Posts Tagged ‘student musicians’

Ambitious Student Piano & Bass Recital

Saturday, April 9th, 2011

Arik performed "China Gate"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last night, April 8, in the midst of a spring snowfall, the Idyllwild Arts Junior Music Recitals went on without a hitch featuring classical, contemporary and student composers. Arik and Josephine performed at the Stephens Recital Hall before a 50+ audience made up of fellow students, friends and a few local folks.

Arik, a piano student from Maui, performed four selections from Liszt, Hayden, John Adams and himself.  This is the third time Arik’s own musical composition, “Cain’s Lament,” was performed before a live audience. The first time was in early March at the “Idyllwild Arts Day in L.A.,” the second was last month before a student audience, and last night at the recital.

“Cain’s Lament,” was one of four collaborations between students in the Honors Music Composition Class and the Creative Writing Department. Whitney, a creative writer and childhood friend of Arik’s, wrote the original poem that he set to music.

Arik described the piece as a bit “melancholy,” yet the right the mood that it called for.

“‘Cain’s Lament’ is not so much about Cain and Abel from the Bible, but more about the state of the world,” explained Kevin Michael Sullivan, the instructor for the Honors Music Composition Class, beforehand. “It’s saying that God is sad.”

Arik played “Cain’s Lament” as his third piece, after “Two Consolations in D Flat Major” by Liszt and “Tempo di Menuetto, Hob. XVI:22, No. 37” by Hayden. Samuel, a classical voice major, sang Whitney’s words to “Cain’s Lament,” while Arik played on piano.

“The end of the world is a decade too late,” was among some of the somber lyrics. Appropriate for the Idyllwild area, Whitney also used rabbit and raccoon images to convey strong her strong feelings. After the piece was over, Sam acknowledged Whitney in the audience.

Nelms McKelvain, Arik’s piano teacher, said that he chose the songs for Arik’s recital, except for the last one, “China Gates.”

Arik and his comp teacher, Kevin Sullivan

“He can play it without sheet music,” Nelms said. “In fact, he performed it for us without any music just yesterday. He memorized it bar-by-bar.”

Arik said that memorizing Adams’ “China Gates” was challenging at first.

“It’s about the gates in the Great Wall of China,” Arik explained. “Each ‘gate’ is a key change.”

He said that it was challenging to memorize. He had to memorize the notes with his left hand first, and then sight read with his right.

“Sometimes, I’d have to move my left hand off the key quickly because my right hand needed to play it right after,” Arik said.

Several people in the audience last night said that “China Gates” sounded like water or rainfall.

“Adams wrote about raindrops on the Great Wall of China,” Arik explained. “And within the rain, there’s a melody.”

Afterwards, Music Conductor Peter Askim and Nelms went backstage to congratulate Arik on a job well done.

“You did a nice job,” Peter said, noting that he’s come a long way on the piano in choosing “China Gates.”

“All of the ‘colors’ (of your selections) were different,” Peter said.

Later, Arik explained that ‘colors’ meant a nice choice of heavy and light music selections.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Apr 9, 2011 @ 12:17

From Music Comp Class to March 1st Recital

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

(from L) Comp music student, Arik, and his teacher, Kevin Michael Sullivan, discuss the merits of the class

By Marcia E. Gawecki

A new honors music composition class is quickly gaining popularity at Idyllwild Arts. Mostly because of its recent collaboration between music students and poetry students on campus. The two groups are teaming up for a performance for “Idyllwild Arts Day” in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 12.

They are taking original poems and setting them to music. However, some of their collaborations will be previewed this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. as part of an Idyllwild Arts Music Faculty Concert at Stephens Recital Hall.

Each of the four hand-picked music students in the comp class get individual attention, said Kevin Michael Sullivan, the instructor. The four students are Caleb, a trumpet player; Arik and Benny, pianists; and Chris, a viola player.

“They keep me on my game,” Kevin said of the group who has helped him with his own music compositions. “They’re good kids and very sharp.”

Vocal music student, Samuel (shown here at another performance) helps out the composition students with their ongoing work

Oftentimes in class, Samuel, a classical vocal music student, sings their compositions out loud, so they can make adjustments.

“The first few class sessions were hard,” Sam said. “Mostly because the writer and the composer didn’t always see eye-to-eye.”

Benny said that his first composition climaxed too early, and it wasn’t exactly what he wanted.

“Do you think I could transpose it?” he asked Kevin, while eating lunch in the cafeteria.

“I think that would work,” Kevin said.

Sam, who sang Benny’s first song, agreed that it needed a change.

“The high ranges almost killed my voice,” he said, jokingly.

Sam said that he takes notes on the poems during the composition class to see what the best interpretation might be. He said that he considers himself a “vehicle” for the writer, in keeping the words “sacred.”

The creative writers who are providing the poems and collaborating with the musicians, include: Rebecca, Whitney and two Austins.

Benny, a pianist, enjoys the challenge of the honors music comp class. Courtesy photo.

Caleb, who is working with Austin on his poem, “New World Order,” about mankind, said that he heard it at last year’s Parallex (a student publication) reading, and liked it.

Caleb is setting Austin’s poem to modern music, using a bunch of different instruments from a sound mixer to achieve the desired effect.

