Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Redlands Concert Reunites Oboe Teacher & Student

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

(from L) Nelms McKelvain, Liang Wang, Carolyn Beck and Sara Andon. Photo Peter Askim.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For most music students, saying good-bye to a beloved teacher is painful, and starting over with another can be scary.

“I’ve had the same oboe teacher since I was 10 years old,” exclaimed Camille, who is graduating from Idyllwild Arts this year.

She was talking about Francisco Castillo, principal oboist for the Redlands Symphony. He’s the same oboe instructor as the popular Liang Wang, principal oboist for the New York Philharmonic.

Francisco was Liang’s first oboe instructor in the U.S. Last Saturday, April 14, Liang came for Francisco’s World Premier of his recent composition, “Rhapsody for Oboe, English Horn & Orchestra.”

“There’s Francisco, the big guy,” exclaimed Shen, a clarinet player from Idyllwild Arts, who attended the concert with music director Peter Askim and five other students, including Henry, Yoana, Elena, Suriah and Cynthia.

Francisco remained in touch with Liang, who graduated from Idyllwild Arts and the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia. In January, Liang visited Idyllwild Arts, taught Master Classes and played with the student orchestra (see blog post, “NY Phil Oboist Makes Idyllwild Arts Proud,” dated Dec. 9, 2011).

“Liang has brought such prestige to our instrument,” Camille said.

Dr. Nelms McKelvain, piano instructor at Idyllwild Arts, drove down from Idyllwild to see Liang in concert.

“Liang was my advisee when he was here,” said Nelms. “I’d go a long way to see him.”

For the Saturday night concert, the students sat in the balcony in the Redlands Memorial Chapel, yet had a full view of the stage. Some of those around them had binoculars so they could see the performer’s faces.

(from L) Idyllwild Arts Supporters: Henry, Shen, Elena, Yoana, Cynthia, Suriah, Carolyn, Sara, William & Peter

After the Redlands Symphony warmed up with “Overture to Le Nozze di Figaro,” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Liang played “Oboe Concerto,” by Richard Strauss.

“Liang’s phrasing is so unique,” said Peter Askim, afterwards. “He phrases like a singer — so natural and pure. He never plays anything the same way twice. It’s like he’s discovering the piece for the first time – every time.””

During the first two songs, Co Boi Nguyen, the assistant conductor, led the orchestra. According to the program notes, Co Boi is an assistant professor of music at the University of Redlands School of Music, and she usually conducts at least one program during the regular symphony season.

After intermission, conductor Jon Robertson took over for the World Premier of Francisco’s work, “Rhapsody for Oboe, English Horn and Orchestra.” Liang and Francisco took the stage to great applause. Liang was playing his oboe, while Francisco had a much longer oboe with a lower sound, which is the English horn.

The two played well together, like father and son, carefully not upstaging each other. The piece was lively, and even frenetic at times, but was well liked by the audience. Both Liang and Francisco received a large bouquet of flowers afterwards.

According to the program, Francisco said his rhapsody came about in a funny way. While he was talking with Liang about what pieces he would play with the Redlands Symphony, Liang suggested that they play something together.

(from L) Carolyn, Francisco, Liang, Sara and Peter. Photo Peter Askim.

“I jokingly said that I didn’t want to play an Albinoni or Vivaldi concerto, and would prefer something more interesting and new,” Francisco recalled.

“Well, then, write something yourself!” Liang replied.

For inspiration, Francisco listened to oboe concertos by Mozart, Strauss, Pasculli and Piazzola. He also listened to favorite composers, Bach, Villa-Lobos, Charles Ives and Louis Armstrong, among others. In the end, Francisco turned to his oboe, English horn and computer to make something uniquely his own.

“As you listen, you will find some of my favorite musical ideas, including Polyrhythm, Latin folk melodies, simple harmonies, virtuosic, demanding, yet sustained lyrical passages, silly moments are at the same time dramatic and tense,” Francisco wrote in the program.

“However, if you are looking for a form, you won’t find it,” Francisco added.

“I really liked Francisco’s piece,” said Shen. “It wasn’t boring like the Hayden piece” (“Symphony No. 104 London” ended the evening.)

Camille, who was away at college auditions on Sunday, had heard a rehearsal of Francisco’s piece.

“It’s New Music, and it had a very Latin feel to it,” Camille said.

After the Redlands concert, the students and Peter went to the stage to meet and congratulate the performers.

(from L) Yoana and Elena, students from Bulgaria, enjoy a pre-concert dinner. Photo Peter Askim.

According to Peter, several principals from the Redlands Symphony have also taught music at Idyllwild Arts, including Todor Pelev, associate concertmaster/violin; Gail Cruz, violin; Carolyn Beck, principal bassoon; Sara Andon, principal flute; David Scott, principal trumpet and William Schlitt, principal timpani.

Francisco, who dedicated his rhapsody to Liang Wang, conductor Jon Robertson and the Redlands Symphony, was all smiles afterwards.

“This was the first time it was played before a live audience,” Francisco said. “It’s a good feeling.”

