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50 Years of Alumni: Rolf Haas

College(s)/University attended:
I attended the University of Minnesota, and then went on to the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Graz, Austria. I recently completed a performance leadership degree from Cornell.

What years were you in GTCYS?
I was in GTCYS for many years growing up. I was in Symphony from 1998-2004. I graduated high school in 2004.

What skills or lessons did you learn in GTCYS that you still use today?
The leadership skills I developed as concertmaster of Symphony for many years under many different conductors has helped me in every facet of life: professionally, artistically and personally. Being in such a role for so many formative years gave me the experience and the accompanying confidence to recognize leadership as an enduring strength of mine. This shaped the trajectory of my life. I remain so grateful for those important years spent rehearsing in Bethel’s Great Hall.

Why do you think GTCYS is important for students now?
I think GTCYS can still play a vital role in people’s lives, and especially now. On multiple fronts, we face a world in which the tendency towards isolation can sometimes feel overwhelming and easy. I strongly believe that the survival and sustainability of the classical music industry depends on our creating a strong sense of community as musicians, and I say what better way to build a strong community than going through something together with your friends, classmates and peers. GTYCS is a place that offers that priceless experience should you choose to take it.

How does music still play a part in your life?
Without sounding overly dramatic, music saved my life. Like that basketball commercial that’s recently been on air, I’ve given everything I’ve got to it, and it has given me back even more. I was able to travel the world because of it (starting all the way back with GTYCS tours), I’m able to make my living from it, I met my fiancé through it, and I’ve developed wisdom that I would have never understood without it. And I honestly feel like I’m just getting started.

What is your favorite composer or piece of music?
The more I live, the more I find solace in the music of Herr(n) Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms. Since I was a kid, I always loved Brahms and Beethoven, but Bach and Mozart have steadily lent increasingly valuable lenses on life as mine has been lived.

What’s a fun fact about yourself?
I was in a respected hip-hop group for many years as an emcee and producer, but even before that I’m a hardcore punk kid at heart. The ethos that I learned from that scene and style of music has informed my ethics today within the classical music realm.

What do you hope to see from GTCYS in the next 50 years?
I hope that GTCYS will still be active and thriving. I hope that throughout the years many relationships will have been built throughout all levels of the organization, some hopefully lifelong. I hope that the relationships built will strengthen the sense of community within our classical music scene as students become professionals. And finally, I hope this sense of community will radiate out into the greater one at large and inspire people to join in so they can be part of something exciting and bigger than any one of us is by ourselves.

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