Schoenfeld’s gift of music
Alice Schoenfeld, holder of the Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Endowed Chair in String Instruction and a professor of violin instruction and performance for more than half a century at the USC Thornton School of Music, has committed $3 million to create a new symphonic hall for the school.
The hall will be named for her and her sister, Eleonore, who was the holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello and a USC Thornton professor from 1959 until her death in 2007. As the Schoenfeld Duo, the sisters were internationally renowned classical performers and for decades toured the world’s great music halls.
The 3,700-square-foot Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld Symphonic Hall was dedicated on Oct. 28. A campus open house and student concert was held Oct. 29.
“Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld have shown a remarkable commitment to the students of our Thornton School of Music,” said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. “Through their dedication as teachers, and their generosity as philanthropists, they have nurtured some of the greatest musicians in the world, while creating an extraordinary legacy for themselves and for USC Thornton.”
USC Thornton Dean Robert A. Cutietta said that it is “time the USC Thornton Symphony and Wind Ensemble have a custom-designed space where they can rehearse. These two ensembles are recognized as among the best collegiate groups in the country and it just didn’t make sense that we didn’t have a dedicated orchestral rehearsal hall.”
The gift from Alice Schoenfeld represents significant support for The Campaign for the University of Southern California, a multiyear effort to secure $6 billion or more in private philanthropy to advance USC’s academic priorities and expand the university’s positive impact on the community and world. A key component of the campaign is a goal to raise $1 billion for immediate support for capital projects.
The facility, which was previously used by the USC School of Cinematic Arts, has been redesigned with the help of an acoustician and is the first dedicated orchestra rehearsal hall in USC Thornton’s long history. The school was founded in 1884 and consistently ranks among the finest conservatories and schools of music in the world. Graduates of the school secure positions with major orchestras, ensembles, recording studios and music industry firms, and perform on stages and in studios around the world.
The newly refurbished hall has complete audio and video-recording capabilities. Cutietta said he believes USC is the only university in the nation with orchestral recording capability of this quality.
The hall has a flexible acoustic design suited for large performing groups, such as the symphony and wind ensemble, as well as a custom-designed percussion storage area. In addition, the building now has new air conditioning and humidity control systems, new lighting and suspended flooring for sound isolation.
Cutietta acknowledged the Schoenfeld sisters as legendary performers and teachers who are recognized worldwide but especially at USC Thornton.
“If we combine their careers, these two sisters have taught for over 100 years in the Thornton School. They exemplify all that is great in our school,” he said. “We still feel the loss of Eleonore but celebrate Alice daily.”
Alice Schoenfeld, who energetically continues to teach violin students and chamber music groups, said she gave the gift to the school because she and her sister made their home at USC Thornton.
“I thought I’d leave a legacy. I’d like to perpetuate the name of my sister, as she was very active here for so long,” she said. “As chair of the strings department, she was teaching, coaching chamber music and giving faculty concerts. She was also the director of the annual Piatigorsky Seminar from 1979 until she passed away, where she would get great, great performers to hold master classes every day, including eminent cellist Janos Starker, who presented the Eva Janzer Memorial Award Grande Dame du Violoncelle from the University of Indiana in 1993 to her.”
Home for both Schoenfelds at USC Thornton has been the school’s strings department, one of the strongest in the world. Currently, the chair is Midori Goto, holder of the Jascha Heifetz Chair in Violin. Other department professors holding chairs include Alice Schoenfeld; Ralph Kirshbaum, holder of the Gregor Piatigorsky Chair in Violoncello; and violinist Glenn Dicterow, holder of the Robert Mann Chair in Strings and Chamber Music, who will join USC next fall.
Alice Schoenfeld said she watched the hall’s construction this summer and pronounced it “very beautiful.”
The acoustics are still being tested, she said, but “I went to observe rehearsals recently, and it sounds very good. People are very happy when they have beautiful surroundings.”
Schoenfeld still practices between two to four hours each day and takes her commitment to students seriously.
“Who carries most of the load in a university?” she asked. “It’s the dedicated teacher. My sister and I have outstanding students working all over the world — in Shanghai, in Germany, in Britain, in Australia, practically everywhere.
“I give students more than I have to do,” she continued. “I give long lessons, get them ready for their concerts and take a personal interest in them.”
Her students reciprocate, with flowers and heartfelt thank you notes. She shared one from current violin performance student Michelle Tseng, who wrote: “My time here with Professor Schoenfeld has been priceless. She is such a loving, unbelievably devoted and nurturing teacher and human being, and I am so thankful for the experience of being in this studio and learning from such an inspiring woman and violinist.”
Tseng performed at the Oct. 28 dedication, along with former students of Alice and Eleonore Schoenfeld, all of whom are now world-renowned artists.