Professors Stanley Ritchie and Elisabeth Wright first arrived in Bloomington in 1982 to take up full-time faculty positions in the newly formed IU Early Music Institute, founded by Thomas Binkley in 1980. Since that time, their combined influence has helped to shape the careers of generations of successful leaders and professionals in the field of Historical Performance. Many of their IU alums now adorn the rosters of top-flight early-music organizations, both in the US and abroad, while others have additionally founded new period instrument ensembles and organizations that figure prominently on the North American early music scene.
The spring of 2021 will find both Professors Ritchie and Wright retiring upon completion of their 39th academic season at Indiana University. “To say that this marks the ‘end of an era’ would be a gross understatement,” says Dana Marsh, Chair of the IU Jacobs School of Music Historical Performance Department. “Stanley and Elisabeth have given their lives unreservedly to supporting generations of young musicians. Undeniably, taken together, their cumulative contribution over the space of four decades is unparalleled in our field.”
Cynthia Roberts, a former pupil of Professor Ritchie and now teacher of baroque violin at Juilliard, Curtis, Eastman, and UNT, offers her reflections, “Stanley changed my musical life completely, from the very first baroque violin lessons I received from him while I was a student at Indiana University. He inspired me to reexamine music with an historical perspective, shedding new light on interpretation and creative freedom. His influence has remained with me throughout my career, and guides me on a daily basis in my practicing, performing, and teaching.”
Byron Schenkman, formerly a student of Elisabeth Wright and co-founder of the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, also offers their admiration: “Elisabeth has a rare combination of musical insight, intellectual depth, and intuitive ability to determine and address the needs of each individual student. I don’t know of anyone else as devoted to teaching and to nurturing students’ unique talents as Elisabeth Wright. She has been a major influence on my development as a musician and as a person. And she has had a major impact on the entire field of Baroque music in North America over the past four decades.”
Violinist Ingrid Matthews, who together with Byron Schenkman co-founded the Seattle Baroque Orchestra, offers similarly heartfelt reflection on her mentor: “Stanley’s influence on Historical Performance is impossible to overstate. His erudition, curiosity, musical sensitivity and physical grace at the violin are truly unique and set the gold standard for baroque violinists, generations of whom have benefited from the depth and clarity of his musical understanding.”
Avi Stein, formerly a student of Elisabeth Wright and now the continuo skills and baroque vocal literature specialist in the Historical Performance program at Juilliard is similarly effusive in his praise: “Elisabeth Wright instils in her students a uniquely expansive sense of the musical and emotional potential of both the player and the instrument. The more time I spend making music on my own or with my students, the more grateful I am of her mentorship.”
The Historical Performance Institute and Department of the IU Jacobs School of Music will be offering tributes to Professors Wright and Ritchie as the year proceeds, culminating in a special celebration, bringing together alumni and current students at the end of the spring semester of 2021.