Duncan J. Cumming

Associate Professor

Department Music & Theatre

Associate Professor Duncan J. Cumming has performed concertos, recitals, and chamber music concerts in cities across the United States as well as in Europe. The Kennedy Center in Washington DC, Merkin Hall and Carnegie Recital Hall in New York City, and the Wallenstein Palace in Prague, Czech Republic are among the concert halls in which he has appeared. Concerts outside of the New York Capital Region this season include a concert tour of the Boston area in March as well as the United Kingdom, France, and Switzerland in May. A recent review describes his playing as “technically flawless… thoughtful, deliberate and balanced, without a wasted gesture or any histrionics, rather like Rachmaninoff.” His new book, The Fountain of Youth: The Artistry of Frank Glazer, came out in 2009.

The year 2011 marks the release of three compact discs. The first is a solo piano CD on the Centaur label (CRC 3125) including music of Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, and Satie. Chamber music of Bill Matthews with the Capital Trio will be released on Albany Records with several premiere recordings; finally, a recording with Christopher Hogwood of the music of Carl Maria von Weber. This is the first recording of Weber’s music on Weber’s own 1812 Brodmann.

Born in Maine, Cumming graduated Phi Beta Kappa with highest honors from Bates College in 1993, where he studied with Frank Glazer. In 1994, he received a full scholarship from the European Mozart Foundation and participated in intense chamber music study and performance at the European Mozart Academy in Prague, where he performed often with the Czech mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kozena. Upon his return to America, he studied with Patricia Zander at the New England Conservatory, where he received his Master of Music degree in 1996. In May of 2003, he graduated with the Doctor of Music degree from Boston University.

From 2002-2008, Cumming was on the faculty of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute as a teacher, chamber music coach, and performer. He was assistant director of the Young Artists Piano Program for the first six years, and in his final summer he took over as the director when an illness forced the director to leave just days into the program. Before accepting the position at the University at Albany, he was a member of the faculty at Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts. He has lectured, given master classes, and served on juries for competitions, in addition to his performing and teaching. Known for his innovative and carefully constructed programs, Cumming often presents informal commentary to the audience on the music he plays. He has commissioned, premiered, and recorded new works for solo piano, violin and piano, and piano trio. He performs frequently with his wife Hilary, violinist and adjunct professor of violin at the University at Albany. With the cellist Şölen Dikener, they make up the Capital Piano Trio, the new ensemble in residence at the University at Albany. Duncan and Hilary have two daughters, Lucy Rose and Mairi Skye, and a son, William Bear.


What are you currently working on in the area of public engagement?
In addition to my professional concerts I bring students of all ages to the university once a year to participate in the Youth Movements Festival. Some years we have had lectures, master classes, dance performances, and children’s presentations; but in any case each year we have a concert involving pianists from the region.


How did you get involved in this work?
As a classical musician and a parent I became interested in bringing classical music to children.


What is the greatest reward in your publicly engaged work?
The Youth Movements Festival has been a great opportunity to bring lesser-known works to the public. Multimedia and multidisciplinary presentations (slides of art, poetry, dance, and music) are complex to put on but give children and people in the community an opportunity to experience this music in a variety of ways. I have also been rewarded personally by the cards and letters from students and teachers who have been involved in the projects.


What impact has this work had on you? ...on your students? ...on community members?
It has been rewarding for me to see students learn, improve, and perform from year to year. My connection to the community inevitably deepens when I work with these teachers and students from the Capital Region. This is a recent e-mail from a teacher in the community whose students were involved in Youth Movements:

Dear Duncan,
Thanks so much for the great recital on Sunday. The students really enjoyed having the opportunity to play in such a great atmosphere. The feedback from the parents was wonderful and they all had many different perspectives on the entire program, including my husband (an engineer). Parents were happy to learn about Satie and that helped to understand his music… Some parents were happy to see other students the same age and gender as their child which was very motivational. My husband was so intrigued by Satie that when we go France in August, we will visit his home/heritage which would be great. It's near Normandy which we planned on seeing but I wasn't excited to travel several hours from Paris to go. But now the trip is worth it. So thank you for educating, intriguing and motivating youth of the Capital District once again. I truly feel this is more educational, fun and beneficial than any music test for the youth.
Thank you again,
Cheryl


What are your future plans for your publicly engaged work?
I am grateful to have received a FRAP B award to publish some of my stories with classical music for children in the future.

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