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Nile P. Norton

"As a direct result of my Vienna study, I completed my Stanford University dissertation on, and performed five of Mozart’s Concert Arias..."

The professional, musical, cultural and life experiences gained as a Fulbrighter in Austria have shaped my life for the past 44 years. My wife and I started our family while in Vienna, as our son, Gray, was born in the Rudolfinerhaus medical facility. Our German language skills were fully engaged and expanded during our two years of everyday shopping, using public transportation, attending classes and public events in that great city. Musically speaking, the experience at the Hochschule was outstanding. The results of my study, and the subsequent earning of the Auffuehrungs Diploma, shaped the remainder of my education. Returning to Stanford University, where I was a teaching assistant in voice and assistant director of the Stanford Memorial Church Choir, I performed professionally as tenor soloist with several San Francisco Bay orchestras, colleges and universities, and community choral ensembles.

As a direct result of my Vienna study, I completed my Stanford University dissertation on, and performed five of Mozart’s Concert Arias, the study of which began while I was a student of Erik Werba in the Lieder u. Oratorio Abteilung at the Hochschule. In addition, I performed the entire song cycle, “Die Schoene Muellerin,” accompanied by Margaret Fabrizio on a 19th century fortepiano. After earning the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from Stanford, I began teaching at Whittier College in the Los Angeles basin. I served as Director of Choral Activities and acting Dean of the Music School for the first year. During that time I prepared and sang several of the works studied in Vienna. Mozart’s Entfuehrung aus dem Serail, Schubert’s Die Schoene Muellerin song cycle to mention a couple.

The repertoire chosen for the Whittier College Choir was drawn from material introduced to me in Vienna, namely Die Heilige Drei Koenige by composer, Josef Marx, a biography of whom was written by Erik Werba.My teaching career continued in Rock Island, Illinois at Augustana College where I was Assistant Professor of Music and director of the Ascension Chapel Choir from 1977-1981. The musical selections for that ensemble drew on my oratorio experience while in Vienna. Several large choral orchestral works were programmed while I was there. Bernstein’s “Chichester Psalms,” Britten’s “Rejoice in the Lamb,” Ramirez, “Misa Criolla,” and other shorter choral pieces and anthems learned in Vienna.

An ORF Sendung on the “Mass” by Leonard Bernstein would come into play in my professional life some thirty years later. The work was premiering in Vienna during 1971-72 season, and there were several interviews with the composer on the radio.  In 2003, I was a soloists with the Pacific Mozart Ensemble in a performance of “Mass” in the Berlin Philharmonic Hall with the Berlin Symphony under the direction of Kent Nagano. The recording of that performance was nominated for a Grammy Award the following year.My years of teaching at Foothill College were focused on vocal jazz, something I didn’t study at the Hochschule. However, the Foothill Choir, under my direction, performed many chamber works I studied while in Vienna. Among them were some short choral pieces, Die Beredsamkeit and Harmonie in der Ehe by Franz Josef Haydn, Mozart’s Requiem, Brahms’ Deutsches Requiem, and Bach’s Magnificat.

Even today, in retirement, I still find myself drawn to repertoire I learned in Vienna for use in our condominium here in Seattle. In April of this year, I am producing a musical evening with chamber music, jazz, and student music performances. Schubert Lieder, operatic choral selections, Beethoven’s “Fuer Elise,” a selection of songs I first learned as a Fulbrighter for a performance at the Brussels Women’s Club in 1972, Barber’s “Hermit Songs”, plus a few jazz and popular numbers round out the program. Fulbright has undoubtedly shaped my music and personal life immensely. Bravo, Fulbright!

Nile P. Norton is a graduate of Stanford University with a masters degree in Voice. He was at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna as a US Fulbright Student in 1970/71.

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