By Alison Graham
IU alumna Sarah Kidd was the first woman to be accepted into the conducting program at the New England conservatory in 2012.
The 27-year-old Jacobs School of Music graduate grew up in Bloomington and cultivated her passion for music at Bloomington High School North.
The memorial for Sarah Kidd was held in the Musical Arts Center Lobby on Sunday. Kidd was a 2009 Jacobs School of Music graduate.
Heavily involved with the music and band program in high school, she worked with the Musical Arts Center even before she became a student at IU. She graduated from Jacobs with a Music Performance degree in cello in 2009.
Her musical career began at the MAC, her father said. And on Sunday, the conductor’s journey ended there.
Friends and family held a memorial at the MAC to honor Kidd on Sunday after she died Jan. 28 from a cancer of unknown origin.
She was always working toward her goals, her father Gary Kidd said at the memorial.
He gave the introduction at Sunday’s ceremony, thanking everyone for coming and for the support his family had received from Sarah’s friends and loved ones.
As he stepped off the podium, wiping tears from his eyes, seven string players picked up their instruments and began to play composer Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.”
Previous professors, grade school friends and high school band directors filed up to the podium to offer their memories of Sarah.
Her dream was to become a great conductor, someone who could make incredible music with orchestras and pursue her passion.
She was pursuing a career in a male-dominated field, but that never stopped her, or even fazed her, when she stepped up to the podium before any performance, according to an article she wrote in March 2010 for the Juilliard Journal.
“Thanks to the women who have come before me, I was able to pursue my passion and imagine making music with great orchestras someday,” she wrote.
Jacobs only offers a master’s program in conducting. Sarah considered continuing her studies in Bloomington after graduation, but was persuaded otherwise by her conducting professor, David Effron.
Effron told her to pursue new experiences instead of staying in the town where she grew up.
“I thought that since she lived all her life in Bloomington, she should go and get a new viewpoint,” Effron said. “She already had an IU and Bloomington experience.”
After graduation, she moved to New York and was accepted to Juilliard to participate in the school’s conducting program.
“She made a big splash at Juilliard,” Effron said. “They really believed in her.”
At Juilliard, Effron said Kidd met many contacts in the conducting programs, which helped her make a name for herself.
Kidd received a Master of Music in 2011 from Juilliard and went on to become the first woman accepted into the conducting program at the New England Conservatory in 2012.
Of about 50 people who applied for the program, she was the only one admitted.
The application process is a difficult one, said Hugh Wolff, the head of the conducting program at NEC.
At the conducting audition, applicants have 25 minutes to conduct a 65-70 member orchestra in three different ensembles.
NEC professor David Loebel said she had a talent for conducting.
“I remember her audition very well, and you get this gut feeling within 30 seconds that she had what it takes,” Loebel said. “You can’t learn to have that. You are born with it.”
Kidd received her graduate diploma from NEC after one semester and went on to look for the next step in her career.
She married Richard Berg in May 2013 in San Antonio, where she saw many of her oldest friends for the last time.
“My last memory of her is perfect,” Kidd’s high school friend Caitlin White said. “Her and Richard floated away on the San Antonio canal. It was so beautiful then that I almost cried. I know that this is what I will be thinking about throughout the next few months.”
Six months after her wedding, everything stopped when she was diagnosed with stage four “cancer of unknown causes” last November, Wolff said.
Because the cancer was so far along, doctors could not tell where it had started.
Two and a half months later, Kidd died.
“The nature of her illness was so sudden and so drastic that people weren’t really able to comprehend it,” Wolff said. “It’s a huge loss to imagine that all of this potential is gone.”
Loebel said he believed Kidd was going to have a very bright future and that it was sad she would never receive the chance.
Despite her loss, friends and family celebrated her many accomplishments.
“What she did in her 27 years shows that if you want something badly enough, and you’re willing to put everything into it, you have a chance,” Effron said. “She was making a name for herself.”
Wolff said she was a wonderful example of talent, character, poise and someone who really went for it.
“If you have a dream or an ambition, really test yourself to see how far you can take it,” he said. “That’s what Sarah did.”
© Indiana Daily Student 2014