Beyond pedagogy: Bard Festival spotlights Nadia Boulanger’s multifaceted role as composer, conductor, thinker

Posted on: August 2, 2021

“In 1916, the sisters Nadia and Lili Boulanger stayed together at the Villa Medici in Rome,” writes William Robin in Sunday’s (8/1) New York Times. “Lili, then 22, developed a lung infection…. Within two years, Lili was dead, her opera never completed, and the life of Nadia, her own opera not fully orchestrated, changed forever. After her younger sister’s death, Nadia moved away from composing toward pedagogy, becoming the most renowned composition teacher of the 20th century…. Her pupils, the so-called ‘Boulangerie,’ included such luminaries-to-be as Aaron Copland, Philip Glass and Quincy Jones…. And that is largely how Boulanger, who died in 1979 at 92, is still remembered today, as a great teacher who taught great composers. This subordinate role is one that women have often played in music history: mothers, muses and schoolmarms to the men of the canon. A two-week festival, ‘Nadia Boulanger and Her World,’ which begins Aug. 6 at Bard College, invites a reconsideration of her life and legacy…. The festival’s 12 concerts will feature compositions by both sisters as well as music by Nadia Boulanger’s precursors, contemporaries and students, revealing her not only as teacher but also as composer, conductor and visionary musical thinker.”