Remembering Judith Schaaf

I had the privilege of working on a number of One World Symphony concerts with Judith Schaaf. Her artistry, her poise, and her commitment to collaboration were evident in each note she played and each moment spent making music with her. Her grace and musicality raised the bar for each musician with whom she worked, and I am very grateful to have had the benefit of making music with her. When I was struggling to find my voice in Euridice’s recitative in Gluck’s Orfeo, Judith took the time to help me find the music, to show me how to understand the line, and to encourage me to have the courage of my musical convictions. I feel blessed to have known her and to have counted myself among her colleagues. My heart goes out to her family and collaborators, she will be missed. — Courtenay Symonds

I had the pleasure of working with Judith Schaaf many times at One World Symphony. I recall occasionally feeling nervous before rehearsals, but Judith accompanied me with such command and grace that my nerves quickly dissipated. Listening to her play the piano was such a treat, and singing with her was an even bigger one. Judith was endlessly supportive of our conductor Sung Jin and the singers. She was always willing to help me with a difficult rhythm or set of pitches, and her delicate beautiful playing inspired me to sing with much more dynamic and color than I would have otherwise. Judith was calm and friendly, and her positive attitude affected all those who worked with her. — Eva Sun

Judith Schaaf was such a patient, warm, generous, and compassionate collaborator and a fabulous musician. She always brought a positive attitude to every rehearsal, and her presence was so calming and supportive — even in the midst of some truly crazy Strauss! When I first began exploring a fach change amidst a storm of family upheaval, Judith was the first accompanist I turned to during this vulnerable period. I will miss her gentleness and her encouragement and our serendipitous meetings at Trader Joe’s where she was never without her bike. I am grateful to have known her and worked with her and feel much poorer for her loss. You have finished the race, Judith. Rest in peace. — Beverly Love

Judith Schaaf played for many of my auditions and rehearsals with One World Symphony and has been an integral part of the One World Symphony family for many years. You can tell a lot about a person from making music with them. Not only was Judith a steadfast and consummate musician, but she was a generous, kind and supportive person. Like many rehearsals these days, our piano rehearsals have taken place in many unique conditions. Judith had a special ability to make music no matter the circumstance — a small NYC practice room, an electric keyboard, or singers that have forgotten their notes. Some people make do with what they have, others make the best out of what is in front of them. She was of the latter lot. My sincere condolences to her family and close friends. I know I am one of many musicians that will miss her and remember her fondly. The time we all spent with Judith will continue to be a part of the music we have the honor of carrying on and sharing with others. — Sonya Headlam

I remember Judith Schaaf as one of the sweetest and most generous pianists I have ever had the pleasure to work with. She was always ready with a smile and a starting pitch, and her presence in a rehearsal lent a tranquility to all involved. I was greatly saddened to hear of her passing; she will be sorely missed. — Sara Paar

I was very distressed to learn of Judith’s passing earlier this summer. I worked with her many times over the years preparing performances for many local organizations. Not only was she a gifted pianist, but she was always willing to help in any way that she could. Whether it was repeating a tricky recitative over and over and over and over until I got it right, or emphasizing this or that note of the chord to help with a weird entrance that just didn’t want to stick in my head, Judith was always patient and willing to help. I was always struck by her generous nature; generous with her talent, generous with her time, and generous with her support. She will be much missed. — Duncan Hartman

I am very saddened to learn about the loss of Judith. I had the opportunity to work with Judith on several occasions in my collaborations with One World Symphony. Judith was a gracious colleague and kind person. She showed both sensitivity and flexibility in her work with singers and instrumentalists. I thank her for her musical and personal contributions and send heartfelt sympathy to her family. — Laura Farmer

I remember Judith as a musician and talented pianist who was always professional, respectful and humble. She was easygoing, positive and a pleasure to rehearse with. I remember her as a collaborative and sensitive musician with a sense of humor and a generous spirit. — Michelle DeCoste

Judith was a consummate professional and always a pleasure to work with. Her passion for music was obvious and her presence will certainly be missed. — Ashley Becker

Judith represented a calm and steady light on a distant shore helping me to navigate the waters of the darkest night. We vocalists have chosen to be a part of an industry where insecurities and nervous energies are running on all cylinders. I always felt so secure collaborating with her. She was steady. She was patient. She was understanding. Judith was so so open-minded. If she had even a trace of an ego, I never saw it surface once. Sung Jin and I felt so fortunate to collaborate with her. She was always encouraging and showed genuine excitment for the work that we were creating and building together.

Over the years I had known Judith, I had the challenge of learning some very challenging roles in Ariadne auf Naxos, Vanessa, The Cunning Little Vixen, Dialogues of the Carmelites, and Tristan und Isolde. My career as the design director of Adler and running One World Symphony have left me with little and precious time to prepare the roles. Judith assisted me through the details, even if it meant going over the same page of music repeatedly. She listened and understood the challenges that I faced. She was only ever encouraging and compassionate.

That was Judith. I will miss her greatly. We all will. We will miss her reassuring presence. She was always composed nor missed a beat. She was a wonderful and gentle soul with a presence that was so grounded that I can’t even imagine she not being here. — Adrienne Metzinger

Judith Schaaf would enjoy sliced mangos during One World Symphony’s complete productions of summer operas (Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, and Barber’s Vanessa). What was more endearing was that she would always share those juicy mangos with me. Not only her calm, collaborative spirit soothed everyone during rehearsals, but she helped balance my sugar levels with her nurturing spirit.

Judith had her fingers do the talking. Instead of empty words, she reassured her collaborators with her musicianship and sensitive touch. She always listened and thought first, as she considered others’ music—making and comments carefully and stopped to reflect before responding. When she had to use words, she spoke softly, slowly and most importantly con sempre dolce regardless of the temperature during the rehearsal process.

Judith was a generous, steadfast supporter of all our vocalists and staff. She always took the time to share positive comments with our vocalists, how they are doing well and how they can improve — always with a calm, gentle tone. She also never took Adrienne’s posters for granted. At the beginning of a new season, she would say: "You did it again! How do you do it again and again?" She always made an effort to help lift someone to higher ground.

Judith and I believed that music can truly touch people’s souls. Similar to all our productions, we worked diligently in preparing everyone for the complete production of Poulenc’s The Dialogues of the Carmelites. The final scene "March to the Scaffold" is one of those moments where musicians would feel like a failure, if all the guests were not deeply moved by the experience. It was the dress rehearsal, and we had one final opportunity to encourage confidence, breath, and depth in our performance. While I focused on the entire symphony, Judith took all the vocalists in a small room to rehearse the final scene. The symphony and the vocalists never rehearsed the final scene together before the first performance. What happened after the final chord from the first performance? Silence and stillness from everyone in the space for more than a minute that felt like eternity.

Some want to be remembered for their materials, bricks, buildings, empires, Judith will be remembered for what she has left behind and that was inspiration. A calm quiet strength, similar to a tree anchored deep in the earth, reaching high in the sky, Judith will be deeply missed. — Sung Jin Hong