More NEC alumni news!
"I’ve been a big fan of Ethan Iverson for many years, not only because of his incredible playing with..."
- Ken Schaphorst, chair of NEC’s Jazz Studies department,
Monday morning after Daylight Savings
Congratulations are in order!
So pleased and excited to welcome pianist and The Bad Plus cofounder Ethan Iverson to NEC’s jazz studio faculty, beginning fall 2016!
Watch the trailer for the new documentary ‘Talent Has Hunger” which was filmed at NEC and features Paul Katz and NEC cello students.
This year we will feature four outstanding CPP individuals and ensembles, from our fellowship program! We are thrilled to share the reflections and stories of students that are so passionate about their work in the Boston Community. Our second group is “Petite Feet”, a Jazz Quartet in our Holiday Fellowship Program. Shane and Simón are in their 4th year with the program, Travis is in his 3rd, and Jonathan just joined this year! These students are fantastic musicians who were incredibly interesting to chat with.
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What do you like about the Holiday Fellowship?
Simón - Christmas is such a common language…because everyone knows what it is. The music is ingrained in American culture, it makes it easy to communicate with the audience.
Shane - Bringing the music out into the community, as opposed to just playing recitals here, is very important. The…audiences are really special… We’ve played at homeless shelters, we’ve played at senior centers, we’ve played for people with Alzheimer’s, every year we go to the Vinfen Center for Adults with Developmental Disabilities and that’s one of the most rewarding audiences that I’ve ever played for…it’s just pure acceptance of the music.
Why did you decide to get involved with CPP?
Travis - I think there are so many things…that I do for myself, or for my own enrichment and this is something I [do] to make other people happy…I think that’s a really beautiful thing.
What have you learned from the program, and what have you taken away from it?
Travis - Being at a conservatory and there’s a lot of music that we do that…is separate…maybe the public won’t like it. There is an overlap where I can feel like I’m doing something artistically fulfilling and making something I think is beautiful, and also see people making a connection.
Shane - If you compromise what you do, they know! The audience knows, even if they don’t know anything about [the music]… Whether they know anything about what you are doing are not is irrelevant. The spirit of what you do is communicated.
Do you have any favorite stories about a CPP experience?
Shane - [Last year] we played at the Scandinavian Living Center… The next day someone in the audience passed away… There ended up being this deep connection, because the last song we played was a composition called Nostalgia in Time Square by Charles Mingus and the daughter of this man, who passed away, told us…when she was born, he was in Times Square hearing the news that she was born… They invited us to play at his memorial service…that was one of the deepest things that I felt. Playing the music that we loved for this very serious occasion but also knowing how powerful [it was and] what it meant to them. That was special.
As a first time CPP Fellow, what’re you looking forward to getting out of the program?
Jonathan - Everything mentioned so far…it’s not always artist and the audience. It has a purpose rather than just existing as art! I’m looking forward to experiencing that.
Any thoughts or reflections you’d like to share?
Shane - CPP is an important part of a conservatory education, …everyone should make an effort to at least do one community [performance] and see what happens!
Simón - I think for me, CPP has helped me develop in different realms of music. On one hand there’s performing on the other hand [teaching]…sometimes you say something and a student comes up to you afterwards and you can tell they are truly inspired by something you might have said and that’s something that I think is very important…to inspire the next generation.
Shane - I think it’s important that what we do here isn’t just for us…we have to do this for other people, otherwise what’s the point?
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Thank you so much Jonathan, Shane, Simón, and Travis—check back in to see who will be featured next!
Today’s Blog is devoted to some thumb position exercises by Diran Alexanian that my teacher in Freiburg, Spanish cellist Marcal Cervera, gave to me in 1972. These exercises are not in included in Alexanian’s seminal book on cello technique, Traite Theorique et Pratique du Violoncelle (Theoretical and practical treatise of the violoncello).Alexanian’s book includes several pages of other thumb position exercises (pages 125 ff.) which are well worth practicing, but I believe that these 13 exercises have never actually been published. I do not know how Cervera got these exercises, but I copied them from his notebook, and studied them with him. I find them to be very useful.