“Caleb’s piece is really cool, but very complex,” Sam said.

With most of the poetry collaboration songs, Sam will sing them onstage at the “Idyllwild Arts Day in LA. However, with Caleb’s piece, Austin’s voice will be prerecorded. Austin will be reciting the words, while Sam will be singing the melody.

“Caleb decided that only my voice was right for the voice over,” Austin said.

At the same time, Sam is a little nervous about the Caleb-Austin collaboration, because he’ll be out of town with his own senior vocal auditions while it’s being completed.

“It’ll all work out,” Sam said. “It always does.”

Whitney, a creative writing student who is working with Arik, a piano player, is also a little nervous about her collaboration.

Austin is collaborating with Caleb on one of his poems, "New World Order"

“I don’t want to say, ‘nervous,’ because it sounds like I don’t trust him,” Whitney said.

She said this was the first time that one of her poems has been set to music. She is looking forward to seeing it performed onstage.

“It’s terrifying to hear your work performed onstage,” Kevin said. “You’re like a parent in the audience, and have no control over what’s being done up there.”

At the last faculty recital, one of Kevin’s pieces was performed by Idyllwild Arts faculty and students. During Tuesday night’s faculty recital, not only will Kevin’s pieces be performed, but he will also be playing the saxophone.

Even though they are not completed, some of these music composition-poetry collaborations will be performed at the recital this Tuesday night, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. at the Stephens Recital Hall on campus.  Faculty and guest artists will perform oboe, sax and piano, along with some classical music and jazz students.

All recitals and concerts at Idyllwild Arts are free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.idyllwildarts.org or call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

: Feb 27, 2011 @ 10:13

Soloists Shine in “Young Virtuosity” Concert

Sunday, February 6th, 2011

Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra will play The Firebird Suite at 2 p.m. today

“The two soloists from the concert last night did remarkably well,” said Maurice Mysenberg, a college professor from La Habra.

He and his friend, Priscilla, drove more than two hours to hear the “Young Virtuoisty” concert at Idyllwild Arts Saturday night, Feb. 5. The final performance will be held today at 2 p.m.

“After his solo, the young man (Xiao Fan) took a bow, but kept a smile on his face throughout the rest of the concert,” Maurice added.

Priscilla said that Maxine, the other soloist, obviously had a command of the piano, and played beautifully.

From where they were seated in the audience (second rise, left side) they could see the entire stage, with a good view of the piano.

“Her fingering on the keyboard was just incredible,” added Maurice, who is learning to play piano later in life.

Last night, they switched the program around to let Xiao play first, Maurice noted. He couldn’t get over how young both of the soloists were compared to their proficiency.

Today, Xiao will be playing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47, while Maxine will play Franz List’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major. Both pieces are the ones that helped them win the annual Concerto Competition.

Xiao (at left with Peter Askim) will be playing Sibelius' Violin Concerto in D Minor

The second half of today’s concert features “The Firebird Suite” from the 1910 ballet by Igor Stravinsky (which was choreographed by Michel Fokine). It is based on Russian folk tales of the firebird, a magical glowing bird that is considered both a blessing and a curse to its captor.

Maurice said the harp and the enhanced brass section (with guest artists) made “The Firebird Suite” sound wonderful.

Since the music was created for ballet, this part of the concert has piqued the interest of many of the school’s dancers.

Amira, a sophomore dance major, was looking forward to the concert. Last night, she was rushing back to her dorm room to change after a long day of dance auditions in Long Beach.

“It’s always great to hear ballet music performed live,” Amira said.

The final performance of the “Young Virtuosity!” Concert will be held today (Sunday, Feb. 6) at 2 p.m.  The concert is free and open to the public, but come early to get a seat. It will be held in the IAF Theater (located inside the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus, at the end of Tollgate Road. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Young Virtuosity! Concert Showcases Violin & Piano

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

Xiao Fan (at L with Peter Askim), will play a violin solo during the "Young Virtuosity!" orchestra concert this weekend

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“Young Virtuosity!” Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra Concert, will showcase two of their own, Xiao Fan on violin and Xue or “Maxine” on piano. Both will be playing the pieces that helped them win the annual Concerto Competition. Xiao will be playing Sibelius’ Violin Concerto in D Minor, Op. 47, while Maxine will play Franz List’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E Flat Major.

At the school lunchroom recently, Maxine admitted to being a little nervous about her upcoming solo.

“I don’t know why! She knows her music!” said her friend, and they both laughed.

Xiao and Maxine are both juniors this year, so this may not be the last time you will hear them play. But you don’t want to miss this performance. You can always claim, “I saw them when . . . ”

Last year, as a sophomore, Maxine performed at Piano Fest, an all-piano concert held on Jan. 18 in the IAF Theater (see Piano Fest blog post, dated Jan. 22). “Fantasy on Porgy and Bess,” with selections from Gershwin and Grainger, capped off that evening. Anni, Bohan, Meiling and Maxine took turns playing on two back-to-back grand pianos during this popular ensemble. Their rendition of “Summertime” warmed the crowd on the rainy evening.

