Cellist Merry Peckham, a founding member of the acclaimed Cavani String Quartet and a longtime educator who has developed a host of accomplished performers, will join the Oberlin Conservatory faculty as teacher of chamber music and string chamber music coordinator beginning July 1.
The appointment unites a pair of longtime friends and colleagues: Kirsten Docter, violist for the Cavani Quartet, also joins the Oberlin faculty this year. Both have earned praise for previous teaching experiences at Oberlin, including a decade-long stint for Peckham.
“Oberlin is an amazing place,” she says. “The conservatory and the college both have such a can-do attitude. It’s just a wonderful atmosphere in which to nurture well-rounded musicians on the verge of a professional career in music. The students at Oberlin learn to perform at a high artistic level as well as how to make a real difference in the world as communicators and advocates of great music.
"Through my 10 years of teaching at Oberlin, I’ve appreciated the passion with which the students approach their chamber music. I don’t have to convince them that chamber music is an important thing to do. Their passion and enthusiasm is wonderfully palpable.”
As a member of the Cavani Quartet, Peckham was honored with a Naumburg Chamber Music Award, Musical America’s Young Artists of the Year award, and the ASCAP-Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music. The quartet twice won the Guarneri String Quartet Residency Award, and Peckham won the overall string category and the cello division of the National Federation of Music Clubs Competition. With Cavani, she has toured extensively throughout the United States and abroad. In 2014, the quartet celebrated its 30th anniversary.
As an educator, Peckham has served as a member of the Cleveland Institute of Music faculty since 1998, and the Cavani Quartet has been CIM’s quartet in residence since 1988. In addition to Oberlin, she has taught at Baldwin Wallace University, the University of Texas at Austin, and other institutions. She has led master classes in numerous festivals and academic settings across America and around the globe.
"Merry brings to this position a great breadth of experience, as well as tremendous passion and energy for chamber music," says Dean of the Conservatory Andrea Kalyn. "Her coaching and mentoring of students has been exemplary, and it is with great pleasure that we welcome her to Oberlin in this new capacity."
In addition to her new role at Oberlin, Peckham is associate director of the Perlman Music Program, an organization founded by Toby and Itzhak Perlman dedicated to training exceptional young musicians. With her fellow Cavani members, Peckham has developed numerous programs intended to introduce new audiences to classical music—among them the Music, Art & Poetry (MAP) Project, for which the quartet won a Cuyahoga Arts and Culture grant in 2016. Peckham has trained members of numerous acclaimed string ensembles, including the Miró, Ariel, Biava, Maia, Aeolus, and Jupiter quartets.
Since 2004, she has hosted Offbeat, an insightful, sometimes irreverent Saturday radio program on WCLV 104.9 FM, Cleveland’s classical music station. She is also the cellist of the Elysian Piano Trio, ensemble in residence at the Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music.
Peckham earned a bachelor of music degree from Indiana University and a master of music from the Eastman School of Music. She pursued additional studies at Yale University and Ohio State University. Her teachers and mentors have included Janos Starker, Aldo Parisot, Gary Hoffman, Paul Katz, Peter Salaff, and Toby Perlman.
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