In other news, get your tickets now for the New Music Concerts featuring new works by Richard Thompson, Chen Yi and Peter Askim with the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra on Saturday, April 28 at the IAF Theatre (free) on campus, and on Sunday, April 29 at 4 p.m. at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Los Angeles. Pre-concert general admission tickets for the Sunday show are $10 to $20 and are available on the Idyllwild Arts web site at www.idyllwildarts.org. Click on ‘Academy,’ then ‘Music’ and ‘New Music Concert.’

For more information, see Idyllwild Me blog post, “New Music: Dramatic Shift for Students” dated April 9.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.


 

 

 

Student Gets Real World Jazz Experience

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

Marshall Hawkins gives his jazz students real world experiences. Courtesy photo Idyllwild Arts.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

At Idyllwild Arts, some jazz students get music gigs long before they graduate from high school. American Idol heartthrob Casey Abrams, and former grads Caleb Hensinger and Jacob Scesney (who now attend Berklee College in Boston), and currently, Lake, a guitar player, have all played with Marshall Hawkins and Paul Carman at Cafe Aroma.

Jazz students have also performed at public high schools, for competitions like Spotlight and the Berklee Jazz Festival, during auditions for summer music festivals, at weddings, country clubs and other gigs throughout the year. However, Cafe Aroma remains constant.

Inigo, a junior from Brazil, played there once.

“It was a great experience playing with Marshall,” Inigo said. “I learn so much from him.”

In fact, during that Cafe Aroma gig, Marshall threw Inigo a curve ball.

“We’re playing ‘Caravan,’ which had a 4/4 tempo,” Inigo explained. “He looks straight at his bass and says 6/8.”

Inigo wasn’t expecting that, and immediately had to speed up the tempo. He said later it was a good “real world” experience.

It also showed how intimately connected jazz players are. Sometimes, Inigo said, they only speak with their eyes.

For instance, at his Junior Recital at Stephens Recital Hall on Monday, April 9, Inigo said that the drummer had missed a tempo change, and the bass player stared at him, and he quickly recovered.

Oftentimes, jazz students play at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild. Sachmo art by Marcia Gawecki.

“It happens all the time,” Inigo said “At school gigs, we are constantly looking at each other for cues.”

Inigo has eight more performances to go before the end of the school year in June.

“Last year, Caleb, a horn player, told me to accept all requests for being an accompanist,” Inigo said. “He said that you’ll learn something new from each one.”

So Inigo said “yes” to nine other students this year, including Randy, Kat, Walker, Tyler, Alex, Ken, Nick (vocal), Tiffany and Katy (who left the school).

He said he doesn’t always like their music choices or how they play them, but welcomes each new experience.

“Sometimes, I get to play some of my favorite jazz standards,” he said.

For his April 9 recital, Inigo’s play list included: Straight, No Chaser; Four on Six; Nica’s Dream; How My Heart Sings and Impressions.

In June, Inigo is going to Bangkok, Thailand, for the first time, with his girlfriend, Tierra, a Musical Theatre grad, who lives there. For three weeks, he’s going to play at the Maple Hotel, which is owned by her family.

(from left) Jacob and Caleb. Caleb advised Inigo to accept all student recital requests.

“Tierra said that Thai people are crazy about Boss Nova (Brazilian music), so I’ll be playing guitar and singing in Portuguese,” Inigo said. “I’m an average singer.”

When he returns to Sao Paolo, Brazil for the rest of the summer, Inigo will likely get his regular gig back. It’s at a small bar called O Barsinho, where he accompanies a singer.

“Alicia Santas is about 30 years old, beautiful and really nice,” Inigo said.

When Alicia first met him, she asked him what type of music that he listened to.

“I knew all of the songs that she liked,” he said. “So she said, ‘Perfect!’ and hired me on the spot.”

But when Alicia’s onstage, she’s all professional.

“She just turns around and announces the name of the song, and expects me to know it,” Inigo said. “I’ve been lucky so far.”

Their song set generally remains the same, but once when the crowd asked for an encore, Inigo was sweating bullets.

“I was just hoping that she’d request a song that I knew,” he said.

As it turns out, an audience member requested a song that he knew. This summer, he’ll keep building up his repertoire of songs.

Inigo said all of these performances at Idyllwild Arts and at Cafe Aroma in Idyllwild, at the Maple Hotel in Bangkok and at the O Barsinho in Sao Paolo, all help him build his confidence and gain ‘real world’ experiences as a musician.

“When you play, you’ve got to make it look easy,” he said.

He quoted famous jazz bass player Charles Mingus who said, “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple , awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”

To view Inigo’s April 9 jazz recital, and others, check out the U Stream link on the Idyllwild Arts web site, www.idyllwildarts.org.

Mark your calendars for the next Idyllwild Arts Jazz Concert on Tuesday, May 22 in the IAF Theatre.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

 

New Music: Dramatic Shift for Students

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Orchestra students (file photo) have mixed feelings about New Music

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Students from the Idyllwild Arts Orchestra will take a dramatic shift from their classical music repertoire to New Music for their next concerts on April 28-29. Some of them like New Music because it’s so different, while others don’t like it as much.