Camille (shown last year with A-Tao) is excited about playing Stravinsky's Firebird Suite

Both Xiao and Maxine accompanied other music students during the end-of-the-year recitals last year. (Actually, as a pianist, Maxine is paired with students to help them with their auditions and recitals).

Xiao helped Henry, another violin player, during his junior recital last year  (see blog post, “Fast Fingers at Junior Recitals,” dated Feb. 24.) The four friends, Henry, RoGue, Ai Ching, XO and Xiao played Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet.

Although this Saturday and Sunday’s “Young Virtuosity!” performance will appear seamless, it comes with lots of hard work and dedication from the orchestra students, and especially the soloists, Xiao and Maxine.

“They have to prepare for this concert, in addition to doing all of their regular schoolwork, attending classes, orchestra practice and small group practices,” said one music staff member. “And they just got done with finals last week.”

But don’t think that they’re too stressed to play. These young musicians crave attention from a live audience.

“We get to play the Firebird Suite!” exclaimed Camille, an oboe player, about the second part of the “Young Virtuosity!” concert.

The 1910 ballet by Igor Stravinsky (and choreographed by Michel Fokine) is based on Russian folk tales of the firebird, a magical glowing bird that is considered both a blessing and a curse to its captor.

Early on, not all of the music students were excited about Stravinsky’s Suite. Some have admitted that their parts are difficult, and they’re struggling a bit.
“Some parts might be difficult, if you have a solo or something,” said Wu Shan, a post-graduate cello player. “But the Firebird Suite is not hard for me.”

Idyllwild Arts Orchestra warms up

Wu Shan hasn’t played the Firebird Suite until just recently, but at 19, he’s been playing the cello for 15 years. He started in China at age 4, and just returned his tiny, first cello to his former teacher, so that another young student could learn to play.

Xiao, Maxine, Camille, Wu Shan and all of the orchestra students will be on stage at the “Young Virtuosity!” Concerts held this Saturday, Feb. 5 at 7:30 p.m., and on Sunday, Feb. 6, at 2 p.m. Both performances are free and open to the public at the IAF Theater (inside the Bowman Building) on the Idyllwild Arts campus, at the end of Tollgate Road. For more information, call (951) 659-2171, or visit www.idyllwildarts.org.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Student Chamberfest a Surprise & Delight

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

This quintet, which included a 14-year-old prodigy, played Shuber's "The Trout"

By Marcia E. Gawecki

The Student Chamberfest Recital on Wednesday evening, August 18, showcased five soloists and five chamber acts in a relaxed, indoor/outdoor setting at Stephens Recital Hall. Most of the audience members were faculty, staff and friends who had just celebrated the final potluck of the summer. The mood was happy, relaxed, and the students didn’t disappoint them. There were some surprises that included a 14-year-old prodigy and several broken drum heads.

First up was a trombone quartet that played “Achieved in the Glorious Work,” by F.J. Haydn. The group, which included Karl, Allison Jason and Micah, started immediately, and played without pretense.

“That was well done,” exclaimed Andrew Leeson, a writing teacher at Idyllwild Arts Academy, who attended many of the concerts this summer. “A trombone is not an exact instrument and they hit every note.”

When Kevin finished, the audience got to their feetThe next student playing a solo was Kevin, on French horn. He was accompanied by Edith Orloff, a faculty piano teacher. Kevin stood the entire time and played “Concerto in E-flat Major, K 495,” by Mozart. If you were to close your eyes, his horn sounded like a trombone at times. Afterwards, many people in the audience got to their feet, which surprised the young man.

The next soloist was actually a duo playing “Toccata,” by Koppel. It included Lindsey on vibraphone and Lauren on marimba.
“That girl’s really good,” exclaimed Andrew, of Lindsey afterwards. “She could go pro now.”

The two played a duet with double mallets that were moving so fast that they always turned up blurry on camera. The incredible thing is that each of them were hitting four different keys with those mallets at the same time.

(at L) Lindsey and Lauren (R) played Koppel's "Toccata" at a fast pace on vibraphone and marimba

“They’re not necessarily different notes,” said Andrew. “It’s just like fingers on a piano keyboard.”

Yet, the precision, speed and acccuracy of the piece was remarkable. The piece was lively, strong and uptempo, and then it suddenly went soft and smooth.

Next up was Alek on bassoon with Edith Orloff accompanying him. Alek played, “Scherzo in G Minor,” by Miroshnikow.

Rarely do you get a chance to see a bassoonist play up close. Usually they’re cloistered in the back of an orchestra, and one just marvels at the slender size of the instrument. Yet, the mouthpiece is rather ornate with a swan’s neck, and the player has to blow and suck on the reed to make the perfect sound. The effect is not glamourous, with a lot of puffing of the cheeks, but fascinating nonetheless.

“That reed of his is shot now,” Andrew said. “Most bassoonists make their own reeds, and throw them out after each performance.”

The final soloist, Anna Sigmund, a German student on violin, was impressive because of the high notes that she hit in her selection, “Conncerto in E Minor, Op. 64,” by Mendelssohn. Anna stood tall and proud in a black dress and ankle bracelet. But all eyes were on her violin when she commanded the high notes in this moody, intense, and rather long piece.

