Posts Tagged ‘Idyllwild Student orchestra’

Soloist & Student Orchestra Handle Mishap with Grace

October 17, 2011

Peter Askim's violin soloist showed grace under pressure Saturday night. (Photo from another event. Courtesy Idyllwild Arts).

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Broken strings. You can bet that world-class violin soloists playing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic and the Boston Symphony have broken their violin strings onstage before.

However, that must’ve been cold comfort for Ally, the 16-year-old sophomore, during her first solo with the Idyllwild Arts Orchestra (IAO) Saturday night, Oct. 15.

Halfway through her 20-minute piece, Beethoven’s Concerto for Violin and Orchestra in D Major, Op. 61, Ally’s violin strings broke. Immediately she said, “Sorry,” and stopped playing.

“I knew that she was in trouble,” said Xiofan, better know as Sa-Sa, the principal violin player. “There’s no way she could fix it.”

Sa-Sa offered his violin to Ally, and she continued playing the rest of the piece without incident.

“You barely noticed that anything was wrong,” said Alex, a voice major from New Zealand who attended the concert Saturday night. “There was a natural pause. But afterwards, I think she sounded better on Sa-Sa’s violin.”

Ally's strings broke halfway through the Beethoven piece Sat. night (File photo).

But that left Sa-Sa without a violin. As first chair and concertmaster, you can bet that the orchestra needed him to keep playing as much as they needed the soloist.

Without prompting, Lin Ma, another student violinist, offered Sa-Sa his violin, and the music continued.

“I think that’s the natural order of things,” said one Idyllwild Arts student whose sister plays violin with a professional orchestra. “The concertmaster offers the soloist his instrument, and the violin next in line offers the concertmaster his and it goes down the line. They did the right thing.”

What Peter Askim, music director and conductor, was thinking, no one knows but him. Yet, Peter addressed the mishap with humor by using an analogy before the Sunday afternoon, Oct. 16, concert began.

“Most of the students in the orchestra are brand new to Idyllwild Arts,” Peter explained. “Like a new sports car, we took it out for a ride yesterday and tested its meddle. After shifting a few gears, we’ll sound even better today.”

There was laughter coming from audience members who knew about the mishap, while others didn’t know why Peter was talking about sports cars.

“I checked Ally’s violin before she went onstage today,” Sa-Sa said. “Everything was just fine.”

You can bet that Ally’s heart was racing a bit faster as she neared the part in the music where her strings had broken.

“Sa-Sa was the hero Saturday night,” Alex exclaimed. “When he came onstage after the break, everyone clapped especially hard for him.”

Shen was the clarinet soloist

Sa-Sa said that he didn’t notice.

But a 10-second mishap is not the entire concert, and a lost shoe is not the game. I once saw a star shooter during a UCLA basketball lose his shoe, and scramble to recover it without stopping play.

It happens to the best of them.

For her second concert solo on Sunday afternoon, Ally showed incredible grace and composure. Perhaps only her mother would know how nervous she was. Only once during a rest did Ally inspect her violin strings, and hold the instrument up to her ear.

Mr. and Mrs. Yang came all the way from Dalian, on the coast of China, to her their daughter play. (Their uncle is a pilot so they can fly free). During the concert, both were busy recording Ally’s performance on their cameras.

Not only did Ally maintain her composure, she played the Beethoven concerto as if it wasn’t difficult at all. At times, it sounded as if two violins were playing simultaneously. And there were parts where Ally’s fingers were moving so fast, it looked as if they weren’t moving at all.

That’s the beauty of young talent, and she’s only going to get better with each experience.

“You did a great job today, honey, and yesterday too,” said one woman to Ally after the concert Sunday.

Ally thanked her and smiled. The hard part was over.

For his clarinet solo, Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in F Minor, Op. 5, Shen appeared serious, but also played with grace and a loud, clear sound. For fans like me, it seemed like eternity before he got to play. Yet when Shen was in the spotlight, he took his time. Yahuda, his teacher, would have been proud.

