Local 802 member John Corigliano, distinguished professor of music at Lehman College and the winner of this year’s Academy Award for the best original score (for The Red Violin) received a warm tribute on June 12. An auditorium filled with students, faculty, alumni and supporters of the Lehman College-Local 802 music program cheered and applauded as Lehman College President Ricardo R. Fernandez, Music Department Chair Bernard Shockett and 802 President Bill Moriarity congratulated Corigliano.
Fernandez pointed out that “John is not only an extraordinary composer, but also an extraordinary teacher. Being a gifted teacher means that that you’re willing not only to communicate the knowledge that you have but also to reveal something very personal about who you are . . . For 28 years John’s students have had the opportunity to know not only John Corigliano the composer, but also John Corigliano the person.”
He noted that Corigliano “has shared the award with all of us,” using every interview as an opportunity “to talk about New York City public schools, how they educated him, the teachers who made an impact on him – and the opportunities that can be found in the music program at Lehman College and at City University.”
Shockett outlined the history of the 802 program – which now offers a four-year Bachelor of Science degree, in performance or composition, as well as a Master of Arts in Teaching in Music. He described how it was launched during the Max Arons administration, and the support it has subsequently received from the administrations of John Glasel and Bill Moriarity. The need for such a program had become evident during the 1970s, he said, as it became “tougher and tougher to make a living in music.” Shockett said the Lehman-Local 802 collaboration produced “a unique program, the first in the country to be developed by a union and a college.”
“I’m very impressed by the feeling of family and the feeling of warmth at Lehman College,” said Moriarity. He, too, referred to the fact that in every interview Corigliano has given since winning the Oscar, “he has never failed to mention the Lehman-Local 802 program, and what it means both to the Local 802 members who take part in the program and those younger students who are not yet members – and how the interactions between those two groups has been valuable for both.”
Sometimes the union does the right thing “by putting something in motion and leaving it alone, just giving it a little nudge whenever it needs it,” Moriarity said. “And the best thing we can do with these kinds of programs is to leave them in the hands of people like Bernie Shockett, and the students in the hands of people like John Corigliano . . . I congratulate you, John, and I congratulate everyone in this auditorium.”
Corigliano recounted some notable experiences during his 28 years at Lehman, and the enormous satisfaction he has derived from teaching. He described the feelings of loneliness and insecurity that a composer is often assailed with. “But then I come here – where everybody is creating and we’re all working together,” he said. “This is the part of my life that balances the other part of my life.”