Anna, a German violinist, commanded the high notes in the Mendelssohn piece

“It’s all in the bow,” Andrew said afterwards. “She didn’t back off from the high notes, like many others would have. In time, she’ll own that piece.”

The first chamber group of the evening included two violins, a viola and a cello. They played, “String Quartet in C Major, K 465,” by Mozart.

The lead violin, Michal, a high school student from Poland, had gone on a Sunday trip to Venice Beach a couple of weeks earlier. He took a lot of pictures of the California scenery, and marveled at the six-lanes on Hwy. 10.

“We don’t have this many lanes on highways in Poland,” he said, taking pictures of the cars and trucks. “But everyone is going very slow. Can’t you go any faster?”

Said like a true impatient teenager.

Along with Zoe, Michael and Tiffany, he played the lively, upbeat Mozart piece with enthusiasm.

The next group played the Shubert favorite, “The Trout,” or “Quintet in A Major, Op. 114.” It included a piano, bass, cello, viola and a 14-year-old violin player from Germany. He sat in the first chair during the first concert of the season.

“He started young, but that doesn’t mean anything,” said Christophe Wyneken, a violin and viola teacher from Germany, who brought him to the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. “He’s got ability.”

(from L) Michal, a violinist from Poland, played the Mozart piece with authority

Michal agreed. “Leo’s good.”

In this quartet, Leo played like a master. The other players, including Alex, Anna, Dana and Noah, kept looking at him to lead the piece. However, Noah, on piano, held his own, and didn’t get drowned out.

“You’re going to enjoy the flute player in this next piece,” said Andrew, who had heard him perform before.

Dressed in jeans, white shirts and tennis shoes, this group, made up of Kevin on flute, Ross on oboe, Louis on clarinet, Carl on Bassoon and Nick on French horn, looked relaxed for this short piece, “Quintet” by Blumer.

Kevin, who played the flute effortlessly, and sounded like a bird in flight, also was animated, moving about to the music in his seat.

The next group included two violin players,  a viola, cello and double bass, that played, “Quintet in G Major, Op. 77” by Dvorak.

(from L) Mimi, a tiny German violinist with a big sound

Tiny and prim, Mimi, the lead violin player, who is also German, had an incredibly loud sound. She didn’t drown out the other players, but I kept looking for a hidden microphone. How did so much sound come out of a tiny girl with a standard violin?

Grecia, who played the double bass, brought in her huge, unwieldly instrument like a pro. Although it was double wide, it sounded like a standard bass. But it was fun to watch because many of us had never seen one before.

Before the final chamber piece, Jonathan, who was teching the show, invited everyone in the audience to come closer to the stage that was set with drum heads, sticks and pillows. Many students sat and laid on the floor in anticipation.

Leo, a 14-year-old violinist from Germany, played with authority

“You’re really going to love this piece,” exclaimed Andrew, who had seen it performed by the Chamberfest Percussion Ensemble the night before.

The modern piece by M. Ford was called, “Head Talk.” As the name suggests, the four drummers only played drum heads, with drumsticks as they sat cross-legged on the ground.

The piece included some antics, including hitting, rolling, tossing and slapping of the drum heads. They were clear and of varying sizes. When Una, a former Idyllwild Arts student, rolled her drum head to Lindsey, who resumed play, it looked spontaneous.

“That was all written into the piece,” said Una and Lauren later.

But their facial expressions and feined impatience with Severin, the only male drummer, was spontaneous, they said.

Severin sat in front with a dramtic blue scarf tied around his neck. During the piece, he’d bang louder than the others, or bounce the drum head off his head, to the mock disgust of the rest of the girls.

In "Head Talk," the drummers rolled, tossed, hit and slapped only drum heads

Yet, it was a perfectly choreographed piece, that ended with each of the players, Una, Lauren, Mika and Severin, all breaking their own heads through their drum heads at the final bow.

“They cost about $20 bucks each, but we replace them all the time,” explained Una, later of the broken drum heads.

For the finale of "Head Talk," the drummers broke them on their own heads

Many of these students will be playing in the High School Chamberfest Concert today at 1 p.m. It will be held in the IAF Theatre in the Bowman Building. This final concert of the summer is free and open to the public.

German Students See Sand & Surf

Monday, August 16th, 2010

German students at IA meet the Pacific Ocean for the first time

By Marcia E. Gawecki

For the past six years, Christoph Wynecken has been teaching violin and viola to students in the Chamber Orchestra at the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program. Each time he comes, he brings along several students from his orchestra in Germany that has toured Europe, South America and Asia. This time, he brought along seven students aged 14 to 18 years old. As promised, part of their “American experience” was seeing Venice Beach and other Los Angeles tourist attractions.

“You can’t bring these kids halfway around the world, and not show them California,” Christoph said on Sunday, as he was headed for his second trip to Venice Beach. The week before, his group had also visited Disney Hall and the Armand Hammer Museum at UCLA.

A few years ago, Christoph had a rented home right on Venice Beach, as he taught at USC and Idyllwild Arts. He went swimming every day, impervious to the cold water.

(from L) Christoph Wyneken gives last-minute instructions to his German students

“It’s been a great experience living so close to the ocean,” he said.