Alexanian was born in Armenia in 1881. He became Casals’ assistant at the École Normale de Musique in Paris. His treatise was endorsed by Casals (on the cover it says “compiled in complete accord with Pablo Casals”), and in the preface Casals writes:
“When Alexanian submitted to me a well elaborated plan for the analysis of the theory of violoncello playing, based on principals that I myself accept, I recognized that I had before me a serious effort towards the casting off of the shackles of the superannuated prejudices with which the above mentioned works were replete…I would therefore recommend to all those who play or who wish to play the violoncello to imbue themselves thoroughly with the contents of this treatise”.
Alexanian’s students included Bernard Greenhouse, David Soyer, George Ricci, Raya Garbousova, David Wells, and Mischa Schneider in the US, and Gabriel Cusson, Maurice Eisenberg, Antonio Janigro, Gregor Piatigorsky, Hidayat Inayat Khan, Pierre Fournier, and Emmanuel Feuermann in Paris.
For more information about Alexanian, you can go to these websites:
These following 13 exercises all deal with opening up the hand in thumb position, and as such, they would be useful only after the basic thumb position formation (discussed in Blogs #19 and #20) is secure.
With tourism thriving and a rough history with drugs mostly in its past, each of the four cities I visited in Colombia were unique. I packed for weather ranging from 40—90 degrees as the changes in climate and landscape were as diverse as the Sistema-inspired programs I visited.
My trip started in Medellin, a very large city bustling with traffic, mountainous views, perfect temperatures, and stunning properties. The youth instrumental programs in Medellin are run by an organization called La Red, which serves students in over 30 neighborhoods and schools throughout the city. Funded by the city government, the program serves both affluent and underserved areas—a unique concept in Medellin, where lots of effort has been placed on equalizing the playing field between residents with a varied levels of income. I was introduced to two schools in La Red by two of my former Boston colleagues, Rebecca Levi (Sistema Fellow ’10) and Claudia Garcia. When visiting the programs, we witnessed a less intense, but more creative approach to music making. Each program showcases a different type of ensemble, caters to all ages, and also provides instruction in music literacy. For instance, In Claudia’s nucleo, a theatre teacher taught a class on how to use their body’s to communicate and build trust within an ensemble. When visiting the wind ensemble in another part of the city, the ages of the students ranged from 12—22.
After a quick vacation in the popular city of Cartagena, my next stop was Santa Marta, a warm, tropical, costal city on the Caribbean. Another former Boston colleague, Antonio Berdugo, hosted me as we spent our time hosting seminarios with students in Cajamag, a private organization that uses public funding to serve youth in the area. The music program is only a small branch of the organization, which leads to an insufficient quantity on resources, limiting their ability to grow artistically. This was a huge contrast to Venezuela’s national Sistema, which is able to offer more support and resources to their teachers, helping them improve the musical level of their program. The students in Santa Marta, of course, were fantastic to work with and displayed enthusiasm and hospitality that made rehearsals in the intense heat totally enjoyable.
The final leg of my trip was in Bogota, Colombia’s capital city situated at over 8,000ft, where the temperature stays in the 50’s year around. I had a wonderful time working with the musicians of the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra of Batuta, the largest music for social change organization in the country. Given their flagship status, my first instinct was to compare their Metropolitan Youth Orchestra with the leading youth orchestras in Venezuela. However, given that the organization has branches in fewer cities, focuses more on fundamental musical training rather than orchestra training, and has been around for only just over 20 years, I realized that the leading “Sistema’s” in both countries are quite distinct. The lack of one governing organization throughout the country made it more difficult to achieve the standardized resources, which has led to so much artistic success in Venezuela. However, the more localized approach to building a Sistema in each city, rather than to form a national system has yielded some flexibility is allowing for each city to have numerous organizations create their own programs and customize their approach to each community.
The difference in infrastructures in Colombia and Venezuela was certainly unexpected at first. While Venezuela has clearly invested much of its resources into developing a national system of youth orchestras that serves as many youth as possible, Colombia had a feel much closer to that of the United States and Europe--separate organizations created localized programs without much outside leadership. The clear commonality between the two South American countries was the children, who were eager, passionate, and relentless in their pursuit of music education, which instilled the joy that will motivate me to plan my next trip to South America soon.
For a video containing photos, rehearsal footage, and student testimonies from my trip to Colombia, please see the video below!