Retiring Bienen School faculty Steven Cohen and Gail Williams to perform final Bienen concert Tuesday


Photo courtesy of Ari Sloss

Gail Williams, Rosario Galante and Steven Cohen perform in a Bienen recital in 2019. Williams and Cohen will perform their final concert Tuesday before retiring.

Divya Bhardwaj, Reporter

Bienen School of Music faculty clarinetist Steven Cohen and hornist Gail Williams will perform a final recital together at the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall on Tuesday. This concert will commemorate 17 years of service for Cohen and 33 years for Williams.

The two have known each other for decades, having first met in 1974, Cohen said. They each said they are honored to have worked together and to be culminating their time at Northwestern with a joint recital.

“It’s been a delight to have a very good friend be a colleague,” Williams said. “It’s bittersweet. I’m going to miss him terribly.”

Williams and Cohen both expressed an appreciation for the students and colleagues they worked with during their time at NU. They have each presented concerts, master classes and recitals in North America, Europe and Asia, but said the NU community has been particularly outstanding.

Williams said she has worked with both Bienen and non-Bienen students throughout her decades-long teaching career, and she has seen them go on to achieve success not just musically, but also in business, medicine, law and other fields.

“It’s not just the successes of music students — it’s everything else they do,” Williams said. “And it’s not just the music students, but it’s everybody else too. I learn something new every day from the very intelligent students we have at Northwestern.”

Cohen’s and Williams’s colleagues and students will join them in concert Tuesday with Director of Jazz Studies Victor Goines, Daniel Rosman, Jackson Brown and Samantha Winkler on clarinet, She-e Wu on percussion and Kay Kim on piano.

The program will feature three world premieres: “Amid the sadness…,” composed by Dana Wilson; “RE:NU,” composed by James Stephenson; and “Gonna Take That Train Home,” composed by Goines, a former student of Cohen’s.

Cohen said the title of the piece commissioned by Goines was inspired by Cohen’s return home to the East Coast. 

“I grew up in the New York area and left home to go to college in 1969,” Cohen said. “Now we’re moving back to southern Connecticut, where we have two kids and a grandson, and most of my siblings are in that area.”

Wu said the audience can expect excitement and intrigue at the concert, noting the customization and personalization of the commissioned pieces and the variety of percussion instruments.

But Wu said the most meaningful part is the gesture of Williams and Cohen performing their final concert.

“They’re playing for us, for the community — it’s not that we’re playing for them,” Wu said. “They’re giving us a gift as they finish their time, and that’s something I admire and respect.”

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