Many of us in Southern California take beaches for granted. They’re a couple of hours away, and perfect for people watching, especially the crazies at Venice Beach. Yet, Germans don’t have ready access to the ocean, only the North Sea without sand and surf, explained Wayne Parker, one of the Idyllwild Arts van drivers, who has visited there.

Most of the the 10 music students who went to Venice Beach on Sunday were seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time. When they turned the corner from the alley, they stood in awe for a moment, just smiling at each other.

“Is it true that women have to wear tops on the beaches here?” asked Daniel, a clarinet player, looking at his guide book written in German.

“There are beaches in Germany where women don’t have to wear tops,” Christophe explained.

The Germans blended right in with the rest of the tourists on the Venice Beach boardwalk. That day, some LA police officers were trying to evict an illegal peddler who was angrily resisting. There was the regular reggae guy on rollarskates playing his electric guitar. An Elvis impersonator, dressed in white spandex, posed with tourists for tips. One bum had a handwritten cardboard sign that read: “Why lie? All I want is money for a beer,” and people gave him some. But the one thing the German students marveled at was the “medical marijuana” shops.

German students horseplay

On the way back, they felt the overbearing 100 degree heat in Palm Springs as they dined at an inexpensive steak house. It was too late for them to shop at the Cabazon Outlet Mall.

“Can we stop on the way back and feel the desert sand?” asked Fabian, a violin player.

This seemed like a strange request since they had been walking and playing in the sand at Venice Beach all day.

“We don’t have any deserts in Germany,” explained Christoph. “All of Europe has pretty moderate climate, although we do get snow.”

All of the students, including one American, ran around in the desert sand in the dark along Hwy. 111. They laughed, took pictures of each other, and didn’t want to return, even when Christoph insisted.

They scrambled to return to the dorms at 10 p.m., giddy from seeing the ocean and the desert for the first time.

“These students work really hard all week, and it’s nice to get away for a day,” Christoph explained. “So much of music is in your head, so you have to have a balance of work and play.”

Leo, the youngest violinist at age 14, has been to Venice Beach twice, and has taken hundreds of pictures of Venice Beach, Disney Hall, and even the Armand Hammer Museum, where he didn’t want to go at first.

“Why do we have to go?” he asked, sunburned and tired from the beach.

“Because there’s more to California than just beaches. There’s a lot of culture here,” was the answer.

Leo ended up marveling at the Rembrandts, van Goghs and Singer Sargeants that make up the permanent collection at the Hammer Museum. They allowed him to take photos of them without flash.

Leo and Christoph will leave Idyllwild Arts on Sunday morning, headed for LAX, while some of the German students are staying on in LA for another week. They’ll have their photos, T-shirts, and other mementos, while those of us who heard them play in the Chamber Orchestra have songs in our hearts.

Christoph said that he’ll likely come back to Idyllwild Arts next summer and bring along more German music students.

“The music program is definitely good, but there’s something special about Idyllwild,” he said. “I’ve always had a good feeling about this place.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Worth Getting up for Sat. AM Drum Concert

Friday, August 6th, 2010

(at R) Guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp plays the marimba with enthusiasm

By Marcia E. Gawecki

If tonight’s concert was any indication, it would be worth getting up  early this Saturday morning, August 7, to hear the the Symphonic Percussion Ensemble at Idyllwild Arts. Although they are teenage musicians, their eight short songs sound, at times, like Buddy Rich on caffeine, the Blue Man Group, and various African drum circles. The fast-paced concert will wow your socks off and leave you panting for more. It’s worth staying for the last song that features guest soloist Naoko Takada Sharp, a world-class marimba player.

Throughout the concert Thursday night, these young players showcased the various instruments that make up the percussion part of an orchestra, including the marimba, xylophone, timpani, snare drums, bass drums,  chimes, cymbals, and even a gong. Some songs were kinetic, moody, upbeat and frenzied, while others were soothing and classical. But one thing’s for certain, drummers are the hardest working members of an orchestra or wind ensemble, and it was nice to see them singled out to “strut their stuff.”

The hour-long concert included six group songs and two short solo pieces. The songs included: “A la Strata” by M. Peter; “Debussy Day at the Fair,” by C. Debussy; “Triplets” by G.H. Green; “4 1/4 for Four” by A. Cirone; “Matrix” by S. Grimo and “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro.

The second song, “Debussy Day at the Fair,” was classical and enjoyable, showcasing the talents of the senior percussionists on marimbas and xylophones. The next song, a modern one, “Triplets,” showcased six music students, two sets of playing on a xylophone and marimba at the same time, while a soloist lead them in the lively, upbeat song.

The group plays "4 1/4 for Four"

The next song, “4 1/4 for Four” is as complex as its title suggests. It featured four students playing the snare drums, the timpani (kettle drums), a bass drum set and the bongos with sticks. This song sounded  like the Blue Man Group, playing loudly, boldly and in unison. It brought out one of the Idyllwild Arts drum directors, Robin Sharp, who lead the group to a splashy, and perfectly-timed ending.

My favorite was “Matrix,” for its frenzied, frenetic complexity, and ability of the players to showcase about 15 different percussion instruments, sometimes all at once, that I couldn’t even begin to name. Chimes, cymbals, a gourd rattle, a triangle, snare drums, a marimba, a xylophone, a large gong and other instruments made horse clomping sounds, popcorn popping sounds, church bells chimes, and melded them all together into a truly enjoyable song. It also brought out the other modest, but talented drum director from Idyllwild Arts, Bill Schlitt.

