ALISON BESKIN '09: STAYING CREATIVE WITH A LAW CAREER
Alison Beskin ’09, a corporate attorney focused on executive compensation and benefits, wanted to play something “bigger and louder” than a flute when she started playing in third grade– maybe drums or saxophone. “My mom steered me towards the flute, thinking it was portable and peaceful. Little did she know that the flute can also be very loud,” Alison jokes.
Alison continued her flute studies as a member of the band program under Freddy Martin at Westminster, a formative time for her artistically and socially. “We would go to All-State and other competitions, and it was like an extended field trip,” she says. “The academic side of school was demanding, and band was a time you could step away from that and focus on something creative.” She also took private lessons with flute teacher Candace Keach and was part of the Atlanta Youth Wind Symphony, conducted by Dr. Scott Stewart, who have both since joined the Westminster faculty. Alison noted how grateful she is for the leadership of all three of these teachers, who each played a fundamental role in her music education.
After earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in musicology and music performance, Alison committed to continuing serious flute practice after letting it slip for a time during law school. “I felt like something in my life was missing when I was just head-down in my studies,” she explains. So, Alison started performing again and continued playing after moving to New York City.
When COVID-19 took hold, she was looking forward to playing a second Carnegie Hall performance with the volunteer organization Association of Classical Musicians and Artists. She instead used her time at home to create a series of instructional videos on YouTube while continuing to learn new material—and became a mom! (So far, her daughter is very good at vocals and tolerates the flute.)
Alison is quick to say that the attention to detail she has honed over years of rehearsal is a skill she uses daily, even in a career outside of music. “You have to focus on so many layers of the music—it’s not just the notes and how you play them; there’s dynamics and articulation and the tone of the piece, the emotion behind the piece. You have to think about all those things.”
ROE HARTRAMPF ’05: LIFELONG DREAMS IN A TIME OF COVID
The fall before COVID-19 took hold, Roe Hartrampf ’05 had the type of moment he’d dreamt about since performing Les Miserables in Kellett Theatre. While in rehearsal for a Broadway musical, he booked a multi-episode television arc: “I had to leave my rehearsal, get in a car, go to JFK airport, fly to Paris, film for three days, fly back to JFK, into another car, and return to the same rehearsal room and start singing. That was a dream come true. It was very much a bucket-list thing.”
Roe was in rehearsals for Diana: A New Musical, a Broadway show in which he plays the lead role of Prince Charles. The television show he filmed for was Emily in Paris, a series featuring Roe in two early episodes.
About a year and a half after that moment, Diana hasn’t had its official opening night, which was scheduled for March 31, 2020—only a few weeks after the onset of COVID-19 required the closure of Broadway theatres. Its first debut will be for international audiences via Netflix—a pivot made during the pandemic.
It has taken about 10 years of regular auditions and taking on small projects to get to this point. Roe has wanted to be an actor since childhood, even entering Westminster as a sixth grader having acted professionally with the Alliance Theatre. Roe remembers being pleased to learn the School had a dedicated theatre space. But he soon learned that the best part was the sense of community support.
“I would look up to the ‘big kids’ in the a cappella groups and the chorus, and it was through the music program that I got really excited about the theatre program. Chorus involved every- body—the football team, the girls soccer team, all walks of student life would come together in that chorus room. I never, ever felt marginalized or judged or uncool for doing theatre,” he says. “Quite the contrary.” That supportive environment, Roe says, is one of the things that gave him the confidence to pursue an acting career.
From the “mountaintop moment” of approaching his Broadway debut in a lead role to the sudden shuttering of Broadway and adapting the musical for film, the road to production for Diana has been full of ups and downs.
You can read more from Roe about what it was like producing the filmed version during COVID-19 here.
JIMMIE WILLIAMS ’94: RETURNING TO A PASSION
Jimmie Williams ’94 remembers having unmatched opportunities at Westminster, like master classes and the ability to play in world-class venues and top competitions. The example the faculty members set for him is never far from his mind either: “The first time I had the opportunity to conduct a small chamber orchestra, I remembered the way Linda Cherniavsky had been able to communicate through her conducting. Her power in being able to lead an orchestra was really quite moving.”
Many of Jimmie’s orchestra memories revolve around the emotions evoked through music. And now, he creates pieces that evoke emotion in people all over the world as a composer. After about 10 years working in hedge fund management, Jimmie dove into a music composition career in 2013 amid an increasing sense of dissatisfaction.
“I’d kept in touch with some of my music professors from Columbia (where he earned a composition degree), and they were saying, ‘Enough’s enough. Get back into it,’” he says. “So, I found ways to meet my goal of becoming a professional composer. I found my passion again.”
Jimmie applied to a few competitive mentorship programs and re-started his studies with a mentorship through the BMI Foundation. After completing that and a few other competitive mentorships and residencies,
Jimmie now composes music for movies, television, and even video games. An upcoming Emmett Till documentary is among the recent projects he’s most proud of.
Composing music for media involves balancing many factors: character arcs, plot changes, the vision of directors and producers, the time period and setting of a story, and more. Jimmie’s years playing violin in Westminster’s orchestra guide him in the teamwork necessary for working on projects with so many people vested in the final result. “When you’re playing in an orchestra, you have to listen to the conductor, to each other, and work together. I try to bring in aspects of that with everything I do,” he says.
With an analytical mindset and a teamwork approach, success is possible—even in fields as different as finance and fine arts.
GEORGE CASE ’01: SAYING 'YES' TO OPPORTUNITIES
George Case ’01 still remembers Westminster as a place where “yes” was the answer when he wanted a new challenge. “Westminster was such a good match for me because as I was searching for ways to express myself and manifest my art, I was met with a constant stream of, ‘Yes, try it. Here are some resources and some support,’” he says.
From Pam Elrod inviting him to conduct a group for the annual concert at Holy Spirit Catholic Church to Scott Morris bringing him on as a section leader in the church choir he conducted to Eric Brannen giving him increasing responsibility levels in the summer theatre intensive, George remembers many opportunities to stretch himself: “One of the best parts of Westminster, for me, was having such incredible faculty members, especially in music, who would provide every bit of training I wanted, who could recognize and nurture their students’ talents, and who could prepare us in such great ways.”
After finishing a doctoral program in conducting in 2013, George joined the Boston Conservatory as the Director of Choral Activities and continues to teach online since moving to New Mexico in 2020 (a move planned pre-pandemic). George sings with both the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and the Skylark Vocal Ensemble, founded by fellow Wildcat Matthew Guard ’98. A performance with Skylark in McCain Chapel actually ended up being George’s last live engagement before COVID-19 hit!
In the midst of the changes brought on by COVID-19, George calls the resilience of the music world “spectacular.” “I have seen so many colleagues continue creating and embracing technology in a way we’ve shied away from in the past. With that, though, is the hope we can return to live music while carrying the things we’ve learned with us.”