A maestro and a wordsmith

first_imgThis is one in a series of profiles showcasing some of Harvard’s stellar graduates.It’s often been said that the Harvard undergraduate experience is what one makes of it. Senior Matt Aucoin took that message to heart. He leaves campus having immersed himself in Harvard’s rich worlds of poetry and music, with a degree in English, a passion for writing and composing, and a future destined for The New Yorker, or the conductor’s podium, or both.A resident of Kirkland House, Aucoin was poetry editor of the literary journal The Harvard Advocate. His thesis, a collection of poetry titled “Aftermusic,” recently won a Thomas T. Hoopes Prize for outstanding scholarly work or research. In 2009, he received several coaching sessions with classical music legend James Levine, and he used a 2010 Artist Development Fellowship from Harvard’s Office for the Arts to study at the famed opera house La Scala in Milan. He also is the recipient of the 2012 Louis Sudler Prize in the Arts, which recognizes outstanding artistic talent.Aucoin’s mother is musical, his father is a writer, and there were always hundreds of books, and plenty of scores lying around the house. But his parents, he said, “never forced me into anything.”He was smitten with music the moment he banged on the keys of his grandparents battered, out-of-tune, upright piano at age 6. Soon, a composer was born.With composition, said Aucoin, “The thoughts aren’t always clear. It’s a kind of need. And for me, that need was awoken by Beethoven.” He recalled wandering his backyard after hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and wondering, “How could something this good have been created?”He composed his first piece, “a twangy sort of Americana thing,” shortly after, and soon fell in love with opera’s fusion of words and song, completing his first libretto and score at age 9. Years of intense study of the piano followed, but by the time he was a teenager he suffered “a crisis of faith” in classical music. He retreated, playing the keyboard with his indie-rock band Elephantom and studying jazz. The break reinvigorated his love of the classical canon and inspired him to look beyond the conservatory to a place where he could chart his own musical path.“It seemed I could make my own musical life [at Harvard] in a way I couldn’t anywhere else. I really loved that independent spirit,” he told the Gazette in February.While at Harvard, Aucoin blazed his own artistic trail. He wrote and directed two operas, including “Hart Crane,” based on the troubled American poet, which premiered at the Loeb Drama Center in April. He also coached and accompanied countless Harvard singers, and served as music director for the Dunster House Opera Society and as assistant conductor for the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra (HRO).“I think he is an unstoppable force of nature … beyond talented and gifted,” said HRO Director Federico Cortese. “He is a hypersensitive poet with amazing abilities and a voracious taste for music.”A classmate and fellow musician called Aucoin “the kind of person that really makes you glad you went to Harvard.”Aucoin said his introduction to poetry came later because “as a really young kid you are open to music in a way you are not open to nuances of language quite yet. To understand poetry, words need to have accumulated multiple shades of meaning for you.” He credits the creative energy of his peers at The Harvard Advocate and of his mentor, Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory Jorie Graham, for helping him to develop a “personal language in which you find your own rules.”Aucoin arrived for a recent morning interview with a mop of curly wet hair, en route to observe a rehearsal at the Boston Symphony Orchestra for the remainder of the day. This fall he will work at the Metropolitan Opera, study composition at the Juilliard School, and direct the new orchestra/opera company at the Peabody Essex Museum.It’s hard to imagine Aucoin, whose face doesn’t hold even the promise of a wrinkle, leading professional musicians, many of whom have been performing longer than he has been alive. But he sees the job as inspiring confidence in players and performers regardless of their age.“I think of it as being a lightning rod, not the hand of Zeus,” he said. “You have to be able to give an intensity back to the orchestra.”If his Harvard career is any indication, Aucoin will have intensity to spare.last_img read more

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MLAX : HIGH AND LOW: Syracuse offense breaks through in 2nd half to avoid St. John’s upset bid

first_img Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on March 9, 2012 at 12:00 pm Commentscenter_img NEW YORK — After Jeff Lowman stymied Syracuse for nearly 40 minutes, Bobby Eilers finally cracked the code.Eilers used a crafty move to beat the St. John’s goaltender with Syracuse trailing by two goals with five minutes left in the third quarter. The senior midfielder made a sharp cut to the goal along the left side of the attacking zone, spun back toward midfield and fired a waist-high shot past Lowman.A few moments later, Eilers fired a bounce shot into right corner of the net to knot the game at five.‘(Lowman) didn’t actually stand on his head, we were putting the ball right on his stick shooting high,’ Eilers said. ‘We were persistent, we kept trying, but we realized when Coach (John) Desko said we’ve got to shoot low and away that’s when we had much better luck.’In an up-and-down game with a surprising St. John’s squad, Syracuse finally broke through. Tim Desko’s goal with 1:22 left provided the game-winning margin as the No. 6 Orange (3-1, 1-0 Big East) escaped DaSilva Memorial Field with a 9-8 win over the Red Storm (2-2, 0-1) in front of 1,779 on Saturday. Lowman was superb in goal in the first half, stopping 8-of-11 shots, but Syracuse exposed the goalie with a better offensive second half.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textThe Orange began to fluster Lowman in the second half, and one major error late in the game finally undid St. John’s upset bid.With the game tied at 8-8, a Syracuse pass rolled behind the net and Lowman was clamped the ball to the ground. But SU attacks Derek Maltz and Tommy Palasek impeded the goaltender’s clear attempt and a deflection fell lazily into the stick of Desko. He caught it in one motion and dove to his left to deliver the ball low into the net with 1:22 remaining.Desko’s second goal of the game proved to be the game-winner as the crucial miscue put the stamp on Lowman’s unraveling.‘You never get rattled, whatever happens out there you got to push through it and we never give up,’ Desko said. ‘And we know we’re going to eventually come away with the win and it was good win.’On SU’s opening possession, Syracuse midfielder JoJo Marasco rang shot off the post from the left wing. And that’s where the Orange’s early struggles began.Syracuse had 10 shots in the first quarter, but only four fell on net. The Orange did jump out to an early 2-1 lead.But the Red Storm responded and picked up three straight goals to earn a 4-2 lead. And Lowman gained some momentum. Midway through the second quarter with Syracuse looking to climb even, Maltz ripped a high shot from the left wing that was blocked down outright by Lowman.One possession later, midfielder Henry Schoonmaker moved to his right and took a leaping shot from straightaway that Lowman was able to cover up. And as Lowman smothered most of the Orange’s shots, Syracuse limped into halftime down 4-3.‘I think the biggest part of it was the shooting,’ head coach John Desko said. ‘I don’t know what our shots were, but we were getting our shots. We were getting our shots and normally when we get our shots we’re well in the double figures.’But with a redefined focus on attack in the second half, the ball finally began to find the back of the net for SU. Eilers connected on two consecutive low shots to draw the Orange even at five with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter.Schoonmaker altered his approach, shooting low, and connected on a bounce shot in transition to give SU its first lead since the first quarter. Maltz added another to give the Orange its biggest lead of the game as it looked as if the Orange’s momentum would carry it to victory.St. John’s responded — as it had all game long — with two consecutive goals to tie the game at 8-8 with 3:57 remaining in regulation.But after pestering Lowman the entire second half with a different approach, Desko notched the game-winner.‘To come out of here with a win, 9-8 against a very good St. John’s team, it just helps us out,’ Maltz said. ‘A tight game down the road we’re just going to look back on this and remember how to fight through it and come out with the win.’[email protected]last_img read more

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