Dylan playing marimba showed that he learned from the Master class

Dylan and Lauren, two students who participated in a Master Class with Naoko Takada Sharp, from last Thursday night, got to show off what they learned in two short solos, including “Etude in C Major” by C. Musser, and “Mexican Dance No. 2” by G. Stout.

Yet, it was the last song that made the show definitely worth seeing because the Master Class teacher was also the featured soloist. “Concerto for Marimba and Percussion Ensemble” by Ney Rosauro, a brilliant Brazilian composer, may have a boring title, but it leaves you on the edge of your seat. Mostly because it’s played with the unbridled energy of Ms. Takada Sharp, who, with double mallets in each hand, moved across the marimba keyboard with the intensity of a hummingbird in flight. Both arms were a blur throughout the entire song. It was even difficult to even get a photo of her because she didn’t stop moving for a second!

Una (at R) was in awe of Ms. Takada's playing on the marimba (L)

Her passion for the marimba showed in her facial and body expressions. She was the hardest working marimba player during that song.  Afterwards, the young students playing alongside her, congratulated her, took pictures, and stood smiling and in awe.

“She plays simply amazing,” said Una, a percussionist from Taiwan, who also attended Idyllwild Arts Academy for two years.

“I sounded good because you were my backup,” Ms. Takada Sharp answered.

“I hit one wrong note,” Una confessed, but the Master teacher said that it didn’t matter.

The 15 student percussionists take the stage for a final bow

The next Symphonic Percussion Ensemble Concert, with Ms. Takada as soloist, will be held at 9 a.m. this Saturday, August 7, at Ataloa (next to the Parks Exhibition Center) on the Idyllwild Arts campus. The concert is free and open to the public. For more information, call (951) 659-2171.

Copyright Idyllwild Me 2010. All rights reserved.

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Farm Workers’ Kids Get IA Scholarships

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

IA Scholarship students from San Jose pose at one of the pullouts on Hwy. 243. They said they'll miss the scenery.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

As they left the Idyllwild Arts campus last week, each of the six scholarship students on the van were crying. They had a great time, and didn’t want to go home yet.

“I want to stay here two more weeks,” said Jose, a trumpet player.

He said that he’d miss his friends, the counselors, and his new girlfriend that he met at the school dance. But he was also sad because he was going to miss his final concert. The flight was prearranged, and IA tried to change it so he could make the concert, but Jose’s parents didn’t want him traveling alone.

“They told me that I could come back,” Jose said. “Even though I’m a senior and will probably graduate, they said they wanted me to come back next summer.”

For years, the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program, along with the Monterey County Office of Education (MCOE), have been providing scholarships to migrant worker’s kids from California. Idyllwild Arts picks up the classes, room and board, while MCOE picks up the students’ flights and guardianship, said Diane Dennis, the registrar at Idyllwild Arts, who handles the coordination.

Diane said that she’s been working with Jorge Morales from MCOE’s Migrant Education Department for about five years now.

“We told Jorge we could offer them three full scholarships this summer, and he sent three more on his own,” Diane said. “It’s an experience they won’t ever forget.”

Steve Fraider, director of the Summer Program, remembers one MCOE scholarship student, a French horn player, who came to Idyllwild Arts a few years ago, and made tremendous improvement.

“He was a decent enough player, but soon met other music students who were determined to get into Julliard when they graduated,” Steve said. “He told them that he wanted to go to Juilliard too, and started practicing a lot more, and learning new music. He came back here three years in a row.”

“As it turned out, he didn’t get into Juilliard, because that school only accepts one or two new students each year,” Steve said. “But he got into another good music school, Eastman, I think.”

For years, Idyllwild Arts have been giving scholarships to migrant worker's kids

And to think that the Idyllwild Arts summer scholarship was the beginning of this success story.

“When the kids come here, they’re in a different environment, and generally, they thrive,” added Steve.

The six migrant scholarship students who arrived at Idyllwild Arts two weeks ago, were from San Jose, CA. All were art students, except for Jose, a gregarious trumpet player.

Jose, the trumpet player (center), wants to come back to IA next summer

During that time, Jose met a lot of music students, including some who played jazz, an art form that he had never tried before. Besides trumpet, Jose plays guitar and bass guitar.

Caleb, a jazz trumpet player who goes to Idyllwild Arts Academy during the school year, impressed Jose.

“We heard him play at a jazz concert, and he was awesome,” said Jose. “He practices all the time. We’d only see him at 6 a.m. in the morning, and then late at night, but that was it. All of the time in between, he was practicing his horn, and it showed.”

When he comes back next year, Jose will likely take art classes, instead of music.

“I drew a few things in art classes this time,” he said. “Mostly tags and stuff. A lot of people don’t think tags are art, but they are. I’ve seen some really beautiful ones.”

He said that he didn’t even think about “tagging” any trees on campus because everyone was so nice to him.

He also writes poetry, and may take some writing classes when he returns next summer.

“But my parents don’t want me to be an artist,” he said.

