Isaacson Concludes Ten Days of Holocaust History

February 21, 2011

Photo by Jill Gable

Michael Isaacson completed his ten day tenure as a Winter Park Institute Visiting Scholar on Thursday, February 17, with a presentation of music reflecting the Holocaust. In the Tiedtke Concert Hall event titled Children Sing of the Holocaust, Adults Sing of Life, Isaacson discussed with the audience his relationship with Holocaust remembrance music. He played recordings of his Cradle of Fire choral suite and Remembrance, performed under his direction of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. The event also featured the world premiere of Isaacson’s latest choral piece, Kohelet, which was performed by members of the Department of Music.

This was Isaacson’s second visit to Rollins, having previously given a lecture on his most recent book Jewish Music as Midrash. During his current stay, Isaacson was deeply immersed in the Rollins Community, having the opportunity to work closely with several music composition students, conduct ensembles and speak in Jewish Studies classes. In an interview just before starting the presentation, Isaacson commented that he greatly enjoys working with students and is inspired by their passion and energy. Sharing his wisdom, Isaacson offered that “It is very important for students to experience as many differing points of view while at college. In the working world it is important to be flexible. Successful people listen to all ideas and, through mental synthesis, make them authentic to themselves.”

Isaacson’s presentation was full of emotion, meaning and guidance. He explained that the essence of Jewish music is providing depth and insight into Judaism and is characterized by the composer’s personal experience, not ethnicity. Prior to playing Cradle of Fire, Isaacson described how he used silence as a powerful musical element to convey the absence of hope. It was during these very silences that muffled sobs were heard in the audience. Indeed, Isaacson, himself, had to pause to wipe away tears before continuing with the presentation.

In spite of the dark subject matter, Isaacson assured the audience that they would leave with a sense of great hope. Kohelet, Isaacson’s most recent composition, is of great personal significance to him. In a program note, Isaacson describes how the Kohelet verses from Ecclesiastes gave meaning to a difficult time in his life and inspired the piece. He dedicated the event’s world premiere performance to Gail Sinclair, Executive Director of the Winter Park Institute, and John Sinclair, Chair of the Department of Music for “their inspiring leadership.”

“I wish for Rollins many great adventures in learning differing points of view and successful graduates that are flexible in an increasingly complex world.”

This presentation was the final installment of the Winter Park Institute’s series on Women and the Holocaust. Upcoming events include an African Dance Performance by traditional Ghanaian dancer Kombat Fuzzy and a presentation on Civil Rights by social activist Julian Bond. For more information, please visit

By Justin Braun (MBA Class of 2011)

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