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Prof. Samuel Adler - Prof. Martin Herchenröder

Bringing people together through music: Renowned composer returns to Siegen.

Prof. Samuel Adler is an acclaimed composer and conductor, and holds the position of Professor Emeritus at the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music and the Juilliard School in New York, United States. Prof. Adler was born to a Jewish family in Mannheim, in 1939 his family fled the persecution of Jews in Germany and settled in Worcester, United States. He came back to Germany in the 1950s when he was drafted into the U.S army, his unit was sent to Baumholder, in the Palatinate (Pfalz) region of Germany. While he was there he founded the Seventh Army Symphony Orchestra. This orchestra was a tremendous success, showcasing American culture all around Europe. Prof. Adler always felt that reconciliation between peoples is the most important thing that can be done for world peace. And he was pleased to see that this orchestra was a step in this direction. This sentiment was reflected in the title of his 2017 memoir; Building Bridges with Music.

Prof. Adler came to Siegen in June 2018 for a workshop in which he used his many years of experience to help music students with their compositions. His latest visit to Siegen is one of many to have emerged as a result of the close cooperation between him and Prof. Herchenröder. Prof. Herchenröder has been a professor of music theory at the University of Siegen since 1994. He also teaches at the organ and composition departments of the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, United States as a guest professor.

It was during Prof. Herchenröder’s first stay at Rochester in 2008 that he got to know Prof. Adler, during a festival to celebrate Prof. Adler’s 80th birthday. While they were talking, Prof. Adler mentioned that he and his wife, Professor Emily Freeman Brown, teach a course in composing and conducting at the Freie Universität Berlin every summer. Prof. Herchenröder suggested that Prof. Adler could visit Siegen the next time he would be in Germany. The next year Prof. Adler attended the University of Siegen’s 2009 Alumni Homecoming Day, where he gave a keynote speech in his Mannheimer German dialect, and held a concert with some of the professors. After that, Prof. Adler came back to Siegen every couple of years, primarily to feature his music and to share his expertise with composition students. It was a wonderful experience for the music students to have the chance to work with someone who had composed pieces they were studying.

This cooperation was not just limited to activities with the University of Siegen: Prof. Adler and Prof. Herchenröder have also worked together with numerous societies across the local region, including the German-American Society of Siegerland-Wittgenstein, the Cologne Amerikahaus, and music colleges in Cologne and Dusseldorf. During one of their collaborations with the Amerikahaus, they had a concert with the evangelical Cantor in the Nikolaikirche, where they sang music of the synagogue and 19th century choir music from the protestant church. There, Prof. Adler gave a talk about the relations between Judaism and Christianity.

This is his fourth visit to Siegen, every time Prof. Herchenröder invites Prof. Adler back, Prof. Adler is keen to accept, telling Prof. Herchenröder “just make me work.” For Prof. Adler, Siegen has become his third home, after America and Berlin. Siegen and Berlin are obviously quite different in size and how they feel. But he finds Siegen to be lovely, with inspiring surroundings. When asked about his career, Prof. Adler states that he feels very fortunate to have had so many opportunities throughout his life, it is clear that he wishes to use the rest of his life to promote peace through music and to help music students to find their own musical voice. When asked about his plans for the future, Prof. Adler smiles and says “I’m 90 years old, I make no predictions, every day is a gift.”


This article is based on an interview with Prof. Samuel Adler and Prof. Martin Herchenröder and was written by Benjamin Wrigley.