Karl Paulnack's Welcome Address to the Boston Conservatory

May 1, 2009

Karl Paulnack is a pianist and an Academic Dean at the Boston Conservatory. The full text of his Welcome Address to parents and students on September 1, 2004 has been making the rounds.  Here are a few selections from this extraordinary talk:

"Given what we have learned about life in the Nazi camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing on playing music? There was barely energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torure. And yet, even from the concentration camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art...many people created art. Why? Well, in a place where people are only focused on survival...the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, 'I am alive, and my life has meaning.' "You are not here to become an entertainer, and you don't have to sell yourself. You're here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves to be healthy and happy as well. I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. As in the concentration camp and 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives. - Karl Paulnack, September 1, 2004