Faculty Feature: Halls are alive with the sound of music lessons


Photo by Daniel R. Burke

Even though Penn’s Music Department offers no degrees in performance, its faculty are busy working to see that campus halls are alive with the sound of music.

Leading the effort is Cristle Collins Judd. In addition to her appointment as associate professor of music and director of graduate studies, she also serves as the associate chair for performance, a new post in the department.

In that post, Judd oversees a new program in the College Houses where residents can receive private lessons and small-group coaching from professional musicians, advanced graduate students and advanced undergraduate students. The program, run jointly with College Houses and Academic Services, also supports six College House Music Fellows—professional musicians affiliated with the College Houses, offering free group coaching, recitals and master classes for residents.

“Our goal as a music department is to foster as much music making and music learning on the campus as we can,” Judd said. “The College Houses seem the likely place to try to do that on the ground level.”

Judd, 42, also oversees the Music Department’s performance groups, including the University Symphony Orchestra, the Wind Ensemble, four early music ensembles and three vocal ensembles. Applied Music 10, a for-credit course of private instruction for majors and minors, also falls under her purview. Judd is also the faculty advisor to the Penn Chamber Music Society, a three-year-old undergraduate performance ensemble, and does some small ensemble coaching of undergraduates herself.

Judd actually began her musical career as a performer. She holds a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Rice University, and like most of her colleagues, she also played professionally—in her case, in Houston, playing the oboe after graduating. But she soon realized that a career in performance wasn’t for her. “Playing ‘The Nutcracker’ 20 times in a row was not what I wanted to do,” she said. “I wanted to think about music.”

So she pursued graduate study in music theory, receiving her Ph.D. from King’s College, London, in 1994. And when she joined the Penn faculty in 1993, she dropped her professional performance schedule completely in order to devote her time to her family and her scholarship. “I researched myself right out of performance as an oboist,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean that she never picks up an instrument anymore. She still performs from time to time in her church. “My husband’s an organist, so I have a ready-made place to play,” she said. (Robert Judd also works in the Music Department, where he is the executive director of the American Musicological Society.) She also plays from time to time with the chamber music groups she coaches, and, she said, her undergraduate music theory courses feature generous doses of performance.

“As my students will tell you, we do a lot of singing, we do a lot of clapping, we do a lot of music-making of various sorts” in the courses she teaches, she said.

The performance activities she oversees are part of a larger goal for the department—to add more richness and variety to the campus’ already-rich musical life.

“We’re trying to make music more audible—it’s very audible on this campus. We’re trying to make it even more audible,” she said.

Originally published on October 31, 2002