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Donald Nally

Donald Nally

Award-winning conductor | The Chicago Bach Project

Neither the kitchen nor the bathroom had heat, bringing a sort of “Bohemian sensibility” to Donald Nally’s studies come wintertime.

But for the price — and the stories it would produce — you couldn’t beat the tiny second-floor apartment on High Street in Urbana that the future famed conductor called home.

"I had my first and last PC — an enormous thing purchased in downtown Urbana and carried home — that required loading in Word Perfect 2.0 every time I turned it on; it periodically swallowed an entire paper, usually the night before due," says Nally, now the John W. Beattie Chair of Music at Northwestern.

"That apartment was so quiet; it felt like I was living in the trees. I had a lot of squirrel friends — both in the apartment and out — and I read hours a day there, thought hours a day there, dreamt of things that have come true and those that haven’t, lived and loved there, discovered the composer Klaus Huber and other contemporary voices, and there I recognized and first acknowledged the political and social aspects of my work that have become integral to my art.

"I also drank a lot of sake in my very own little sake glasses purchased at Lincoln Square. It was perfect and rivaled my library carrell, which was my second-most favorite place in Urbana —my own little nest on campus. 

"I closed the music library many nights and walked back to my place full of questions. Great."

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