RECIPIENT OF THE SECOND DAMIEN DIXON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
Kathryn Whitaker is a piano student of professor Ingrid Clarfield. She is a music education student in the BM/MAT program. Kathryn is a native of Eynon, Pennsylvania, where she works as a vocal coach, accompanist and wedding musician. Kathryn is also a cantor at St. Peter’s Cathedral, Scranton.
In the winter of her senior year in high school Kathryn won the Westminster Choir College Piano Competition for incoming freshmen. She has a varied musical background and was a two-time Pennsylvania All-State soprano, drum major of the marching band and played bassoon, percussion and flute in her high school band. She also played bassoon in the Marywood University (Scranton, PA) Wind Ensemble. Kathryn has performed in piano recitals twice at Weil Hall, New York City. She studied piano under the direction of Sr. Immaculate Severino, IHM, NCTM,.
In the spring of 2006, Kathryn won the Freshmen Piano Competition and was also inducted into the Alpha Lambda Delta National Honor Society for First year College Students. She was the soprano soloist in Brittens’ “Rejoice In The Lamb” as performed by the Chapel Choir.
In the winter of Kathryn’s sophomore year at WCC, she performed her junior piano performance recital at Williamson Hall, fulfilling this requirement a year in advance.
She also was a member and featured soloist with the Williamson Voices and the Jubilee Singers. Kathryn has recently been invited into the BM/MAT Degree Program at Westminster Choir College, this will enables her to earn a Bachelor’s in Music Education. and a Masters of Teaching degree with an additional year of study.
At Spring Convocation when Kathryn learned she was the second recipient of the esteemed Damien Dixon Memorial Scholarship, she felt “not only honored, but very, very humbled to be considered worthy of Damien’s award.” Upon hearing that Kathryn won Damien’s Scholarship, Sr. Severino was proud to share her connection with one of Damien’s proudest moments. The year that Damien Dixon won the National Baldwin Piano Competition, Sr. Severino was the chairperson of the National Piano Teachers Guild, She reminisced with Kathryn how she proudly presented Damien’s musical score to the panel of judges, complete with Mrs. Clarfield’s flamboyantly colored interpretations on display!
RECIPIENT OF THE FIRST DAMIEN DIXON MEMORIAL SCHOLARSHIP
Ryan Brechmacher is a senior piano and composition double major at Westminster Choir College. He was selected unanimously by the Piano Department as the recipient of the first Damien Dixon Memorial Scholarship. Damien described the person who he would have liked to receive this scholarship. In Damien’s words:
“The Damien Dixon Memorial Scholarship is given to an undergraduate pianist for whom the piano is more than just a major. The pianist worthy of this award plays with imagination and personality and uses the piano to stir up the emotions of the listener.”
This award was announced on April 27, 2006 at the Awards Convocation at Westminster Choir College of Rider University. Ryan has been working on transcribing Damien's piano music, with the hopes of publication. He was working with Damien up until the time of his passing in November on the project.
Ryan is a native of Bowling Green, Ohio, which is home to Bowling Green State University, where Brechmacher has been involved in many projects. He has recently taught theory classes and been a counselor at both the BGSU Piano Camp, and been a counselor, vocal coach, and accompanist for the BGSU Musical Theater Camp. He has also been involved in the university's Opera for Youth program, singing the role of Defense Lawyer in "The Trial of
At Westminster, Brechmacher is active in the WCC Christian Fellowship and in Rider's Protestant Campus Ministries, acting as worship leader for both groups.
| He is also currently a member and formerly music director for the Princeton University/WCC Christian a cappella group, Kindred Spirit. As a pianist, he has given both his junior and senior recitals as well as appearing in honors concerts and recitals at the Westminster and Lawrenceville campuses.
As a composer, Ryan's works have been premiered by WCC's Schola Cantorum as well as The Westminster Community Orchestra. Ryan's composition, "Songs of Praise the Angels Sang", was premiered on May 12, 2006, as the "Graduating Anthem" at Westminster's 77th Commencement Ceremony. He also had another work commissioned and premiered by the Bowling Green Junior High Eighth Grade Band this past year.
As a student Brechmacher has maintained a 3.95 GPA and has earned the honor of being named a Rider Scholar for two straight years. This past April, he was chosen by the Westminster faculty to deliver the Rider Scholar Address at WCC's Convocation.