“We don’t just listen to songs written by dead people,” chided Peter Askim, music director and composer-in-residence at Idyllwild Arts (see New Music post on Idyllwild Me dated May 7, 2010).

He’s used to their resistance.

“When I told Peter that I didn’t like New Music, he said that it was because I didn’t understand it,” said Rong, a cello player.

“I like it because it tells a story,” said Meng, a double bass player, from Beijing, who also plays the cello and piano. “But it can be hard to play sometimes.”

Meng, a double bass player, says New Music tells a story

Mostly because there’s no CDs they can listen to, and it’s not posted on You Tube.

Rong said that this next concert is particularly hard for the three percussionists. Dixin, a violin player, agreed.

“They have to play so many instruments,” Dixin said. “It’s really amazing!”

For the New Music concerts each year, Peter also helps promote the new works by emerging and established composers. Richard Thompson, voted among the Top 20 best guitarists by Rolling Stone magazine, will be performing “Interviews with Ghosts” on his guitar.

Also Chen Yi will be performing “Tone Poem,” a piece commissioned by the student orchestra and the Richard P. Wilson Fund for New Music.

Three composers from So Orchestra will be performing individual works, including “Oblique Music” by Jason Tretuing, “Credo in US” by John Cage and “Music for Pieces of Wood,” by Steve Reich.

Also on the docket is Peter’s brand-new piece, “Elsewhere.”

Dixin said Peter Askim's "Elsewhere" is kind of quiet and slow

“It’s kind of quiet and slow,” explained Dixin. “But I like it.”

Andrew Leeson, a staff member in Creative Writing, has called Peter “The Master of the Dramatic Pause.” (See “Askim’s New Music Revealed” on  Idyllwild Me posted Nov. 11, 2011).

Jo, another bass player, said that the New Music they’re performing with Richard Thompson sound more like Rock n’ Roll.

“He was knighted, you know,” she said.

Many in Idyllwild may remember Thompson’s “Cabaret of Souls” that was performed with the Idyllwild Arts Orchestra last year.

The New Music concerts will be held on Saturday, April 28 at the IAF Theatre on campus and on Sunday, April 29, at 4 p.m. in The Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood. The Idyllwild concert is free and open to the public, while the LA concert is a fundraiser and Pre-sale tickets range from $1o to $20, and a little more on the show day.

For tickets, visit www.bgttix.com or call (323) 644-6272. For Pre-Sale tickets and more details on the New Music concert, visit www.idyllwildarts.org. There are several videos of Richard Thompson singing and playing his guitar, including one from 1952.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Students to Perform at Berklee Jazz Fest

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

(from L) Lake with Ashi and Alejandro at another event

By Marcia E. Gawecki

On Saturday, March 10, four jazz students from Idyllwild Arts Academy will be attending the Berklee High School Jazz Festival in Boston. Last year, two brought back Outstanding Musician and Superior Musician Awards.

The four jazz musicians who are going this year are: Lake (guitar), Luca (piano), Mary (bass) and Max (drums). Lake and Mary are seniors, Luca is a junior and Max is a sophomore.

“I know that a piano, bass, guitar and drums sounds like an unusual jazz combo,” Max explained. “Even though we don’t have a horn player, we sound pretty good.”

Lake, the only one who will be attending the Berklee Jazz Festival both years, doesn’t feel the pressure to win more awards. He’s racked up a few of his own this year, including a Young Artist Award, a Downbeat Magazine Award (June issue), and an Honorable Mention at the Music Center’s Spotlight Competition.

Jazz drummer Max is looking forward to his first competition

Although a little arrogance would be expected, Lake remains humble.

“There are so many deserving musicians out there,” he said.

Not to be outdone, Luca, the jazz pianist, just won a songwriting award. But they won’t be playing his original music at Berklee. The jazz combo will be playing three songs, including “Moment’s Notice” by John Coltrane, “Monk’s Mood” by Theolonious Monk and “Straight Up and Down” by Chick Corea.

Max, from Russia, is looking forward to the Berklee Jazz Festival, but is a little nervous about playing before large crowds at the Hynes Convention Center. It’s his first competition, and he’s relatively new to jazz. Before coming to Idyllwild Arts this year, Max hadn’t played jazz before.

He said he looked up Idyllwild Arts online, and received a great scholarship. He likes living up in the San Jacinto Mountains, but it’s not as rustic as Russia.

“In Russia, there are more bears there than there are squirrels here,” he said.

Portrait of Marshall Hawkins by Idyllwild artist Marcia E. Gawecki

He knows about bears firsthand. When he went canoe camping with this father, he heard “crunching” sounds outside their tent late at night.

“I just knew that it was a bear,” Max said.

In the morning, there were fresh bear paw prints all around their tent and campsite.

He said he’ll never forget that sound. Perhaps it might work its way into one of his drum solos in the future? Max only laughs.

In Boston, the group, including jazz instructors Marshall Hawkins and Paul Carman, will meet up with former jazz students, Caleb (trumpet), Jacob (saxophone) and Ashi (drums), who now attend the Berkelee College of Music in Boston. In 2011, Jacob brought back an Outstanding Musician Award and Lake received a Superior Musician Award.

