Jennifer Gersten Winner of 2018 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism
Brin Solomon Selected as Runner-up
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) today announces the winners of the 2018 Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism. Jennifer Gersten, a DMA candidate at Stony Brook University, was chosen by a panel of leading national music critics to receive the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism for demonstrating outstanding promise in music criticism. Brin Solomon, an MFA candidate at New York University, was selected as runner-up and received a $1,000 award. As part of the Rubin Institute’s mission to advance and maintain qualitative discourse on music, the two cash prizes are intended to support further endeavors in the field of music criticism.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music President David H. Stull and Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co. and benefactor of the Rubin Institute, announced the award winners at the Institute’s closing ceremony this morning.
“It is tremendously exciting to welcome the Rubin Fellows yet again to SFCM,” said Stull. “This year’s class was a stand-out as we drew individuals from across the nation who were not only outstanding writers but believers in the future of music and in their ability to contribute on a ongoing and permanent basis. I am deeply grateful to Steve Rubin for his tremendous support of this program and to Gordon Getty for his vision of advancing criticism in the United States in perpetuity.”
"Jennifer's reviews were filled with trenchant observations, wit, and authority," remarked Anne Midgette. "More to the point, they were so well written—whether describing a jazz singer's costume so vividly you felt you were in the room with her, or dryly dismissing a new work as 'John Williams without the melodies'—that they were always a pleasure to read."
“The time and attention that we’ve received from the critics over the past week has been remarkable,” commented Gersten. “I can’t really encapsulate what it feels like to be in the room with the people whose writing you were raised on, and hear how you can improve your work. I’m so grateful for this prize and for the opportunity to learn in this environment.”
In addition to the cash prizes, Gersten and Solomon will be offered an internship with the San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV), a major Bay Area music publication. As part of SFCV’s Emerging Writers Program, the interns will write one review a month—wherever the writers are based in the country—under the mentorship of some of SFCV's most highly accomplished music critics.
About Jennifer Gersten
Jennifer Gersten, from Queens, New York, is a violinist pursuing her DMA at Stony Brook University as a student of Arnaud Sussmann, Jennifer Frautschi, Hagai Shaham, and Phil Setzer. She has participated in chamber music intensives with Gil Kalish and Tina Dahl, and performed in solo and chamber master classes with Almita Vamos, Joseph Kalichstein, and members of the Emerson String Quartet. Her summer experiences include Bowdoin, where she was a member of the full-scholarship fellowship program; Colorado College Summer Music Festival; Aspen, and Eastern Music Festival, where she was a winner of the annual concerto competition. In 2016, Gersten received her bachelor’s in English and creative writing from Yale University, where she won the senior Wrexham Prize for music and served as co-concertmaster of the Yale Symphony Orchestra and editor of the Yale Daily News Magazine. She is a senior editor for Guernica: A Magazine of Global Arts and Politics, and has held internships at NPR Music and the Toledo, Ohio-based paper The Blade. Her reporting, essays, and music reviews have been published or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review Online, The Awl, NPR Music, Guernica, Harvard Magazine, WQXR, and Bachtrack.
About the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism
Situated within the artistic and intellectual vibrancy of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism brings together leading music journalists, renowned musicians, and aspiring young writers, combining the wisdom and insight of today's highly esteemed critics, the artistry and daring of acclaimed musicians, and the energy and promise of tomorrow's music journalists.
Founded in 2011 at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music by Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co., the biennial Rubin Institute features keynote addresses by the nation’s top critics (Writers Panel) and public concerts by acclaimed musicians from the solo, chamber, orchestral, and operatic stages. The performances are reviewed by a hand-selected group of student writers (Fellows) from renowned colleges and conservatories across the country, and the Writers Panel critiques their work in private workshops and public sessions. The Institute culminates with the awarding of the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism to the Fellow who demonstrates exceptional promise in music criticism. Institute graduates have gone on to write for distinguished publications such as The New Yorker and The Boston Globe. Participating critics have included Alex Ross, The New Yorker magazine critic and author; Anne Midgette, The Washington Post critic and author; Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal critic and author; John Rockwell, writer, critic, and former editor of The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section; Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle critic; Tim Page, author, professor, and former Washington Post critic, and Rubin Institute benefactor Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co.
The first program of its kind to spotlight the craft of classical music journalism, the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism teamed with the Ann and Gordon Foundation in 2016 to create a new initiative for advancing and maintaining the qualitative discourse on music. Through this innovative approach, the non-profit consortium partners with news organizations to provide a financially sustainable model for supporting thoughtful and critical journalism across the profession. In the program, news outlets retain complete editorial control over assignments and content, and they provide some funding as well. Current partnering organizations include The Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Seattle Times, and Toronto Star, among others.
The 2018 Rubin Institute for Music Criticism
The 2018 edition of the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism took place October 25–29, and featured partnerships with acclaimed performing organizations: the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, International Contemporary Ensemble, and the Rubin Institute’s newest partner, SFJAZZ. Members of the Writers Panel included some of the most respected journalists in the music industry: Gary Giddins, guest critic and author of Bing Crosby: Swinging On a Star, The War Years 1940–1946 (Brown, Little 2018); Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle critic; Anne Midgette, The Washington Post critic and author; Tim Page, professor, former Washington Post critic, and special contributor to Past / Forward: The LA Phil at 100 (Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2018); John Rockwell, writer, critic, and former editor of The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section; Alex Ross, The New Yorker magazine critic and author; Stephen Rubin, Institute benefactor and president of Henry Holt & Co.; and Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal critic and author of Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018).
Gersten and Solomon emerged from a field of 18 Rubin Fellows who were selected to take part in the Rubin Institute by the Writers Panel through an open application process. The other Fellows, hailing from colleges and conservatories around the U.S. and abroad, included Rose Bridges—University of Texas at Austin; Timothy Diovanni–Dublin Institute of Technology; Hannah Edgar–University of Chicago; Tamzin Elliott–University of Southern California; Peter Feher, John Masko, and Evan Pengra Sult–San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Jennifer Gersten–State University of New York at Stony Brook; Patrick Jankowski and Amanda Vosburgh–Yale University; Alice Koeninger, Rory O’Donoghue, and Parker Ramsay–Oberlin College and Conservatory; Jason McCool–Boston University; Grace Odell–University of Missouri–Kansas City; Madison Schindele–Goldsmiths, University of London; Brin Solomon–New York University; and Alexander Sutton–University of Virginia.
Full details on the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, including biographies on all those involved, concert programs, and more may be found at the Institute’s website, www.sfcm.edu/rubin-institute.
The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism, and the $1,000 Runner-up Prize is made possible by the generosity of Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co.