Over the summer, Brechmacher is planning on doing recording of some songs he has written with a group of friends from home, giving a solo piano recital in Bowling Green, and working at four piano camps in both Ohio and New Jersey. This will be Ryan’s second summer teaching with Mrs. Clarfield at Westminster’s Piano Camp for High School Students.
Ryan's thoughts on winning this award
"Receiving this scholarship means a lot to me, as I have worked with Damien both professionally and personally during my years at Westminster. He was a great guy, always with a sense of humor no matter what was going on around him. He was wise beyond his years and profound in even the most mundane things he would say and do. It's been a privilege working on transcribing his music, and it is an honor to be the first recipient of the scholarship in his name."
Eulogy for Damien Dixon
By Ingrid Clarfield
December 3, 2005
We never know the impact one phone call can have on our lives. I certainly had no idea in the Fall of 1988, when I received a call from a tearful woman saying she was teaching an unbelievably gifted young boy and she knew she was not the right teacher for him. She asked if I would consider accepting him. I told her I was flattered, but that I had absolutely no room for any more students, but I would be happy to listen to him and make some teacher recommendations.
The afternoon I was to hear him, I was on the phone with my colleague Phyllis Lehrer telling her what I was doing, and she asked me the name of the kid. When I told her, Damien Dixon, she said there was no way I wouldn’t take him. I argued I had no openings, and she said once you hear this kid, trust me, you won’t be able to say no. Well, within a few minutes I knew Phyllis was right. I was mesmerized by Damien, as an individual and a musician. In later years, Damien and I often discussed this incredibly sloppy audition and he said he was amazed his talent managed to come through all the slop. At this age, Damien had only one tempo-prestissimo-as fast as possible. When I asked him if he had played any Beethoven Sonatas, he looked at me with a big smile and proudly said, I’ve sight read through all 32 of them.
The first few months were painful for both of us, as Damien discovered some new concepts----discipline, slow practice, and paying attention to details. I wondered if I would be able to tame this wild and wonderful talent and still maintain his magical and unique personality. Within a short time, Damien started winning numerous awards and competitions for piano and composition sponsored by Music Teachers National Association, New Jersey Music Teachers Association, Piano Teachers Congress of New York, Young Keyboard Artists Association, just to name a few. One of his favorite awards was winning 1 st place in the International Piano Competition featuring Chinese Music in Washington, DC, which needless to say attracted primarily (like 98%) Asians. He loved the photo of himself with the other winners that was used for the next year’s competition publicity. But undoubtedly, his proudest moment was being named the 1 st prize winner in the 1991 Music Teachers National Association Baldwin Piano Competition. This entailed him 1 st winning on the State level, then competing against the 12 other state winners in the Eastern Division, before competing in the National Finals in Miami. We relived that experience many times. The whole family was there to celebrate his success. There are several pictures of this happy event on the website. Before the winners concert, in front of hundreds of people, I asked him if he wanted to warm up or perhaps run through the piece with me. He said “Relax, I’ll be fine!” He started the last movement of Prokofiev 6 th Sonata at a tempo I had never heard before, or since. Needless to say he tore the house down with his performance. Years later people still talk about that performance.
To this day, he is the only pianist from New Jersey to ever win this competition, a title he cherished.
Damien went on to win many more awards and perform concerti with the Plainfield Symphony, Greater Trenton Symphony, Monmouth Symphony, and the Greater Princeton Youth Orchestra.
The second phase of my relationship came several years later, while Damien was in graduate school. But I must tell you, that while he was in college, he never missed calling me on my birthday. When he realized that he really didn’t want to be an engineer and wanted to get back to his real love, music, I welcomed him back to my private studio, inviting him to accompany many of my students on Concerti. He also was a welcomed participant in studio classes with all my young students loving him for his playful childlike side and wonderful sense of humor, but knowing that his comments on their playing was always insightful and as picky or even pickier than mine.
Then, I asked him to accompany a Westminster student on a concerto. When everyone heard him play in performance class they were truly amazed. After that class, another student asked Damien to play one of his compositions in a composition recital, and from there his second life as a musician was reborn and he became known as Damien and his Divas. Damien became one of the most sought after accompanists at Westminster.
I loved watching Damien sit on the bench outside of Bristol Chapel, as he delighted in being surrounded by his Divas.
During this time we also would go out for dinner occasionally, and he often would bemoan his inability to find the perfect woman, or one who even came close. He started to worry she just didn’t exist, and then alas one of his divas, who told me she found him a little “creepy” at first, became a good friend, and then the love of his life, Becca. He was so smitten, but always anxious that it might not last that 1 st month to make it through her recital (because you can’t break up with someone before their recital). Needless to say, it lasted for two years, and we are all grateful to Becca for all the love and support she gave him these last two years. We should all be so lucky to have a Becca in our lives.