They got a jump start at Idyllwild Arts, and played regular gigs at Café Aroma in Idyllwild. When their schedules would allow, Caleb, Jacob and Lake would perform with Marshall and Paul on Tuesday nights. On a few occasions, they played with bassist and jazz grad Casey Abrams before he entered the 10th Season of American Idol, and catapulted into the world’s stage.

Casey Abrams banner at Cafe Aroma. The 7 x 9 foot banner is for sale for $900

This weekend, Casey will be performing at the Idyllwild Arts Spring Gala in Los Angeles.

Whether these four will bring back more awards from the Berklee Jazz Fest is anyone’s guess. We’ll find out soon enough at the next jazz concert.

When they performed together at the last jazz concert, Stephens Recital Hall was packed. Their concerts have become so popular that they’ve had to move to the IAF Theatre in Bowman for the next one.

For more information on the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171. And more about the Berklee High School Jazz Festival, visit. www.berklee.org.

The original Casey Abrams acrylic banner, 7 x 9 feet, is for sale for $900. However, the Marshall Hawkins banner is sold. Email: idyllwildwriter@gmail.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Casey Abram’s Expanding Fan Base

Sunday, January 15th, 2012

Casey banner by Idyllwild artist Marcia E. Gawecki

“Is your most famous celebrity still living in Idyllwild?”

It was Saturday night, Jan. 14, and we were chatting at the Bill Anson Gallery in the Backstreet Art District of Palm Springs.

Sorry, Casey, but I instantly thought of “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Herb Jeffries, and not you. Although she was pretty, this woman was middle-aged.

“We just loved watching Casey each week on ‘American Idol’ (Season 10),” exclaimed Brenda Friend, of Palm Springs. “My friends and I even went to Los Angeles where they taped the show to meet him and get an autograph, but it never happened.”

She was almost giddy.

“Then we were thinking of going up to Idyllwild to meet him, if he still lived there.”

Going from relative obscurity to instant celebrity must be a surreal thing for Casey. To find middle-aged fans like Brenda who are willing to travel great distances to meet him. But the young ones are rabid too!

Remember when the ‘American Idol Live’ Tour ended Sept. 20-21 in The Philippines? Bianca King, a young actress, was hell-bent on meeting Casey, so she turned to her Twitter fan base to help get a backstage pass.

They hit it off and had a good laugh when Bianca told him that if he dyed his hair black and got a spray tan, he’d make it as an actor in The Philippines. She then posted pictures of the two of them on her blog site.

Casey playing with other Idyllwild Arts students at the LA Club. Photo by Marcia Gawecki

Back at the Art Walk in Palm Springs, I told Brenda Friend that Casey’s parents still lived in Idyllwild, and Ira Abrams worked with me at Idyllwild Arts.

Then I found myself promising I would try to get Casey’s autograph.

I secretly hoped it was possible.

Brenda wrote down her Palm Springs address, and then rushed over to tell her husband and friends.

The funny thing was that Brenda hadn’t even heard about Casey’s latest You Tube video announcing his record deal with Concord Records. It’s the same label as Carole King and Kenny G.

Casey’s mom, Pam Pierce, sent an email saying there was an Idyllwild Arts connection to the video. The song was written, recorded and produced by Casey (all instruments and voices). The video was shot and edited at Idyllwild Arts by Nick Cain and Sean Stromsoe of Persistent Vision (former Idyllwild Arts film students).

“Oh, he’s so natural and fun-loving in front of the camera,” Brenda exclaimed. “His parents raised him right.”

To view Casey’s announcement video, click here: Casey_Abrams_Signed-1

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me (text and images, but not video). All rights reserved.

Idyllwild Resident’s 30th Consumer Electronics Show

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Idyllwild resident Charles Schlacks, Jr. is attending his 30th Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Today, Charles Schlacks, Jr., 80, an Idyllwild publisher and record collector, will attend his 30th  Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas.

The show is estimated to attract 150,000 attendees, however, it’s open to only “those in the electronics industry,” Charles says.

For the past three decades, Charles has received a “press” pass, which is an all-access pass to the vendor booths and lectures. However, this year, CES sent him an “entertainment” pass, which offers pretty much the same access. Without the pass, however, the show would cost Charles $100 a day.

Charles is considered “press” because he publishes two trade journals, “Muzaka,” about Russian music past and present; and “Music and Society in Eastern Europe,” which discusses discographies (musical histories) of open reel tapes and records.

Charles is not like the other journalists who write about their likes and dislikes of the popular trade show. He’s attending for his personal enjoyment of music. Each year, he takes about two dozen classical records (audiophile LPs) and goes from booth to booth at the Flamingo and Venician Hotels.

He’s looking for good turn tables and card readers to play his high-quality audiophile LPs. Generally, he knows everybody and returns to the same booths each year. In the four days of the show, he’ll visit about 50 of them.

The CES exhibitors take Charles’ records and play them on their stereo systems, which range from $250 to $150,000. Both enjoy the experience.

“As a whole, I found out they prefer analog to digital,” Charles said. “My records sound much better than CDs and DVDs.”

