University of the Pacific - Bachelor of Arts
Duke University - Master of Arts
Duke University - PhD
Assistant Professor of Music History, Cleveland State University, Ohio
Could it be coincidence or destiny? When Lily Hirsch was an upper school student at SCDS, she created a display about music history for a class project. It was a free-choice assignment, and even though she sang at SCDS and played piano in the upper school band, she had never before considered studying the history of music.
The irony of this memory is that Lily has been an assistant professor of music history in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Science at Cleveland State University for three years. In addition to leading graduate seminars, she teaches an undergraduate music history survey course and music appreciation for nonmajors. Furthermore, her bachelor’s degree from University of the Pacific and her master’s and doctorate from Duke are in music history. And, her first book and several published articles are about the history of a Jewish orchestra in Nazi Germany.
Clearly, Lily has come a long way from making classroom exhibits about music history!
Lily pointed out that the free-choice nature of her old music history project exemplified SCDS’s approach of encouraging students to follow their curiosities. “I was familiar with the concept because I attended a Montessori elementary school,” she said. “But I really enjoyed SCDS’s small class sizes, being in classes with other dedicated students, and the individual attention I received from my teachers,” she said. “I was pretty shy at the time, so I took solace in my studies. I also could easily talk to my teachers because they were as interested in the topics we were studying as I was.”
As a professor, Lily continues to enjoy the freedom of following her curiosities, which has resulted in a concrete fashion with several published articles and a forthcoming book challenging a commonly held belief about nationalistic music. In her book, A Jewish Orchestra in Nazi Germany: Musical Politics and the Berlin Jewish Cultural League, she pointed out that the nationalist music identified with a specific country, region, or ethnicity could be used to reinforce boundaries as well as celebrate heritage.
“I love being involved in changing people’s perceptions of music and history and studying controversies around music,” she said.
“I’ve always been fascinated with the relationship between music, politics, and religion, and how people can be labeled by their religion. People in music want music to be considered a happy thing,” she said. “But, music can be used in ways that are negative.”
Lily is following this premise with a new study of how classical music is being played in public area and parking lots to discourage loitering. Ironically one of her anecdotes will be a local story from her high school years when the City of Santa Rosa sought to play piped classical music in its downtown plaza for that precise purpose.