The third and final phase of my relationship with Damien was these past few months when he was in the hospital. During this difficult period this remarkable man never lost his sense of humor, strong convictions or compassion. We often laughed about memories of lessons and performances, but I’ll never forget one day when I just started crying. As Damien gently tried comforting me, he suddenly started laughing saying, “What’s wrong with this picture? I’m dying and I have to comfort you!” and then he compassionately said, “I worry most about you and Ommie.”
On November 20, I had a wonderful final visit with Damien where I told him one of his favorite students of mine, Emiko was the New Jersey winner of the MTNA Competition and I thought had a good chance to win Eastern Division and go on to the National Finals. While I had other students who had accomplished this feat, in the past Damien always made it clear he wanted to keep his title, but it would be okay if they came in 3 rd. At this time I expected him to finally be able to relinquish his title. He looked at me, and said with a slow but heartfelt conviction, I really hope she _ _ _ _ __ _ _ _ _ _ comes in second!!
I’d like to close by sharing some of Damien’s own words with you. Two months ago I told him I planned to endow a scholarship in his name. He was thrilled that his name would be part of a scholarship. I asked him to describe the person who would receive this award. He said: “The Damien Dixon Memorial Piano Scholarship is to be given to an undergraduate pianist for whom the piano is more than just a major. The pianist worthy of this award plays with imagination and personality and uses the piano to stir up the emotions of the listener.”
So many of you here today, I’m sure had your emotions stirred up by Damien’s imaginative playing that was full of his personality. He hopes to continue encouraging this in other young musicians.
As his teacher and friend, I feel I learned so much from Damien about living and dying and for that I will always be grateful. May we all be able to think of Damien and smile and remember the incredible joy he gave to so many people.
Memorial Contributions may be made to:
Westminster Choir College of Rider University
The Damien Dixon Memorial Piano Scholarship
Attention: Kate Wadley
Westminster Choir College, 101 Walnut Lane, Princeton, NJ 08540
Thoughts from friends of Damien
... I have only known Damien to be a kind, munificent, talented and goofy person; one of those people you wish you knew more of. I trust both of you know that this grand statement is no exaggeration of his spirit, even in eulogy.
"You've just seen a prince walk by. A fine, troubled prince. A hard-working, unappreciated prince. A pal, you understand?"
I am thankful that, in life and in death, Damien Dixon was very appreciated by those he met - he even inspired a small boy to practice piano and that has made all the difference in my life.
That's the sort of thing Damien did. It's frustrating - how do you repay a man who spent so many hours of his very short life helping you? Ironically, giving himself so totally made Damien the prince that he was and the prince he will be wherever he is now.
May he rest in peace,
... I was deeply saddened to find out about Damien's passing. I really wish I had been able to make the trip down to Princeton to see him. I have no doubt that his positive spirit was present right up until the end. Some people are born into this world lucky enough to have everything in their favor, and still complain about every little detail. Damien was the opposite. He had more struggles and grief than he ever deserved, and yet I never saw him in a mood that wasn't chipper and carefree. We should all remember Damien when something in our lives goes awry and we gripe about our bad luck. Damien had more bad luck in his tragically short life than anyone should, but he took it all with an innocent smile and a golden heart.
I'm so glad that you were in touch with him until the end. You were one of the most important people in his life, and through your teaching, your friendship, and your constant support, you clearly brought much love and joy to him. Damien passed that love and joy on to everyone he knew, and I hope that the people lucky enough to have met him will remember these qualities after his passing. On this Thanksgiving weekend, Damien's passing certainly brings a more profound meaning to the holiday.
Please let me know the details of the funeral once you have them. It may not be possible for me to attend, but I would certainly like to try.
Best wishes to you, Ingrid, at this most difficult time.
“I’ll always remember Damien’s smiling face at auditions, competitions and performances. He would come in, rather nonchalantly, with a broad grin and a cheerful greeting, as though he was about to do nothing more serious than take a walk in the park. In his earlier years he would be supported by both his parents and his little sisters who all waited patiently – the sisters occupying one chair. It was very exciting for all of us who were involved in NJMTA at that time, when “our” Damien won the
competition. We were thrilled for both of you. Come to think of it, we hardly ever used his second name – “Damien” was enough.”