Over the past three years, however, there’s been a resurgence of turn table manufacturers and the re-release of dozens of new vinyl recordings (LP records), Charles noted.

He’s happy that companies are reissuing classical, pop and jazz records from the 1950s. Some of the originals are likely in Charles’ record collection.

Charles has been collecting classical records since 1946. He has about 45,000 now.

Since 1946, when he was about 15 years old, Charles has been collecting classical records. There’s only classical records, no rock n’ roll, jazz, pop or vocalists.

“My friends from England couldn’t believe that Charles had never heard of The Beatles,” said Jeffrey Taylor, from Green Cafe in Idyllwild, of his longtime friend. “Who hasn’t heard of the Beatles?”

But now that he’s 80 years old, Charles has amassed about 45,000 classical LPs that he stores in Hemet, with a small amount in his Idyllwild home.

Eventually, Charles plans to sell the majority of his collection to record collectors in Los Angeles and individuals over the internet. His records are his retirement, he says, and they will help him pay off his house.

Although it’s not his plan, Charles will take a list of the details of his 45,000 record collection to the CES this weekend, just in case someone is interested in buying a few hundred of them. In past years, Charles has returned from the CES with small sales that he ships out of the Idyllwild Post Office, or drives to northern California. Once, he tried to deliver records up to San Francisco in a day.

“I’ll never do that again,” Charles said of the 7-hour drive. “I was so tired that I had to stay overnight, and that cost me about $75. Next time, the buyer would have to pay shipping or my gas and lodging.”

Charles doesn’t generally attend the keynote lectures at the CES. In the past, it’s usually been someone from Microsoft, he said.

“Was it Bill Gates?” asked Jeffrey Taylor, who had worked for Apple after college.

This year, however, Microsoft is scaling back and Apple doesn’t plan to attend, Charles said. According to today’s Los Angeles Times, Microsoft has its exit planned, saying it wants to announce its products on its own timetable. The absence of Apple has long spurred manufacturers to bring out Apple-type products that quickly fade from the marketplace.

At the same time as the CES in Las Vegas, other shows are going on. At  “T.H.E. Show,” last year, Charles got a “shout out” from the keynote speaker, the editor of Stereophile magazine.

According to Charles, the speaker asked Charles to stand up and be recognized.

“I’ve seen you every year as long as I’ve been coming here,” the man said. “You must be the oldest veteran here.”

Of course, there was a round of applause, and they congratulated him afterwards on his dedication and longevity. In a few months, Charles may see some of them again.

Charles belongs to the Los Angeles and Orange County Audio Society, which will be sponsoring “T.H.E. Show” for three days in Irvine in June.

However, for the next four glorious days, Charles will busy himself with the Consumer Electronics Show, visiting 30-40 exhibitors.

“I like to meet people who enjoy good music,” Charles said.

His light blue hybrid car has vanity plates which read, “FFSS,” which stands for “full frequency stereophonic sound. The first LP with FFSS was recorded in 1958.

“It was the greatest audio recording ever,” Charles said.

In his collection, he has hundreds of audiophile recordings. For more information about his collection, email Charles Schlacks directly at: schlacks.slavic@greencafe.com.

Copyright 2012 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

 

Idyllwild Townies Support Student Jazz Efforts

Wednesday, December 14th, 2011

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Tuesday night, Dec. 13, student jazz concert was the place to be in Idyllwild. Everyone was there. And not just parents, faculty and students. Hubert Halkin and Frank Ferro from Cafe Aroma were there, and musician Barnaby Finch, along with countless others who packed Stephens Recital Hall at Idyllwild Arts Academy to over capacity. It was standing room only three deep to the door. No one seemed to mind and no one left at intermission.

One look at Marshall Hawkins’ face, and you’d know he was pleased with the turnout. (After all, that guy never smiles).

“My friend is in the chorus and he’s also Korean,” said Kevin, a Visual Arts student.

“I came to support Marshall,” said Peter Askim, Idyllwild Arts music director.

“I think Casey Abrams brought a lot of popularity to jazz, even on campus,” said Mary, who was taking pictures for the academy.

“I came to see what great jazz musicians this school is cranking out,” said Hubert. “We want to talk them into playing at Cafe Aroma soon. We’ve already got Lake.”

Regardless of their reasons for coming, there was a festive mood about the place.

When I arrived (30 minutes late), the new Idyllwild Jazz Choir was performing, “Centerpiece.” Anne Farnsworth, their vocal instructor, introduced the piece from the piano bench. The group of nine was dressed up and crowded around a half circle onstage.

“There isn’t much stage room because of all the instruments on stage,” Mary explained, as she maneuvered to get better photos of them.

The overhead spotlights weren’t great for taking pictures either. The lights were least effective in the back of the multi-purpose room.

Towards the end of “Centerpiece,” each of the students took turns and “scatted” one line each. All of them were good, and left you wanting them to scat a little more. And maybe move around a bit too. But I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t Billie Holiday, but teenagers at their first concert.

The Jazz Choir continued with “You Send Me,” “Shenandoah,” and the shorter “Tenor Madness,” arranged by Anne.

