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August 15, 2019

Alumni Stories: Paths Taken Part VIII

Paths Taken: A Personal Tour Part VIII

by Alumni Council Chair Louis Alexander (MM ’79)

Most people I discover and present here surface through random searches in the Online Alumni Directory.

Featured in this installment of Paths Taken: A Personal Tour

  • Charles Barker (MM ’78)
  • Walter Smith III (MM ’05)
  • Vanessa Conlin (BM ’99)
  • Pedro Henriques da Silva (BM ’99, MM ’01, DMA ’06)
  • Lucía Caruso (BM ’04)

In this on-going series of articles, we get glimpses into the rich pathways that our fellow alumni have taken since leaving the School.

Alumni Council Chair, series author


Everything is in constant motion, and out of motion comes creation. As musicians, it is musical pulses that propel us on journeys into realms that seem beyond space and time, where indeed we touch the infinite. Yet, it is from the very finite that every musical journey begins. Every tone we create arises out of something we set into motion, be it a string, a vocal cord, or a pipe we direct our breath through. One tone leads to another, rhythms and harmonies come into play, and as our bodies flow in constant motion we delve deeper into the great dance that is music, our bodily motions continuously weaving an intricate tapestry of sound.


Photo by Rosalie O’Connor

Charles Barker

Principal Conductor, American Ballet Theatre (ABT)

Trained as a violinist, Charles Barker (MM ’78) was attracted to conducting, and ultimately to ballet, by the lure of expressing music through larger and more complex organizations. On his journey from MSM to ABT, he was Music Director and Conductor of the American Chamber Orchestra (ACO) from 1981 to 1987. It was with the ACO that he made his Carnegie Hall debut in a 1983 tribute to Aaron Copland honoring the composer’s 83rd birthday. In 1985, he was Music Director for the New Federal Theatre’s production of Copland’s rarely performed opera, The Second Hurricane, which garnered critical acclaim.

A quirky step on his path to the world of ballet was serving as Music Director and Conductor for a production of Olympic champion John Curry’s ice ballet at Albert Hall in London and on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in 1984. A few years later, he began a relationship with ABT, which has lasted until the present day. In the span of over 30 years, Charles has built up a repertoire that encompasses the core ballet canon as well as rarely seen works. In addition to the ABT, he has been Music Director of the Pittsburgh Ballet (2007–present), Australian Ballet (1997–2001), London’s Royal Ballet (2001–2003), and Kansas City Ballet (1985–87), as well as a regular guest conductor with the San Francisco Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Washington Ballet.

Outside of ballet, Charles has conducted orchestras worldwide, including the Royal Philharmonic, Paris Opéra Orchestra, Danish Radio Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony, Columbus Symphony, and Pacific Symphony. He is on the faculty of ABT’s JKO School and teaches classes in music to the upper-level students. From 1995 to 1998 he was a member of the Barnard–Columbia Ancient Drama Group, which presents Greek and Latin drama in the original language. In addition to appearing in roles on stage, Charles composed music for their productions of The Bacchae, Hippolytus, and Heracles. He has conducted numerous feature dance programs such as Dance in America, a PBS special presentation on the works of Antony Tudor, as well as others for the BBC in England; TV Asahi in Japan; and the ABC in Australia. He lives in New York with his wife, Miranda Coney, a former principal dancer with the Australian Ballet, and their two boys.

To get a sense of his world and the many kinds of moving parts he has to deal with, listen to this interview about Swan Lake here.

Photo by Jati Lindsay

Walter Smith III

Saxophonist, composer, and Chair, Woodwind Department, Berklee School of Music

Widely recognized as an accomplished performer, composer, and educator, Walter Smith III (MM ’05) began his musical journey in his childhood home of Houston, Texas, studied at Berklee School of Music and MSM, then accumulated an impressive performance history at venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Village Vanguard, and the Kennedy Center, before circling back to Berklee. Along the way, he has performed at virtually every international jazz festival.

Walter has collaborated, both onstage and in recordings, with such greats as Mulgrew Miller, Eric Reed, Billy Childs, Joe Lovano, Herbie Hancock, and Dee Dee Bridgewater, among many others. All in all, he has appeared in over 100 recordings.

Without question, Walter has established himself as a leading presence in the jazz world. Among the many legendary bands and musicians he has performed with are the Roy Haynes Fountain of Youth Band, the Terence Blanchard Quintet, Jason Moran (BM ’97) in the critically acclaimed performance In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall, the Ambrose Akinmusire (BM ’05) Quintet, A Christian McBride Situation, the Christian Scott group, and the Sean Jones Quintet, to name only a few. As a recording artist, Walter has released five albums, the most recent of which is Twio, featuring his longtime trio of Harish Raghavan and Eric Harland (BM ’96) and guest appearances by Christian McBride and Joshua Redman. He was also part of Harland’s album Voyager.