All the best.
... I'd like you pass on my condolences to his family
and Rebecca. I'll always have the fondest memories of him, and I'll never forget how much he helped me, and how fun it was to make music with him. He really challenged me to challenge myself, and I think we made a great team.
Thank you for creating the scholarship. I'm so glad that his name will live on.
I hope you are doing well.
I don't remember how I met Damien exactly, but I can try and describe
how it probably happened. One of the dormitories (Donner Hall) had a
piano on its first floor, right next to the entrance. I would wander
in and try my hand at the piano, and certainly at some point Damien
had ended up in there showing me how it's really done. I think he
taught me half of the things I know about playing piano (something I
don't do very well!), and did so just in casual remarks. Anyone would
take the advice of someone who could play so much Nintendo music so
Rather than paragraph-and-sentence everything, I'll present a list of
some random memories:
-- Damien once said to me "there are two kinds of people in this
world. those who put people into two categories, and those who
don't"... then he went on to say the actual two categories he'd
originally meant to say.
-- he listened to rap as well as classical music - i must have
mentioned to him that our friend, Simon Peffers, was interested in
some rap suggestions. Damien came into class the next day and said to
him "What's up, Peff Daddy?"
-- I remember chuckling with him as he noticed that the Spanish word
for VCR is "videograbadora". Sounds fake, doesn't it?
-- playing Tekken 3, he could whip my butt _and_ throw in countless
funny insults in the process!
-- a friend of ours was brushing her teeth, and Damien mimed along
with the motions/sounds. you can't imagine how funny that looks until
you see it.
-- one day, I was fudging my way through the opening arpeggios in
Moonlight Sonata's third movement. He'd said I should try doing it
along with the left hand accompaniment. I said no no no, I can't quite
pull that off. I demonstrated. His word? "Yeah, you're really fudging
it. The only reason I can tell is because I fudge things that much
-- he was taking Japanese at college. His name in that language was
Dixon-san, or, phoenetically in Japanese, di-ku-san-san.
I'd always thought that Damien was someone who should be known and
remembered beyond just his friends - someone who deserved some degree
of celebrity. It's too late for him here, but maybe this page will be
...I am sure that there was great happiness being remembered yesterday, as Damien himself was a great man of great happiness. I'll never forget how contagious his smile was. He would walk into a room, and everyone would be happy all of a sudden -- it truly amazed me, and I wanted to be able to do what he did. He has this powerful and wonderful influence on everyone he is surrounded by, and every time I have ever seen him, he's ALWAYS surrounded by admirers, friends, and fans.
I'll never forget his performance in the Haydn C Major Sonata with the cute staccatos in the opening, because I remember how perfectly that piece suited him and how perfectly he suited that piece. To this day, I always think of him whenever I hear that piece. What a truly wonderful pianist and, if still possible, an even more wonderful person. He is surely missed by all of us, but having had the good fortune of meeting and befriending Damien in our lives, that special and vibrant presence that he possessed will never, ever leave us.
My deepest sympathies go out to you, Ms Clafield, and all who had the honor to personally know Damien. You see my name is Jackie, and although i always hoped to meet this talented man in person, but sadly time never granted me that privilege.
I know about Damien through our mutual friend Bonnie Sparkman. Shortly after Damien's diagnosis, i was struggling with some health issues of my own. They were far less serous then Damien's but to me they were insurmountable. And one night i began slipping into my self induced pity party. But Bonnie would not let me slip to far, she very gently interrupted my belly aching, and told me about her friend Damien
She spoke of aggressiveness of his illness, and how many treatments( both conventional and non conventional he had already endured.) i remember thinking if i was going through that i would close the curtains and curl up in the fetal position. But Bonnie continued to describe him as a man whose spirit and passion for life was far stronger the the disease ravishing his body
the next day Bonnie forwarded an entry from his web log. He spoke of how the chemo were affecting his finger nails, and how this might be a problem for most pianists. but not for him, He had found a way to play sans finger nails. I tried not to laugh as cancer is obviously a horrid disease, But the Damien was laughing in cancer's face so why shouldn't I? By the time i finished the email I was actually laughing out loud.
i begged Bonnie to forward me all his notes after that, and then felt compelled to forward them to everyone i knew. i never left my computer uninspired, or emotionally charged. I often caught myself thinking that Damien should unleash his wisdom, wit and amazing candor in his own nationally syndicated newspaper column, but then i realized he his fingers were probably most comfortable on his beloved piano keys,
Like i said i never had to the pleasure to actually meet the man.... i was just a "fan" who admired from afar. His words touched me on a level i can not describe. Perhaps that what a true legacy is, when a person inspires a person without even knowing it.