Throughout each song, one well-dressed middle aged guy closed his eyes and shook his head to the beat. He was happy in his own little jazz world. Barnaby was listening intently to each word. Some students in the audience were hugging each other and singing along.

After a brief intermission (in which no one left or gave up their seats!), Paul Carman’s Combo took the stage. According to the program, the night was split up into three parts, including Marshall Hawkins’ Combo (which I missed!), the Jazz Choir, and now Paul Carman’s Combo. Paul works closely with Marshall, and, according to the jazz students, each has his own teaching style.

Paul’s Combo was comprised of Lake (guitar), Luca (piano/keyboards), Mary (bass) and Max (drums). Paul introduced the group, and then quickly bowed out.

“This is Lake’s group,” Paul said.

Lake looked every bit the boss. He was dressed in a white blazer, dark shirt and a new haircut. His expression was serious, but the group could “read” his cues from behind him.

They played “Windows,” a modern Chick Corea tune, to start. It was a decent effort, and the crowd was enthusiastic and appreciative. But the four entertainers never smiled. This was serious jazz.

Katie, dressed in a black halter dress, looked every bit the part of an up-and-coming jazz singer. She introduced the Duke Ellington tune, “Solitude,” from behind her long bangs. After the first line, she had everyone in the room captivated.

For Christmas, I wished for a spotlight for her.

Next, Lake lead the group with the favorite Thelonious Monk tune, “Criss Cross.” He seemed to ease up a bit and moved his lips to playing the tune. Luca was moving his lips too. Guess that’s what jazz musicians do.

“Marshall does that too,” exclaimed another student. “It’s funny, but you don’t notice it after awhile.”

When the Korean singer (don’t know his name!) introduced the next song, “The Way You Look Tonight,” it drew a loud “Awwww!” from the women in the audience.

His Beatle haircut and close microphone made it hard for Mary to take his picture. But the crowd was pleased with his version of the famous Jerome Kern tune. He wasn’t afraid to use the microphone.

Some of the other jazz musicians appeared shy and a little unsure about being onstage, however. After the next two tunes, “Monk’s Mood,” and “Moment’s Notice,” Marshall orchestrated the Daniel Jackson song, “Wisdom,” bringing all 14 jazz students onstage.

Three of them recited some words about what wisdom meant, including Walker, who was from Marshall’s Combo. Most of the words of wisdom sounded pretty deep, like poetry.

“Marshall’s going to lead everyone in the group by just pointing to them,” Paul announced to the audience.

Katie, Emily, Paul and the Korean guy were scat singing, which wasn’t an easy feat over all those instruments, including a keyboard, piano, violin, French horn, saxophone, guitar, electric guitars, bass and drums. “Wisdom” wasn’t chaos, but a nicely-orchestrated song. Marshall brought everyone into the tune at the right time.

A few players, such as Lake, Randy, Inigo and Max, got to perform standout solos during “Wisdom.” Afterwards, everyone in the audience showed their appreciation. Everyone around me was certain that Max would get a girlfriend after his standout drum solo. He was just oozing jazz confidence.

“That was a lot of fun,” remarked everyone as they left Stephens Recital Hall Tuesday night. It was dark, damp and cold in Idyllwild, but no one seemed to notice. They had been warmed on the inside from a night of good jazz.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Dec 14, 2011 @ 17:41

 

 

Scat! to the Student Jazz Concert Tuesday

Monday, December 12th, 2011

(from L) Lake, Ashi and Alejandro, from another event. Lake is among the jazz musicians who will play on Tuesday night.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Scat!

That might be something you’d shout at an annoying cat. But we’re talking about cool cats here. Like Louis Armstrong, Marshall Hawkins and Casey Abrams, to name a few.

Jazz musician Louis Armstrong was credited with the invention of “scat.” That’s when a singer uses nonsensical syllables to sing improvised lines of a jazz tune.

Idyllwild Arts grad Casey Abrams brought scat to America’s living rooms during Season 10 of “American Idol” last year. Most were amused when Casey would play his bass and scat, as if he was speaking a new language.

But Casey learned how to scat from the scat master, Marshall Hawkins, who heads up the Jazz Department at Idyllwild Arts.

Scat is not just something to say to an annoying cat.

“Marshall is the best scatter around,” all the jazz students would say.

Marshall didn’t stop with Casey. He’s also teaching the singers of the new Jazz Chorus how to scat too.

This Tuesday night, Dec. 13, you will hear them scat and play their hearts out. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall on the Idyllwild Arts campus.

Elijah, a pianist from Hamburg, Germany, is among the nine members of the new Jazz Chorus. But he admits that he can’t scat.

“I’m not really a good scatter, but I can sing good enough to blend into the background,” Elijah said last weekend. “Some of the others are really good at scatting. You should hear them!”

Elijah mentioned the names of the five or six songs the new Jazz Chorus will be singing on Tuesday night, but he didn’t want to spoil the surprise.

He said the songs have jazz and blues roots with a “Manhattan Transfer” sound. As a teenager, Elijah is too young to remember the 70s band, Manhattan Transfer, which was known for their four-part harmonies and hit single, “Operator.” But he must’ve heard their memorable harmonies to borrow from them.

