Play it again, Thomas

Thomas Loewenheim

~ Reprinted from Campus News

Performing as cellist, conducting and giving master classes locally and around the world are just some of Dr. Thomas Loewenheim’s accomplishments as a musician. The professor of music achieved all that while adapting his personal playing style to his disability.

“My passion for education stems from my deep love of music and my dedication to it,” he said. “Having grown up in a musical family, music has always been a major part of my life. It has enriched my life in so many ways that it has become my goal to pass on my passion and knowledge of music, as performer and teacher, to the next generation of musicians.”

Because he had to adapt his personal playing style to his disability — severe bilateral clubfoot, successfully corrected through operations in his childhood — he chose at an early stage of his career not to go the usual route of international competitions. Instead, he pursued his education while maintaining an active concert career as soloist and chamber musician.

“Through my own performing experience, the privilege of working with some of the great cellists of our day in master classes and lessons and teaching students, I have developed my own approach to cello teaching,” he said. “Using this approach I have been able to achieve rapid results with all levels of student, from beginner to advanced college, both as a teacher and conductor.”

Loewenheim is the conductor of the university orchestra and the cello professor. He also teaches chamber music and is in charge of the string area in the Department of Music. In addition, he is the chair of the outreach committee, which oversees all the scholarships in the department.

At Fresno State for nearly 10 years, he was hired to rebuild the Fresno State Symphony Orchestra and restore the string program.

The Fresno State Symphony Orchestra, an ensemble composed of, and open to, Fresno State students from all areas of study, produces a full season of four concerts with completely new programs each year.

These concerts present high-quality performances of a large variety of classical works from all periods. Most importantly, they initiated the tradition of premiering new compositions by Fresno State faculty and student composers.

The orchestra features faculty, students and internationally known guest artists as soloists.

Loewenheim also envisioned and create an extremely successful summer program, the Fresno Opera and Orchestra Summer Academy. Every Fresno State student who attended received a scholarship.

FOOSA will hold another festival this summer from June 11-25. The event gathers top-notch internationally renowned faculty, as well as students from Fresno and around the world, for a two-week intensive program presenting phenomenal concerts in Fresno and at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

This year, the final concert of FOOSA serves as the opening concert for Summer Arts. Loewenheim will be a guest artist this year for the Summer Arts chamber music course.

“Summer Arts, being a large interdisciplinary arts festival, brings to Fresno faculty and guest artists, which makes Fresno an arts hub for our community, offering performances, exhibitions, and concerts we would otherwise not have here during the summer months,” he said. “It also gives faculty and students the opportunity to work with the guest faculty and artists, exchange ideas, and learn new techniques.”

Loewenheim earned a doctorate in cello performance from the renowned Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University, where he studied with Janos Starker and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, and was mentored in conducting by David Effron. He received a master’s degree from the University of Michigan under Erling Blöndal Bengtsson and his bachelor’s degree from the Rubin Academy for Music and Dance in Jerusalem.

He said it is hard to explain the feeling he gets when he sees students turn into wonderful musicians and teachers.

“Guiding students and having the opportunity to help them figure out their life path brings a deep meaning to my work here,” he said.

Loewenheim is the music director of the Youth Orchestras of Fresno, a nonprofit organization in Fresno that has nearly 300 students in three orchestras.

Another one of his achievements in the past few years was the establishment of the CELLO│FRESNO – International Cello Festival.

Last year he served as the President of Phi Kappa Phi, the university’s highest honor society.

His exceptional achievements as an educator have been recognized by a number of awards, including the Provost’s Award for Promising New Faculty (2011), the Texas Music Educators Association Conductor of the All-State String Orchestra Award (2015), and the Provost’s Award for Excellence in Teaching (2016).

“Going to work making music every day is of course one of the big delights of my position,” he said. “That combined with the ability to work and guide my students through their musical and personal growth is an incredible process. … Music has the ability to bring people together and break barriers like no other field that I have seen. It is truly an international language that brings us all together.”

Besides his passion for music, he loves swimming and traveling.

He is married to Fresno State Professor Dr. Jidong Chen (Linguistics). They met at the International Committee of the College of Arts and Humanities.

“I guess committee work is worth the efforts after all,” he quips.

They have two amazing sons, Emmanuel (nearly 6) and Raphael (3).

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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