The best way to get a deeper understanding of Walter’s work is to check out one of the many videos on his website to see and hear him in action here.

Vanessa Conlin

Head of Wine, Wine Access

As in music, so too in life: our careers and interests can undergo metamorphosis. Vanessa Conlin (BM ’99) began on the stage, singing in operas and musical theatre, and today is a wine expert. Following undergraduate and graduate degrees at MSM and Boston University, she began her music career by taking on a challenging variety of gigs, traveling and performing in Europe and across the U.S.

Vanessa’s experience performing in Baz Lurhmann’s Tony-nominated Broadway production of La Bohème left an indelible impression on her. It was seeing opera’s expressive power on a stage other than that of an opera house and its ability to reach new audiences that made for a transformative moment in her life. With the close of La Bohème and some welcome free time, Vanessa soon found herself devoting it to learning about wine, an interest she had pursued during her bits and pieces of downtime between singing jobs. Beginning with courses at the New School and the International Wine Center in New York, Vanessa delved deeper and deeper into enology and the complexities of the wine industry. With the discipline that is central to our musical training, Vanessa was well prepared for the demands of transitioning to a new career.

From her base in Napa Valley, Vanessa is currently writing a research paper as part of the final stage of a Master of Wine exam. As if the demands of a career and her studies were not enough, Vanessa makes time for yet another passionate interest, serving as President of the Board for the Jameson Animal Rescue Ranch.

To read more about Vanessa’s work, check out this interview here.

Photo by Elias Wessel

Pedro Henriques da Silva 

Composer, Guitarist, Music Director of Manhattan Camerata, and Adjunct Professor at New York University

Lucía Caruso

Composer, Pianist, Artistic Director of Manhattan Camerata

Husband and wife team Pedro da Silva (BM ’99, MM ’01, DMA ’06) and Lucía Caruso (BM ’04, Piano) work closely together as composers and as the founders of Light & Sound Scoring, a company specializing in creating music scores for film. They have composed and recorded for several soundtracks, including recording sessions that Pedro did for Michel Gondry’s films Be Kind Rewind and Interior Design. Pedro and Lucía are also the founders of the innovative chamber orchestra Manhattan Camerata, an ensemble integrating classical and world instruments to perform “transclassical music,” a term Lucía coined and trademarked to describe their composition style. Incorporating both classical music techniques and improvisation, they embrace elements from different cultures and eras in a variety of styles and genres, bridging, as the term transclassical implies, different classical music traditions from around the world.

The Camerata’s projects include Tango Fado, Divinity and Cosmos, Fantasy and Nature, and music for film and media. These platforms reflect the rich diversity of sounds and rhythms that are a part of Pedro and Lucía’s own rich musical backgrounds, hers growing up in Argentina and his in his native Portugal, along with the dozen other countries on five continents in which he lived as a child.

Lucía premiered her composition Titania’s Lullaby, arranged by Pedro for the Orchestra and Choir of the Swan, which had commissioned the piece, in April 2016 in a commemorative concert on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, held at Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. In this performance, she appeared as organist, and Pedro performed on a Portuguese guitar. Subsequently, they were selected by the Orchestra to be its composers-in-residence for the following four years.

Both Pedro and Lucía are versatile composers and performers who have appeared in over a dozen countries in such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, MoMA, the Kennedy Center, Musée du Louvre, Versailles Palace, and London’s Kew Royal Palace, to name but a few.

As a soloist, Pedro has performed with orchestras such as the London Metropolitan Orchestra and Orchestre Lamoureux in Paris among many others. Beyond traditional ensembles, he has explored horizons opened up by electronic instruments and software that have allowed him to create microtonal music and non-Western tuning systems. At MSM, Pedro’s doctoral dissertation, Modal Relations and Classification, investigated over 2000 modes and scales in use worldwide, classifying, researching, and analyzing them from the standpoints of acoustics, ethnomusicology, music history, and set theory.

Lucía was a featured soloist with the Orchestra of the Swan in a UK tour in which she performed the Mozart Piano Concert No. 13, K.415, as part of the Mozart and Friends program. Recently, she not only scored music for a documentary film, Forte, whose focus was on three groundbreaking women in the arts, but also appeared as one of the protagonists. In the film, she is shown composing the music of the soundtrack, a first of its kind film-within-a-film.

Both Lucia and Pedro have received several residencies and commissions for compositions for orchestras, chamber ensembles, and film and dance companies, including a ballet commissioned by the José Limón Dance Company, as well as song cycles and solo works. The Sorel Foundation commissioned Pedro to compose the first Portuguese guitar concerto in history, and Lucía to write the first transclassical piano concerto. These two concertos—both premiered by the Orchestra of the Swan, with the composers playing as soloists—have recently been recorded by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios.

Check out the Light and Sound Scoring site here to find links to their many projects.

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