Elijah said that Tuesday’s jazz concert is not just about the Jazz Chorus, but also include features the two jazz combos, and the entire Idyllwild Arts Jazz Orchestra.

Casey Abrams (center) helped bring scat into American living rooms during the last season of "American Idol."

“We’ve been practicing since Parents Weekend, at the beginning of the school year,” Elijah said. “We’re ready!”

The Idyllwild Arts student jazz concert starts at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall at the end of Tollgate Road in Idyllwild. The concert is free and open to the public, but come early to get a good seat!

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Dec 12, 2011 @ 19:48

 

 

 

NY Phil Oboist Makes Idyllwild Arts Proud

Friday, December 9th, 2011

Liang Wang, principal oboist for the NY Philharmonic, is an Idyllwild Arts alum. Courtesy photo.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

One of Idyllwild Arts’ own came back last week not only to perform, but to spread good cheer. Liang Wang, principal oboist for the New York Philharmonic, is living proof that an Idyllwild Arts high school education is key to acceptance in top schools that can eventually lead to a promising career.

At age 26, Liang is the youngest principal oboist in the history of the New York Philharmonic. He’s kept that slot since 2006, and you can bet he didn’t get it on his good looks alone. After four years of studying oboe at Idyllwild Arts, Liang was accepted to the coveted Curtis Institute of Music, where he won fellowships, grants and awards. Later on, he played for the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra and the San Francisco Symphony and worked his way up to the NY Philharmonic post.

“Liang gets to tell the other oboists what to do, and he’s much younger than all of them!” exclaimed Howard, a sophomore violist from Taiwan now studying at Idyllwild Arts.

Liang spoke to the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra after a rehearsal last week. He was candid about his time at the academy, including some mistakes he made (such as getting caught after curfew in the girls’ dorm). Most importantly, Liang offered the students some good advice.

“He said that he doesn’t get nervous onstage because he won some competitions, so he’s earned the right to be there,” said Tiffany, a senior who plays cello. “He looks so relaxed.”

Some of Liang’s achievements included a fellowship position at the Aspen Music Festival. He also was a second prize winner at the 2003 Fernard Gillet International Oboe Competition and a prizewinner at the 2002 Tilden Prize Competition.

Tiffany also said that besides thinking positively, Liang advised them to come to all of their performances prepared. And that means hours of practice.

“When you know your work, you’ll be confident in your playing,” Liang told them.

During his Dec. 3 and 4 concerts at Idyllwild Arts Academy, Liang performed Mozart’s “Concerto Oboe in C Major, K 314 (25d).” Advance press in the Idyllwild Town Crier, the Press-Enterprise, and the Idyllwild Herald, brought large crowds during both performances. The Sunday, Dec. 4 afternoon concert was standing room only.

(from L) Camille (with Mariya, an IA alum) was enthusiastic about Liang Wang's master class and the importance he's brought to the oboe.

The oboe concerto was lively, and Liang played most of the time, even to the point of flush in his cheeks. According to the program notes, the Mozart Oboe Concerto in C was composed in the summer of 1977, but the manuscript was lost until 1920. It had a striking resemblance to a flute concerto of Mozart’s. Finally published in 1948, it remains the least-known of Mozart’s entire concerto output.

The notes stated that the Oboe Concerto was rather French in style with cheerful outer movements.

In fact, Liang looked rather French and lively onstage, lifting his oboe like a horn to give the audience its full sound. He was also keen on taking cues from Peter Askim, Idyllwild Arts’ music director. No prima dona he! You could tell that he knew that the fine performance was a group effort.

“I’m in love with him!” exclaimed Camille, an oboist and senior at Idyllwild Arts. “He brought such notoriety to our instrument!”

Camille was among those who got to attend Liang’s master class that weekend. She said that Liang gave her lots of good input about her playing, which comes at the perfect time when she’s applying to colleges.

He even agreed to give Camille a lesson when she visits the Manhattan School of Music over winter break. He is currently on the faculty there.

Ryan Zwahlen, head of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts who also plays the oboe, was instrumental in securing Liang’s performance at the school.

“He gets great reviews on his sound and control,” Ryan said. “Having him perform with our students will show them what hard work could get them in the future. It’s also a great recruitment thing for the school helping us to raise our profile.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Dec 9, 2011 @ 11:57

 

Askim’s New Music Composition Revealed

Friday, November 11th, 2011

Viola Master Class with Ms. Kozasa. (from L) Sirayah, Alex, Ayane Kozasa, Kathy and Howard

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Tuesday, Nov. 8th afternoon concert at Stephens Recital Hall was limited to just a select few. Among those in attendance were student composers, poets, and musicians, along with a few teachers. What they were about to hear was a New Music composition by Peter Askim, Idyllwild Arts’ award-winning music director and composer-in-residence. Not only were they going to hear a brand-new piece, but also the viola player was a winner.

“This viola piece called, ‘Inner Voices,’ was written for the Primrose International Viola Competition in Austin last year, but the winner is here tonight to play it for us,” said Peter Askim, and then introduced Ayane Kozasa, a senior music student at Curtis Institute of  Music in Philadelphia.

