Phoebe Durand-McDonnell ’19 Awarded Fulbright Award in Switzerland

May 15, 2019

Erin Ulrich ’18

Phoebe Durand-McDonnell smiling and seated playing the harp.
Phoebe Durand-McDonnell ’19
Photo credit: Chris Schmucki ’22

Senior harp performance major Phoebe Durand-McDonnell ’19 has been awarded a Fulbright to study historical harp performance in the Department of Musique Ancienne at the École de Musique in Geneva, Switzerland.

Phoebe Durand-McDonnell says she was first compelled to apply for a Fulbright after discovering a baroque harp in a locked practice room in the Conservatory of Music. She became increasingly interested in the instrument and its history, and later consulted her private teacher, Assistant Professor of Harp Yolanda Kondonassis, about her enthusiasm. Kondonassis suggested Durand-McDonnell apply for a Fulbright to further explore her interest.

Durand-McDonnell says her decision to apply for a Fulbright was crystallized after attending a masterclass and workshop with the renowned harpist Maria Cleary in her junior year. The summer after watching Cleary perform at Oberlin, Durand-McDonnell studied with her in the Czech Republic and later decided to write her Fulbright application to study with her in Geneva.

“One of the biggest Fulbright questions is, ‘Why couldn‘t you do this project in the U.S.?’” Durand-McDonnell says. “Although there are a few historic harpists in the U.S., none of them teach at institutions. I studied with Maria in the Czech Republic last summer at a festival and realized I really just love her teaching style and musicality.”

During her Fulbright year, Durand-McDonnell is most looking forward to studying historical performance practices in Europe—the birthplace of Western classical music. She will be pursuing a master’s degree program at the Haute Ècole de Music de Genève with Cleary and is particularly excited about studying with a Baroque harp provided to her by the institution.

“In terms of just living in Switzerland, I’m very excited about attending concerts in Geneva and exploring the old city,” she says. “I’m most looking forward to playing music I love, on instruments I love, with a teacher I love!”

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