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Isaacson updates Commencement music

A little more Bach, Mozart and Handel, a lot more John Phillip Sousa, Brahms' Chorale and the Triumphal March from Aida by Verdi.

Lawrence Isaacson, director of the MIT Brass Ensemble from 1990-99, has revised the repertoire for Commencement, replacing MIT-related compositions with more familiar works.

Some traditional favorites survive, including In Praise of MIT (John Wilbur, Class of 1926), Pomp and Circumstance(Edward Elgar), Auld Lang Syne and the El Capitan March (Sousa).

"I hope the audience finds this program enjoyable," said Mr. Isaacson, who will be conducting on Killian Court for the first time, succeeding John Corley, who reigned on the podium for 40 years. Mr. Isaacson prepped for the Killian Court gig by leading the MIT Brass Ensemble on Massachusetts Avenue in previous Commencements.

Philip Lima, assistant benefits manager in Human Resources, will sing the national anthem at Commencement for the second time in four years (the last time was in 1997). Mr. Lima, a baritone, sang with the Boston Prism Opera Company, the Handel and Haydn Society and Lyric Opera Cleveland last year, and he will sing a major role in The Crucible at Lyric Opera Cleveland in July. He also performed in a program of American spirituals in Rome earlier this month.

Mr. Isaacson has assembled a group of outstanding freelance musicians to play during the Commencement activities, among them two MIT employees. Members of the two quintets and 12-person brass ensemble have performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra, the Boston Ballet, and the Handel and Haydn Society as well as symphony orchestras throughout New England. Among them are several former members of the Empire and Atlantic Brass Quintets.

Two trumpet players, a trombonist, one tuba player and one French horn player will play at the doctoral hooding ceremony in the Johnson Athletic Center on Thursday and on the steps at 77 Massachusetts Ave. as the procession assembles Friday morning.

In Killian Court, Mr. Isaacson will conduct four trumpets, three trombones, two French horns, a tuba and a euphonium. Two of these musicians have day jobs at MIT -- Robert H. Marlatt is an administrative assistant in the Aga Khan Program, and Mike Epstein is a senior library assistant.

"I'm looking forward to the view of the Boston skyline," said Mr. Marlatt, an MIT employee for eight years who will be performing at Commencement for the first time. He is a member of the horn section of the Boston Ballet Orchestra and has performed in a chapel recital and with the MIT Choir. Mr. Epstein, who has been at MIT for a year and a half, played trombone with the MIT Symphony Orchestra from 1988-91 while he was a student at the Boston Conservatory. He performed at Commencement last year.

In addition to teaching at MIT, Mr. Isaacson, a trombonist, is on the music faculty of the Boston Conservatory of Music and Tufts University. He has been second trombonist for the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra for the past 13 years. Before that, he was principal trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony and the Empire Brass Quintet. He has conducted orchestras in Massachusetts and Rhode Island for 11 years.

Professor Emeritus Samuel J. Keyser and the Intermission Trio Plus will perform at President Vest's post-Commencement reception.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 31, 2000.

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