At Idyllwild Arts, there are many role models with success stories. Professional artists, musicians, teachers, and others, supporting themselves with their art.

Vanessa, from MCOE, arrived early at Ontario Airport to chaperone them on their return flight. The students talked to her excitedly about their stay in Idyllwild, showing them drawings, paintings and jewelry.

Minerva, one of the two girls on this trip, said she was sad to leave her roommate, who was from Korea.

“When we left, she was crying too,” Minerva said.

They plan to keep in touch via email and Facebook.

Johan, whose right hand was wrapped in an ace bandage, said that he sprained it while playing “Catch the Flag,”  a game similar to tag football.

“It was a lot of fun,” he said.

When Vanessa heard that Jose missed his concert, she didn’t even miss a beat.

“Next time,” she said, and he nodded in agreement.

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Marni Nixon’s Master Class

Monday, April 12th, 2010

Marni Nixon (4th from L) & Master Class students



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By Marcia E. Gawecki

She was the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady,” and Natalie Wood in “West Side Story,” and Deborah Kerr in both “The King and I” and “An Affair to Remember.” She sang Opera, performed on Broadway and won two Emmys along the way. At age 80, one would think that Marni Nixon would rest on her laurels and retire like many legends. However, recently, she performed with other Broadway singers at a “One Night Only” concert in Palm Springs, and then gave a two-hour Master Class at the Idyllwild Arts Academy (IA).

“We were so lucky to get her,” said Doug Ashcraft, head of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts. “Darren (Schilling, PR) saw that she was appearing nearby, and e-mailed her to see if she’d do a Master Class for us.”

Ashcroft added that Nixon had hosted a Master Class at IA about six years ago.

“I love what I do,” Marni Nixon said when asked why she is still performing. “And I still have to set a good example for my grown children.”

Her son, Andrew Gold, followed Nixon into the music business. She said he is best known for creating the theme song for the TV sitcom, “The Golden Girls.” Her daughters, Martha Carr, became a psychologist and Melanie Gold is a massage therapist. All three live in LA, and Nixon planned on visiting them that weekend.

On April 9, Stephens Recital Hall was packed to capacity with students, faculty and even some Nixon fans who live in Idyllwild.

“I’ve been following you throughout your career,” one woman said later as Nixon was autographing her CD.

Each of the students took turns performing a song of their choosing (with special meaning to them). They included: Everett Ford, Samuel Chan, Preston Pounds, Ruby Day, Joey Jennings, Paulina Kurtz, Becca Goldberg, and Melissa Haygood

“I wasn’t as nervous as I am performing,” said Samuel Chan, a classical voice major, who performed “Loveliest of Trees.” “I knew that she was there to help me.”

For Chan, Nixon suggested that he enunciate his consonants more, and then visualize while he was singing.

“Try and visualize that tree,” Nixon suggested. “Is it old? Is there snow on the branches?” She also said to put emotion behind the discovery of the tree. “Imagine that your rooomate has just died, or something just as traumatic, then you go to the woods to get away, and you come upon this tree.”

Chan performed the song for Nixon again, visualizing the tree.

“I can see you smelling the branches,” Nixon exclaimed, as Chan blushed.

“Can you see the difference?” Nixon asked everyone in the audience and they clapped in response. She added that it was good for classical voice majors to take some acting classes to help them visualize, and for musical theater students to take classical voice for the discipline.

Everett Ford sang a song in German, and Nixon asked him to translate the first and second verses. He said that it was about death and passing away freely.

“Just because the song is sung in German, doesn’t mean you don’t have to enunciate,” she said. “Be Italian, without being ‘fake.’ It will feel strange at first, but then it’ll become more natural. We need to hear the distinction of the words.”

As he performed the song over again, Nixon announced that she was going to “poke” and “pry” at him. She prodded him to stand up straight, and came up behind him, and held onto his rib cage.

“That’s where your voice needs to come from,” she said.

With other students, she mentioned posture, confidence, and the Tai Chi way of  firmly planting your feet on the ground.

After Becca Goldberg sang, “I Never Knew His Name,” about a young girl who didn’t know her father, Nixon was complimentary in her delivery, but critical of her posture.

“This might sound a bit cruel, but the way you’re standing up here says, “Oh poor me, pity me,'” Nixon said. Immediately, she went over to Goldberg and straightened out her spine.

As Goldberg was singing it again, Nixon commanded her  to push against her with all her strength. “You need to get that strength and emotion into your song,” she said. Goldberg sang another song for Nixon, a sassier, jazzier one, and her posture greatly improved.

Throughout her critique, Nixon would always ask the title and composer of the songs. Most of the students didn’t know, and referred to their sheet music at the piano. When Joey Jennings announced his second song, “Bring Home My Youth,” by Oscar Levant and Edward Heyman, Nixon asked Jennings what he knew about them.

“These are famous people,” she said. “Oscar Levant was bitter and funny and honest about his putdowns of people. This is kind of his signature song.”

When Jennings finished the song, he wiped away tears and “flipped the bird.”

“That was a good exercise,” Nixon responded. “Now, next time, instead of being angry underneath, try another emotion.”

When Paulina Kurtz sang, “My Brother Lives in San Francisco,” Nixon said that she wasn’t familiar with it.

