On Friday, Nov. 4 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m., Fordham will host a memorial concert at the Rose Hill campus’ University Church honoring William J. Scribner, founder of the Bronx Arts Ensemble. Scribner died on September 16.
Among his many accomplishments, Scribner was a musician first. A world-class bassoonist, he performed as a principal with the American Symphony Orchestra, Long Island Philharmonic, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic, to name a few. He also played with the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.
Scribner also developed a passion for sharing the music with a borough that lacked a professional classical music ensemble. Starting in 1972, the Bronx-based ensemble obtained union status (Local 802, AFM) and brought world-class musicians to the Bronx.
“He dedicated his life to the ensemble,” said David Nussenbaum, executive director of the arts group.
As the borough’s reputation took a beating throughout the 1970s, Scribner’s leadership grew the ensemble by forging partnerships with other Bronx institutions, including a particularly strong association with Fordham. The group has held artist-in-residence status at the University since 1979.
For more than three decades the ensemble has been a ubiquitous presence, performing a fall music series, accompanying the University Choir at the Festival of Lessons and Carols holiday concerts, playing a spring concert, and breathing life into the quiet campus through a series of summer concerts.
In the 1980s, when the New York City Board of Education started cutting back on music programs in the borough, Nussenbaum said Scribner steered the ensemble toward filling the void.
“He saw an opportunity,” said Nussenbaum. “If the city couldn’t step in, then we would arrange to bring the music to the classrooms. This has blossomed into a big part of what we do.”
At Fordham, students taking introductory music courses are exposed to their topic through ensemble performances.
“They get to hear live music four times a year as part of their curriculum,” said Nussenbaum. “Not many schools can say that.”
The group continues to forge new partnerships across the borough, while maintaining established ties. In the coming months there will be performances at the Bartow-Pell Mansion, the Fieldston School, and, of course, at Fordham’s annual Lessons and Carols, to be held on Dec. 3 at St. Paul’s Church on 60th and Columbus Ave. and on Dec. 4 at the University Church.
“He was a wonderful musician, and his greatest legacy will be these programs,” said Nussenbaum.