“There were viola players from all over the country playing this piece, which was a required piece,” Peter explained. “Everyone had to learn it at the same amount of time, and Ayane won the prize for the best performance. And in a minute, you’ll see why.”

Peter handed out a few scores of “Inner Voices” for those who wanted to follow along, as Ms. Kozasa walked to the front of the room. She was a pretty woman in a black shift dress, and boots that matched the snow outside. Her hair was cut short, perhaps so that it wouldn’t interfere with her instrument.

Looking around, I learned quickly the best way to listen to New Music compositions, was to close your eyes. To my right, Peter had his eyes closed and was leaning forward slightly. To my left, Andrew Leeson, an Creative Writing instructor, also closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Across the room, Idyllwild Arts Headmaster Brian Cohen (who also plays the viola) had his eyes closed.

Ms. Kozasa shows Alex how to dance while playing his piece as Brian Cohen looks on.

I wasn’t sure why these guys were closing their eyes when there was a pretty coed onstage, but I guessed it was “all about the music” at this point.

From a past experience of listening to a New Music Concert at the Los Angeles Philharmonic last year, I knew that it wasn’t going to be like any standard music. It’s as if the composers crumpled it up and threw it out the window.

(from R) Peter Askim introduces Aane Kozasa to headmaster Brian Cohen

When the conductor started the New Music Concert at the LA Phil, I thought all of the musicians were still warming up. The piece had an unsettled, frenetic feeling about it.

“When are they going to start playing?” I asked the student next to me in the balcony. “Shh, they’re playing,” was my answer.

Now, sitting in Stephens Recital Hall listening to Peter’s  “Inner Voices,” I knew to expect the unexpected.

I breathed in slowly, resisting the urge to close my eyes and decided to focus on the young woman’s viola and bow.

What came out of her instrument was frenetic, and intense. Like someone running through the snow, but at a very fast pace. Maybe the person was running from the police? Who knows? But he was definitely running for his life.

Then I realized that it wasn’t likely an urban setting, but perhaps in Idyllwild. I imagined a person running through the forest. Since there aren’t any bears in these parts, perhaps the person was running from himself?

Then, after the intense part ended, the mood changed, and everything slowed down dramatically. Again, I thought of nature, and how everything seems calm after a rainstorm.

Meanwhile, Ms. Kozasa was putting on a nice performance for the audience who still had their eyes open. She moved across the stage, often times arching her bow as if it were a spear. Then she’d play the queer high notes with such delicacy that her bow barely touched the strings.

During “Inner Voices,” there were many long pauses, in which I was tempted to clap before it was over. Yet, I resisted, and succommed to the tension of the piece, which ended with more of a light “pop” than a razor-sharp dramatic ending. That was rather nice.

“That’s amazing world-class playing,” Peter said, as he stood, clapping for Ms. Kozasa.

“Peter is the master of negative space,” Andrew exclaimed.

When Peter heard that comment repeated later on, he laughed.

Ms. Kozasa works with Howard on his piece

Ms. Kozasa said that it wasn’t a difficult piece to play, once she broke it down into sections.

Peter asked her to explain to the audience how she would approach playing a new piece such as this one.

“Well, I’d look at the bigger sections at first,” she said. “And then try and figure out the character of each part. It’s harder when its free form.”

Peter said that oftentimes, the students think about the fingerings and trying to get the rhythm right, but they have a hard time finding out the meaning of the piece.

Ms. Kozasa said that she tries to find out what the composer is trying to say within the fingerings of the piece. Whenever possible, she also researches other music from the same composer to help with the meaning.

Afterward, Peter said that he finished “Inner Voices” about this time last year, but it had nothing to do with nature or the weather in Idyllwild.

“I finished it in the winter, but started it in the summer,” he said. “It has nothing to do with the seasons.”

So much for my interpretation of a man running through the snow.

For the next hour, Ms. Kozasa held a Master Class in which sh worked with four viola players, including Howard, Alex, Kathy and Syriah. Each played a short piece for her, in which she gave input and suggestions. More often than not, Ms. Kozasa suggested the students become more physical and aggressive in their performances.

Ms. Kozasa makes suggestions to Kathy

For example, when Alex played a slow, Bach piece, Ms. Kozasa stated that it was a dance, and suggested that Alex take a few dance steps.

What?! Dance while he was playing? I tried to imagine what was going through that young man’s head!

“This piece is really about dances back then,” she said. “And the third step is really suspended in mid-air. Try and step while you play. Here, let me show you.”

And then she played the same song, but exaggerated the steps to an unknown dance as she moved across the stage.

Alex, likely eager to please, played the piece again, and moved as best he could to the ancient dance.

“That’s beautiful,” she exclaimed as he finished. “It feels more like a dance in which your whole body is moving to the music. Now, try and put character into each step. Don’t be afraid of making a huge dip.”

After all of the students had played, Peter and Ms. Kozasa stuck around at Stephens to record the piece. He said to look for it soon on iTunes.

For more information and to see a video of Ms. Kozasa at the June 5th Primrose Competition, visit www.peteraskim.com.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Nov 11, 2011 @ 1:28