other school. Come on, professors have left before and look at the faculty we have now — they’re excellent.”
However, even with Kautsky’s appointment, many piano students are not sure of what they are doing for the next school year.
“Many things will change next year. I know that a few of his [Kim’s] students will be following him and a few will continue to study at LU. Each student has to make a huge decision, but either way they will be happy and apply what they have learned from such an incredible musician,” commented Nedelcu-Erickson, a student of Michael Kim.
For incoming piano students, the studio changes may also come as a shock. Thayer states, “Many of our incoming students have already met, and in some cases, had lessons with, departing faculty members. In accordance with established practice, these students will be assigned to the studios of our 2008-2009 faculty members.”
Meanwhile, the professors leave some advice to the music students. Mr. Kim emphasized the importance of emotional intelligence: “Spend time investing in relationships with your friends, family, and your network of contacts. Learn to communicate and negotiate effectively – think collaboratively and broadly. These sorts of skills are crucial to success in any field, but especially crucial in the arts, where we all need to advocate for the meaning and importance of what we do effectively. Above all, have fun with your music, and love it! That is really why we are musicians, isn’t it?”
Mrs. Kim said that it is important “to keep an open mind about everything, and pursue your dreams and your interests. Your undergraduate years are the most special time in your life, and the time to explore and experiment with diverse interests – Lawrence’s environment is so well suited to accommodating this sort of thing, and I will never forget the students I have worked with here!”
Novgorodsky said, “[Students should] stay true to what they feel is their ‘inner voice,’ it will unmistakably tell them what will make them happy after they finish their undergraduate studies. And not to swerve from the paths they want to pursue, regardless of the difficulties which might await them. I know they will succeed.