So tonight i applaud you. It WAS a great fight. May you take your place with the angels and the greatest pianists history have ever known. And may your friends family and esp Becca be comforted by the legacy you leave behind.
...I read the eulogy today on your website. You did a beautiful job
capturing his spirit, and the memorial on the website is truly a
tribute to him. As I was reading and looking through the pictures today
I was reminded of a time I had with him outside your studio. We used to
talk for about 5 or 10 minutes every week before my lesson and one he
accompanied in that hallway. Each week he would find me sitting on the
floor under the water fountain with stomach pains, and as nervous as
could be. We would joke around about his memories of piano lessons etc.
But one day he came into the hallway and I must have looked especially
nervous that day, and he said "Geez haven't you learned to just
practice yet!" I'll never forget that.
My Hero by
Today, society describes a hero as anyone who is able to do the right thing, exhibit moral honestly and exhibit incredible initiative and courage. Our expectations for our heroes have been lowered to a mortal level compared with the earliest heroes. Back in ancient Greece and Rome, the only hero was a classical hero. A man that “exhibits emotional courage, must deal with an opposing power, experiences death, possess intelligence and wit, uses abilities to help others, goes on a quest or journey, achieves divinity, has an unusual birth and an immortal parents, and possesses great physical strengths. While I do believe that today’s heroes do not carry the same burdens Odysseus, Achilles, and Hector had to burden, they still have no easy task.
In my opinion, a hero today would still have to be extraordinary. I would expect my hero to be inspirational, caring, respected, exceptionally talented, and most importantly, overcome horrible hardships to accomplish a task and help his community. He must be unique in what he does and serve as a role model to those who look to him. While my hero may not have had an unusual birth or great physical strengths, he certainly possesses all of the characteristics I look for in a hero and even some of a classical hero’s traits. My hero is Damien Dixon. Although he may not be as well known as Kobe Bryant or Bill Gates, his accomplishments and deeds are not to be overlooked. Damien Dixon died on November 25th, 2005 due to a demoplastic small round cell tumor, a rare and highly aggressive form of cancer. Ironically, his doctors declared that he would live no longer than the 24th. This is a prime example of the life he lived and his contributions for my passion for piano and my understanding of life. I first met Damien when I was nine years old while I was auditioning for a spot in Mrs. Ingrid Clarfield’s prestigious piano studio. Although my piano skills at the time were not sufficient, and Mrs. Clarfield turned me down. I ended up gaining an even more important friend and mentor in Damien. Somewhere in the tryout, my parents were introduced to Damien. He taught me some piano and it was really his
attitude towards music and life that enlightened me. Prior to meeting him, I was a child at heart. I had no appreciation for hard work or diligence. I hated piano. Frankly, my parents were the ones who forced me to even audition for a spot in Mrs. Clarfield’s studio. However, I really had my epiphany after I met Damien. He is undeniably talented and prodigious in his gifts. To this day, he is still the only person from the state of New Jersey to win the prestigious MTNA Baldwin National Piano Competition. I have not even won it! Yet, with all of his blessings, his hardships were heartbreaking. His mother died early and although he qualified for Princeton University, he had to go to Carnegie Mellon because of financial issues. After he graduated college with his BA, his father also passed away, and he needed to pass up a doctoral program in Electrical Engineering at Princeton again to start earning an income to support his two younger sisters. Ultimately, he gave up engineering to return to his love of music. Searching for a teacher, my parents eagerly let Damien guide me. As I mentioned before, I was still relatively young when I studied with Damien and because of this, I had no idea and could not comprehend what adversities he had been through. Regardless of my innocence, I was not to detect any melancholy in his behavior. Although he had lived through many terrible hardships, Damien Dixon still had an upbeat, optimistic, and fun attitude towards life. There were many days when he was cheering me up! Through our experiences, he has not only helped me with piano and math homework, but he has turned me into a better person. Unfortunately, our time together did not last forever as he was diagnosed with cancer. Even though I have now had other piano teachers after him (I am now even in Mrs. Clarfield’s studio), I will never ever forget the lessons and inspiration I gained from him. His story is truly unique, and as long as I live, I will always hold the utmost respect for Damien. Although Damien Dixon has experienced death, he has truly achieved divinity in my heart.