Posts Tagged ‘Dr. Nelms McKelvain’

Redlands Concert Reunites Oboe Teacher & Student

April 17, 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 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.




Clarinet and Violin Solos in Weekend Concert

October 12, 2011

Shen will play a clarinet solo with the student orchestra Sat. and Sun.

By Marcia E. Gawecki

This weekend, two music students will perform as soloists along with the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra (IAO) during their first concert of the year. Both soloists come from China, yet grew up on opposite ends of the country.

Manje, better known as “Ally” is a sophomore violinist, yet exudes an older maturity. She will be playing Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin & Orchestra in D Major, Op. 61. The entire orchestra piece will last about 20 minutes.

“I’ve never played that long onstage before,” Alley exclaimed.

Yet, the teenager has performed many times last year with the IAO, and at different events, such as the one at Palm Springs High School, as part of a yearly outreach. Idyllwild Arts students sing, dance, and play classical and jazz numbers. The event  is hosted by the Steinway Society and Dr. Nelms McKelvain, who also teaches piano at Idyllwild Arts.

Ally was excited that her mother was coming from China to see this concert. Mrs. Yang will be among many parents attending the “Parents Weekend” events on campus this weekend.

Ally will play with the orchestra in a piece that lasts 20 minutes

Shen, the other soloist, is a clarinet player. He is very busy these days. First of all, he’s a prefect, or student leader, and has regular dorm duties. Secondly, he’s a senior, so he must submit his college applications soon and prepare for his upcoming auditions in Jan./Feb.

Last year, Shen was thinking of giving up the clarinet and studying psychology instead. However, Yahuda, his clarinet teacher from USC and Colburn, would hear none of it. He insisted that Shen continue his clarinet studies, even during the summer at Idyllwild Arts.

Those two weeks were the longest for Shen.

“It was weird being on campus and not knowing anyone,” he said.

Yet the experience of working with Yahuda in an intense program was worth it.

“I might even got better,” Shen quipped.

Just yesterday, Shen was performing with seven other Idyllwild Arts students at the Palm Springs High School.–the same one Ally had performed at last year.

Show poster

Shen played a clarinet solo by Massaje, and was accompanied by Nelms on piano. Even though there was music on the stand, Shen didn’t look at it once. He said that every time that he appears before a large audience is a good experience.

“Maybe I won’t be so nervous when I play with our orchestra this weekend,” Shen said.

For his piece, Shen will be playing Crusell’s Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 5. His mother from San Diego will be there, but not his teacher.

“Yahuda’s busy and Idyllwild is a long way from LA,” Shen said.

Besides the Beethoven and Crusell piece, the Idyllwild Arts Student Orchestra will be playing Haydn’s Symphony in E Flat Major, Hob. 1:99.

Like all events at Idyllwild Arts, this concert is free and open to the public. The Saturday, Oct. 15 show will be held at 4 p.m. and on Sunday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.. For more information, contact Idyllwild Arts at (951) 659-2171, ext. 2200, or visit

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Oct 12, 2011 @ 20:17