“The thing that I love most at GA is that there is something truly magical about working with a young person, establishing a trusting relationship, and coaxing and nurturing that spark of potential within them. I love watching them grow, mature, and become interesting young adults,” said Joanne Bates, private music instructor of the cello and double bass. Bates is hanging up her bow after a 26-year career at GA. Stepping on campus in 1997 under the former Head of Performing Arts Janice Kemp, Bates has brought her personal talent of teaching to students that have come to appreciate a love of music.
“For 26 years, Joanne Bates has shared her musical gifts and passion with hundreds of GA students fortunate enough to have her as their cello and double bass instructor,” said Head of School, Rich Schellhas 1760. “Knowing how frequently we have had to move our private music studios over the years due to various construction projects, I imagine Joanne has taught in nearly as many spaces as the number of students she has taught! But regardless of location, she remained laser-focused on sharing her deep talent and pedagogical skill with each individual musician, as if they were the only one in the world. I will never forget Joanne’s decision regarding one particularly extraordinary student when she encouraged him to seek an even higher level of professional training because she knew he had the ability to play bass professionally at the most elite ranks. This tells you everything you need to know about Joanne as a teacher – humble, student-centered, generous, and truly invested. As she retires to embrace her role as a grandparent, we celebrate Joanne’s musical legacy at the Academy.”
Teachers of Lower School students, in addition to learning songs and sonatas, get to see an artist from the beginning of their “career.” One of Bates’ fondest memories was teaching double bass player Jack Kolodny ’18 in 4th and 5th grades. “I remember at his music lesson he was telling me about the class trip to the art museum. He said, ‘Whenever I see a beautiful painting or piece of sculpture I want to play my bass.’ This simple, yet profound expression of the power of art to inspire has stayed with me. Next week I’ll be going to New York to hear Jack’s graduation recital at Juilliard!”
Bates brought an extraordinary musical history to GA as a female double bassist. Having graduated from the world-renowned Curtis Institute of Music, she has played on preeminent stages, including the Philadelphia Orchestra (1st woman ever to perform in the bass section, substitute), Princeton Symphony (30 years, 17 as principal), Riverside Symphonia in Lambertville (30 years), Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, Delaware Symphony, Reading Symphony, Northeastern Philharmonic and the Opera Companies of Philadelphia, Delaware, and Trenton. Bates has also served on the faculty at Kutztown University and Chestnut Hill College.
Bates is thought of highly by both her students and colleagues. The connection she makes with her students exemplifies GA’s Mission Statement. She is able to build a bond that nurtures and inspires students through not only music, but life. Lower School Orchestra Director/Private Lesson Coordinator Hannah Doucette said, “Joanne has had a tremendous impact on our private lesson program, and her expertise and dedication to our students has been outstanding. Congratulations on a well-deserved retirement! I am so honored to have worked alongside Joanne and will miss her at GA!”