(left to right): Joe Clark and Orbert C. Davis
Edited interviews by Dave Wieczorek
Music Students Prepared for Creative Excellence in Art and Life
B.M. ’49, M.M. ’53
Jazz Pianist, High School Teacher
More than 60 years have passed since Kenneth Iversen was a DePaul student, yet he recalls those days as if they were yesterday.
“I remember how many of the students were World War II veterans, and the teachers we had like Leon Stein and Herman Shapiro,” Iversen says. “And I remember Dick Marx, who was an extraordinary jazz musician. He wrote commercial jingles and the movie score for ‘A League of Their Own.’”
Iversen was 24 when he entered DePaul, having served in the Pacific with the U.S. Army Air Corps. He taught for decades at Austin and Clemente high schools in Chicago, served as a music supervisor giving area workshops, and was a professional jazz pianist.
“Last year, I ran into an oboe player at a musicians’ union gathering,” says Iversen, referring to Richard Kanter, who retired in 2002 after 41 years with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “Richard was a student at Austin. He thanked me for giving him a grounding in music theory, which helped him get into the Curtis Institute of Music. That was nice to hear all these years later.”
Retired; Chicago Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster
Anyone with even a casual interest in classical music is familiar with the name Samuel Magad.
Magad retired from the CSO in 2007 after 48 years as a member of the violin section, 34 as concertmaster. He also founded the Northbrook Symphony, serving as its music director and conductor for 20 years, and was the concertmaster of Chicago’s Grant Park Orchestra and the Aspen Festival Orchestra. He notes that his distinguished career began at DePaul.
“I have fond memories of DePaul for many reasons. First, I had a wonderful violin teacher in Paul Stassevitch,” says Magad, 80, who still performs occasionally. “And there was the chamber and orchestral study program that was so important. It was a steppingstone for me. If I hadn’t been involved in that program, I might have gone in a different direction.
“I was lucky to have found a school that was interested in helping me start my career.”
Professor, Northeastern Illinois University; High School Teacher
“All I wanted to do was be the best music teacher I could be.”
That’s what Marie Culjak-McGuckin was thinking as she worked her way toward a master’s degree. She didn’t disappoint herself or the thousands of students she influenced.
“I was with the Chicago Public Schools for 16 years and Northeastern Illinois University as a professor of music for 27—43 years total as a teacher,” she says.
Culjak-McGuckin was an enthusiastic student even before entering grad school, taking private piano lessons at DePaul. She recalls rigorous classes with John Hamilton: “He put pressure on us to think for ourselves, to be disciplined, focused and independent.”
She still plays the organ every Sunday at “my old Croatian church, Holy Trinity, in Pilsen,” and funds the annual McGuckin Harpsichord Recital Series in memory of her husband, Charles McGuckin (LAS ’55, MED ’56).
“I received a gift from the Lord,” Culjak-McGuckin says. “Music has been a life of love for me.”
Anne Perillo Michuda
DePaul School of Music Instructor, Soprano
Anne Perillo Michuda was already a seasoned soprano when she started teaching vocal classes at DePaul in 1966. But it was suggested she acquire more academic credentials in order to continue teaching.
“Those two years earning my master’s were tough,” the Juilliard graduate recalls. “I was going to classes, teaching, raising three children and building a new home in Frankfort, Ill. Let me tell you, it was a thrill walking across the stage to receive my degree.”
Perillo Michuda, who retired in 2001 after teaching for 36 years, also compiled a lifetime of thrills as a performer, including singing with Howard Keel in a New York production of “Carousel,” performing with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra in Central Park and singing for President John F. Kennedy.
“All those experiences enriched me as a singer and as a person,” says Perillo Michuda, “and all the knowledge I gained from those experiences I took with me in teaching DePaul students. I would have been a good teacher thanks to my Juilliard education, but those experiences as a performer made me a great teacher. I sincerely believe that.”
Orbert C. Davis
Jazz Trumpter, Composer, Conductor, Artistic Director
It’s fair to say that the music of trumpeter and composer Orbert Davis is heard throughout the world—due to his numerous recordings and the performances of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, which he co-founded and serves as conductor and artistic director.
The foundation for such success was laid at DePaul even before he enrolled as a student. Davis was a high-school freshman in Momence, Ill., when elementary-school teacher Charles Danish would drive him to music professor Mark McDunn’s studio in Oak Park every Saturday morning for lessons.
“Mr. McDunn opened my eyes to the musical possibilities that were available to me,” Davis says. “I quickly saw myself as a DePaul student.”
Davis, a clinical assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, adds: “The instructors at DePaul had a lot to do with my success. You can’t build a career on your own, but you have to take advantage of what is given to you. In my instructors, I was given a gift—and I opened it.”
Director, Northeastern Illinois Opera Program, Soprano
How might her résumé have read, Sasha Gerritson has asked herself, had she not taken the suggestion of her teacher?
“Harry Silverstein, director of DePaul Opera Theatre, changed my life,” she says. “I was going to be a singer.”
One afternoon, Silverstein suggested that the aspiring soprano consider a career in directing. Says Gerritson, laughing: “That wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Harry said something along the lines of: ‘The world has a lot of good sopranos, but the world doesn’t have a lot of great directors. You should give it a try.’ When I did try directing and got a taste of it, I loved it. I’m so happy with what I do.”
Gerritson is director of the opera program at Northeastern Illinois University and also maintains a career as a solo performer and serves on the School of Music’s advisory board.
“I was not expecting that DePaul would have this long-term effect on my life,” Gerritson says. “I feel really connected to and engaged with the whole university. I didn’t know when I applied to DePaul that one day I’d be meeting my new family.”
B.M. ’08, M.M. ’10
Composer, Trumpeter, Bandleader, Teacher
Joe Clark isn’t exaggerating when he says he owes his career to DePaul.
“I was only able to assemble my big band thanks to the grant I received,” he says, referring to being the 2011 recipient of The Claire Rosen and Samuel Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. The award also will enable him to record and promote an album of original works.
The 26-year-old trumpeter’s Joe Clark Big Band, formed in the spring of 2012, is composed mostly of DePaul faculty and alumni. Its first album, “Lush,” will be released in February 2013.
“A healthy chunk of my experience is from working with people in the School of Music like Tom Matt, Cliff Colnot and Bob Lark,” says Clark, an adjunct professor. “DePaul’s faculty has always encouraged students to get out there and work, get your hands dirty—write, play your music, be professional.”
For centennial events and information, visit alumni.depaul.edu/anniversaries.