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A Teacher's Investment in the Future: Ruth Golden

Ruth GoldenRuth Golden has always believed in the transformational power of education. Her father fled the Nazi invasion of Poland before World War II, served in the U.S. Army, and thanks to the GI Bill was able to attend Harvard, opening the door to a successful career and a better life for himself and his family.

Born in Philadelphia, Ruth grew up surrounded by the sound of classical music thanks to her father's record collection and her mother’s beautiful singing voice. Ruth's own music studies started at the age of 5 when she began the piano lessons that she continued into her teen years. After seeing her mother perform in a community production of “Once Upon a Mattress,” she became captivated by the human voice and its ability to share emotions and tell a story. Ruth joined the school choir in the fourth grade and by junior high school, she was moving from the piano to voice full time. Following the family's move to California, Ruth joined an internationally recognized high school choral group and her passion only grew stronger.

When it came time to go to college, the University of California system offered students in the top 10 percent of their class the opportunity to pick the UC campus of their choice. Ruth chose the flagship campus in Berkeley in part because she wanted a broad liberal arts education. While there she had an opportunity to attend her first live opera performance, “La Bohème” with Teresa Stratas and Luciano Pavarotti at San Francisco Opera, and she was hooked. With her teacher’s encouragement she realized that she too might pursue an opera career.

In order to achieve that dream, she enrolled at the University of Southern California for her master’s degree, where she had the great fortune to study for two years with legendary coach and accompanist, Gwendolyn Koldofsky. She became an important mentor to Ruth, arranging for her to spend two summers at the Music Academy of the West and eventually to join the Merola Program at San Francisco Opera where she performed Rosalinda in “Die Fledermaus.” Two life lessons she learned from Gwendolyn were how to manage her time and when to say no to an offer that was not right for her. She also helped Ruth understand music at a deeper level and inspired her to want to become a teacher herself.

Ruth placed among the top performers in the Metropolitan Opera National Council auditions and learned a valuable lesson about the importance of building relationships. Attending the reception after the auditions led to a conversation with the judge of the evening, Richard Gaddes. This turned into a job offer to make her professional debut as Josephine in “HMS Pinafore” at the Opera Theatre of St. Louis.

Thanks also to the encouragement of Beverly Sills, she spent six seasons at the New York City Opera performing leading roles in Mozart, Puccini and Gounod, as well as a variety of operetta heroines. It was during this time that she began teaching privately and she soon was teaching at several different schools. Those experiences ultimately led her to Manhattan School of Music, where she is honored to work because at MSM she believes students receive a world-class education in a nurturing environment.

When asked what makes her happy, she says, “Teaching, it’s the future! Music needs to be taught from person to person. You are not a complete artist until you teach someone else. I am an amalgamation of hundreds of people who have given to me over the years: directors, conductors, colleagues, teachers and volunteers.”

After serving as the executor of her parents’ estates, Ruth refocused her thinking about planning for her own legacy. A former classmate and friend helped her to clarify her goals and consider how she might make a difference. She began by purchasing a seat in Neidorff-Karpati Hall in memory of her parents to honor the opportunities they gave her. Observing the continuing decline in the knowledge of classical music in our culture and the rising costs of music education at private conservatories, Ruth also decided to endow a scholarship through a bequest in her estate plans for a first-generation soprano who otherwise would be unable to attend Manhattan School of Music. Ruth believes “an investment in music for the future is an investment in humanity.”

If you would like to make a gift to MSM, like Ruth has, please contact Edward Sien at esien@msmnyc.edu or 917-493-4583 to get started.