After retiring from her post as George Sherman Dickinson Professor of Music in 2005, Blanca Uribe, one of the world’s most distinguished classical pianists, returned to her native Colombia, and her hometown of Medellín.
Those who knew Uribe during her 36 years at Vassar won’t be surprised to learn that she has remained active as a performer and educator and has become influential in the lives of her students, city, and country. She’s even been honored for her work by the governments of Spain and Colombia.
"When one speaks of the music of Colombia," noted Alejandro Posada, principal conductor of the Colombian Orquesta Sinfónica de Castilla y León, "the first person that comes to mind is Blanca Uribe."
In Medellín, Uribe teaches at the innovative Universidad EAFIT, known for its high-powered cultural curricula. And she also shares her knowledge with students and orchestras in other countries where she is invited to participate in concerts and serve on piano competition juries.
This spring, the elegant and composed Uribe traveled to Bogotá to play a special recital during the city's first International Music Festival, comprising an astounding 55 concerts over four days, devoted entirely to the music of Beethoven. During the event, she expressed Beethoven's music in a gently joyful and radiant way. Uribe was also scheduled to perform a major recital of Schubert and Chopin at the Teatro Metropolitano 10 days later back in Medellín. No rest for the post-retirement Uribe.
After her Bogotá recital, Uribe spoke enthusiastically about the Beethoven Festival and its director—the charismatic actor, director, and playwright Ramiro Osorio, one of Colombia's most iconic male heartthrobs and the country's first Minister of Culture. Osorio's approach to building public-private alliances in support of the arts bears watching, Uribe says, because it strives for universal access and great quality. She also said how proud she is of the current state of music of Colombia and Medellín, particularly "the emergence of new talent from youth orchestras patterned on the El Sistema model," a system that transforms the lives of children, often impoverished children, though music.
Uribe fondly remembered her days at Vassar. As she noted during her 2005 convocation speech, when she first arrived at the college in 1969, "The beauty of the campus captivated me; the sixty-eight Steinway grand pianos overwhelmed me. There could be no excuse for not practicing in this place!" In Bogotá, she said she missed the campus—“my colleagues, the students, my beautiful studio, the campus ... everything!” But one of the highlights of her post-retirement years has been returning to Vassar to perform in Skinner with Professor of Music Richard Wilson. The two have performed two-piano recitals together for more than 30 years and the tradition remains alive. “I love seeing all my friends and it is particularly touching that a number of former students make the trip to Vassar for those concerts,” she said.
In addition, she said, "Some of my dearest friends also have come to visit me here in Colombia. I have a beautiful house in the country, outside of Medellín, overlooking a reservoir and wonderful, majestic mountains! And, last but not least, for the first time in my life, I have dogs!”