On June 4, 2012 several hundred of Walfrid Kujala’s former students and colleagues gathered for a concert to honor the master musician’s retirement from teaching at the Bienen School of Music at North-western University for the past 50 years. The coordinator-producer of the concert was Kujala’s wife Sherry. Alan Heatherington, music director of the Lake Forest Symphony, served as master of ceremonies for the evening. Heatherington shared, “It has been my great pleasure and privilege to have been associated professionally and personally with Walfrid Kujala for several decades, during which time he has given his characteristically astonishing performances of numerous major flute and piccolo solos under my baton.”
Toni-Marie Montgomery, Dean of Northwestern’s Bienen School of Music, spoke about Kujala’s contributions to the music world through his performances, teaching, and writing. She also presented him with a plaque honoring his accomplishments.
The concert opened with the Canzon Septimi Toni No. 2 for brass instruments by Giovanni Gabrieli. Members of the Northwestern Symphonic Wind Ensemble were conducted by colleague Mallory Thompson.
The Northwestern University Flute Ensemble, conducted by Kujala, performed Fanfare 36 by Atlanta-based flute choir composer Kelly Via. Kujala’s two sons joined the ensemble for the performance. Flutists Lindsey Goodman, Erin Frechette, Robert Cronin, Mindy Kaufman, Zart Dombourian-Eby, Mary Stolper, and Kristin Carr also performed.
Of special interest was the world premiere of Taking Charge… for Flute/Piccolo, Percussion, and Piano by Joseph Schwantner. The composition was commissioned by Northwestern to celebrate Kujala’s long and distinguished tenure. The work includes the three movements: I. fast forward…, II. a voice from afar…, and III. coming together. In the program notes, Kujala remembers the early collaboration between Schwantner and himself when Schwanter was a doctoral student in composition at Northwestern.
In the program booklet, Kujala writes about the importance of giving back. As a founder and later president of the National Flute Association, Kujala notes that many of his students have followed his precedent to serve as either president or program chair of the NFA. Of the more than 500 flutists Kujala taught at Northwestern, many were in attendance to pay tribute to the master. As Kujala writes, “It has been a remarkable half century, and I have cherished all of it.” Wally, we have cherished you too!