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To Nachuma


“To Nachuma” began with Stephanie Sadownik’s family history journey in Poland last summer at a time when Kalani Pickhart and I also happened to be in Eastern Europe. Back at ASU, Stephanie showed us a stack of letters penned by her great-grandmother during the most turbulent years of the 20th century, and the three of us began tracing common threads (ranging from the poetic to the quotidian).  We asked Stephanie if she would be willing to write a letter back to her great-grandmother.  If given the opportunity, what would she tell this woman who fought to preserve her family and their shared sense of identity across wars and oceans?  If given a voice that would reach the past, what would she say? 

The resulting letter was deeply personal, conveying the sense of something irrevocably lost but somehow also regained. From this, Kalani crafted a free-verse poem, which I set to music. The key centers “C” and “D” relate roughly to the past while “F” and “G” represent the present. “E” is the chasm between the two, which becomes the song’s final resting place. My motivic units are inspired by klezmer tunes of the era, the Israeli National Anthem, and a traditional setting of the “mayim” text. Water (“mayim”) as a symbol of cleansing and renewal pervades both the text and music, as does the concept of “dayenu.” Instead of lamenting the suffering and separation that plagues their history, observant Jews at Passover express gratitude for God's miracles during the very worst of times. Just one blessing would have been enough, they say.  Dayenu.  

We each embark on a lifelong journey to discover our own identity, to connect with those in our present, and to understand those who laid the foundations in our past. We do so haltingly, awkwardly, imperfectly. But, ultimately, it is enough. Gratitude fills the empty spaces, smooths the rough edges, and heals the broken places. It is enough. Dayenu. --Erica Glenn



Kalani Pickhart is an MFA fiction candidate at Arizona State University. She is the recipient of the 2018 Virginia G. Piper Creative Writing Research Fellowship where she traveled to Kyiv, Ukraine and Prague, Czech Republic to complete research on her first novel. Additionally, in 2018 she was selected as a Title VIII Fellow and awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Intelligence in Eastern European Research. Her stories have appeared in Superstition Review and elsewhere.

Erica Glenn is a DMA Teacher’s Assistant in Choral Conducting and Director of the Women’s Chorus at ASU, where she has received the 2019 Teaching Excellence Award and Title VIII research funding from the Department of State. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Music Theory and Composition and an Ed.M. in The Arts in Education from Harvard.

Erica conducted the Chattanooga Symphony Orchestra in workshop and participated on scholarship in the ASCAP Marvin Hamlisch Conductor’s Program. As a composer and conductor, Erica has worked personally with Jason Robert Brown, Charles Strouse, David Del Tredici, John Corigliano, and several Broadway conductors. Her compositions have been commissioned by choirs and vocalists across America, and her first opera won the 2007 International Opera-in-a-Month Competition sponsored by VocalWorks. She also won the Chanticleer Student Composer and Longy Graduation Composition Competitions, and her works have been performed under the direction of Sam Pilafin (Empire Brass Quintet); Steinway Artist, Walter Cosand; Longitude conductor, Paul Brust; and St. Lawrence String Quartet cellist, Christopher Costanza. Her full-length musical, Dancing Shoes, was awarded “Best Play of the Year” at the Valley Center Playhouse, and her children’s musical, Between the Lines, placed first in the VIP Arts Competition. Erica's most recent musical, The Weaver of Raveloe, received both a developmental reading at the 2012 NY Musical Theatre Festival and a 2014 world premiere at the American Repertory Theater. Erica publishes with LazyBee Scripts, and her musicals have been performed throughout the US, Europe, and as far away as Hong Kong.

Mezzo-soprano, Stephanie Sadownik, is a charismatic, versatile performer who is known for her complex characterizations and comedic flare. Before commencing her doctoral studies at ASU, Ms. Sadownik debuted with Opera Las Vegas in the role of Giovanna in Rigoletto and sang Dorabella in Così fan tutte and Charlotte Brontë in Linda Lister’s How Clearly She Shines with Sin City Opera in Las Vegas, Nevada. In 2015 she debuted with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in their production of Bernstein’s Candide and sang the role of Dinah in Trouble in Tahiti with Sin City Opera. Her debut with Sin City as Madame Flora in their production of The Medium, was lauded for her highly expressive acting and “magnificent contralto.” (LVReview Journal) With Pacific Opera Project Ms. Sadownik was lauded as an “hilarious and charismatic” Marcellina in Le nozze di Figaro. She has attended the Aspen Music Festival as a Horizon Opera Fellow and won praise for her “commandingly serious” La Zia Principessa in Suor Angelica and her “realistic comic relief” as Arnalta in L’incoronazione di Poppea.(The Aspen Times) Past summers in Aspen have earned critical acclaim for Ms. Sadownik, with her “magnetic” Mrs. Lovett with “pin-point comedic timing” in Sweeney Todd as well as her “entertaining Samira [Ghosts of Versailles] which drew laugh after laugh, all the while singing strongly.” (Aspen Times) She has been an Apprentice Artist with Sarasota Opera and a Young Artist with PORTopera and is now pursuing her Doctorate of Music at Arizona State University under the tutelage of Stephanie Weiss. During her time at ASU, Ms. Sadownik has directed the Student Lab productions of "Trouble in Tahiti" and "The Fairy Queen." She is also a co-founder of the Arizona Women's Collaborative.

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