“It’s new, and never been performed on Broadway or anything,” Kurtz said. She explained that it was about a girl recollecting her gay brother who moved to San Francisco, and the effects of AIDS.

Afterwards, some of the students in the audience were brought to tears.

“Can you give me a copy of that song?” Nixon asked. “I’d like to share it with some of my students.”

Nixon answered questions from the audience

“These Master Classes are a great way for me to stay in touch with modern music,” Nixon said later.

“Just perfect,” Nixon told Melissa Heygood, the last one to perform.

“I don’t think I say it perfectly,” Melissa said later. “I think she was just a little tired.”

After the last performance, Nixon told a little bit about her career, and answered questions from the audience.

“What advice would you give to young people who are just starting their careers, knowing what you know now?” asked Ella Walker, a dance major.

“Have lots of money,” Nixon quipped, as everyone laughed. “You need to have a job at night like computer programming or something, because you need to be up and ready for auditions during the day.”

Others asked if she had travelled to Europe or Asia (because of her Suzuki teaching method) and what type of music genre she preferred.

Nixon talked about her youth, when she and her sisters would sing at local events to make money for their voice lessons.

“Sometimes the teachers would feel sorry for us and give us a break on their rates,” she said.

She said she began singing seriously, with regular performances, at age 10 or 11. Remarkably, at age 17, she performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

“She seems like one of those rare individuals who came out of the womb singing,” said Jessica Scales, a theater major, later.

“I wish we could have heard her sing,” added Andie Hubsch, another musical theater major. “But was nice just being in the presence of a legend.”

Afterwards, Nixon posed for pictures, signed autographs, and sold copies of her CDs and new book, “I Could Have Sung All Night.”

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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Day Trip to a LA Philharmonic Concert

Saturday, March 27th, 2010

Mariya & Chris, LA Phil's bass principal

By Marcia E. Gawecki

“We don’t want just to listen to dead composers,” said Peter Askim, music director and composer-in-residence, Idyllwild Arts Academy. That’s why he took 10 music students to see the Los Angeles Philharmonic on March 12, which included “Five Elements,” a contemporary piece by Qigang Chen, a Chinese composer.

The piece focused on music that sounded like the five elements–water, wood, fire, earth and metal—and changed in two-minute intervals.

“You could really hear the water,” said Sebastian, an Idyllwild Arts music student from Heidelberg. “I’m not a big fan of ‘program’ music, but this one was very good.”

“It was hard to hear it as one piece,” Askim added, “but it had its moments.”

During the “Five Elements,” Askim nudged Yu-Wei “Una” Cheng, a percussionist, to pay attention to the LA Phil percussionists as they played the timpani (kettle drums) and marimbas.

To get authentic wooden and metal sounds, the percussionists relied on several wooden and metal instruments, including a xylophone, a vibraphone and two large marimbas.

Una said that the school has a marimba that she’s played before, and they’re very old instruments.

“Before they make the marimbas, they age a special kind of wood for about 50 years,” Una explained. Only two countries make them, including the U.S. and Japan. She thinks that the one at the school was made in Japan.

Besides Chen’s “Five Elements,” LA Phil’s two-hour program included works by Beethoven and Strauss. For Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Minor, Op 37, Joyce Yang, a young Korean pianist (not much older than the students) impressed the audience.

“She’s a student at Julliard now, but has a great career ahead of her,” added Askim.

According to the brochure, Yang is considered “the most gifted young pianist of her generation.” She has won numerous awards and has played with the New York Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Hong Kong Philharmonic, among others.

Under the direction of Edo de Waart, the chief conductor and artistic director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic, Yang and the orchestra played Beethoven’s Piano Concerto to the liking of most of the students in the group.

“She played it beautifully and didn’t pound the keys. There was less ‘pomp’ and more romance in her version,” said Andrew Leeson, an instructor and Summer Program coordinator at Idyllwild Arts.

Sebastian agreed. “Beethoven is always played so heavy handed.”

Mariya-Andoniya Andonova, a bass player who was celebrating her birthday that day, came to hear Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” or “A Hero’s Life.” There were nine bass players in the LA Philharmonic that day, including a woman from the San Diego Symphony, whom Askim knew.

“They always make me play ‘A Hero’s Life’ during my auditions,” said Mariya, a senior from Bulgaria, who is applying to colleges. “It’s really a difficult piece to play.”

Askim, who is also a bass player, agreed that the bass part of “A Hero’s Life” was challenging, yet good to watch professionals play it. That’s why he encouraged Mariya and Michael Minor, another bass student at Idyllwild Arts, to attend the show.

“No one else will notice (the bass part) because everyone else is playing, but you’ll see Mariya give it her full attention,” Askim teased.

Martin Chalifour, principal violinist, who had solos during “A Hero’s Life,” Chris Hanulik, principal bassist, and Carrie Dennis, principal violist, chatted with the students outside Disney Hall afterwards. Martin and Carrie had recently played with the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, and Chris is Mariya’s bass instructor.

Connor Merritt, an Idyllwild Arts trombonist, was happy to attend the event. “It’s great to get away from Idyllwild for the day and hear some New Age music,” he said.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.