According to the program, Crusell wrote most of his concertos so that he’d have something to play. And this clarinet concerto was one of the best works – both melodic and emotionally inventive.

On Sunday, both Ally’s and Shen’s solos were perfectly executed. During their encore bows, both received standing ovations from the audience. New headmaster Brian Cohen, who plays the violin, was first on his feet applauding loudly. Peter Askim also appeared pleased, giving Shen a hearty hug, and holding Ally’s hand as they bowed together.

As someone once said, “It’s not about the mistakes you make, but how you recover.”

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Published on: Oct 17, 2011 @ 12:56






Iyer & Student Orchestra at REDCAT Sunday

May 9, 2010

Vijay Iyer talks with students after his "Math & Music" lecture at Idyllwild Arts

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Internationally-acclaimed jazz pianist and composer Vijay Iyer will play with the Idyllwild Arts student orchestra at the REDCAT Theater at Disney Hall on Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 9 at 5 p.m. Tickets are $25, and proceeds go to Idyllwild Arts.

Iyer, who is an old college friend of Peter Askim, the music director and composer-in-residence at Idyllwild Arts, performed one of his compositions at the concert last night at the IAF Theater.

His piece, entitled “Interventions for Improvised Piano, Electronics & Orchestra,” was met with some skepticism at first.

Connor Merritt was skeptical of Vijay Iyer's composition at first

“It’s really hard to play,” said Conner, a trombone player. “It’s not the kind of music that we’re used to.”

During an interview on You Tube, Iyer discussed that same concern with his “Interventions” piece.

“Classical performers are trained in interpreting musical notes on a page,” Iyer said. “They have lots of ideas on how to do that, and it’s what they’re good at. With this piece, I hope to draw from that expertise.”

But this piece called for certain instruments to improvise, something that jazz musicians are used to, but not classical musicians who play in an orchestra.

To be ready for their performances, each of the sections had extra rehearsals–in addition to their regular orchestra rehearsals. The list was posted on the cafeteria door, and other students knew they wouldn’t be seeing much of the music students during “orchestra week.”

Well, their hard work paid off. Last night’s concert was a success, according to James Duval, a classical flute player and the former head of the Music Department at Idyllwild Arts.

At 10:30 p.m. Saturday night, the concert was over, and Duval was overseeing several students as they loaded up the truck with all of the instruments, including the bass drum. The truck is set to head down the hill Sunday at 9:30 a.m. in plenty of time for the 5 p.m. show at the REDCAT.

“There were a lot of people there tonight,” Duval said. “And they really liked Vijay Iyer’s piece.”

Charles Schlacks, Jr., a former Russian History professor at Berkeley, was among those who attended Saturday’s performance on campus. He has amassed a classical record collection in excess of 40,000, but continues to enjoy live performances.

“The student orchestra always does a nice job,” Schlacks said. “The new music was different than what I’m used to, but it was very nice.”

In another interview on You Tube, Iyer said that he’s used to comments like that about his music. As background, Iyer earned a bachelors degree in math and physics at Yale. Although he studied jazz piano in high school, it wasn’t until after he graduated from college that he became a full-time performer and composer.

“In America, they don’t always support certain arts,” he told an Indian reporter shown on You Tube. “Even if music not commercially popular, it gets out there somehow because it needs to. In the end, music is the healing force, the force of change.”

Iyer mentioned that other musicians, even popular ones, do improvisations too.

“I saw a video of the guy from the Black Eyed Peas who took a speech by (President Barak) Obama and turned it into a piece of music,” he said. “It was his concession speech in New Hampshire. And it had all the rhythms and candances associated with music.”

Iyer taught a "Music & Math" class at Idyllwild Arts Friday

Not surprisingly, much of Iyer’s compositions are based on math principles. In fact, he gave a lecture on “Math and Music” to about 75 Idyllwild Arts students and faculty on Friday, May 7. There, he explained how math is integrated into music.

“Usually, I don’t like music to be too hard, contrary to what you might believe,” Iyer said, amongst laughter from the music students.

He outlined rhythm phrases that crossed over the beat in rhythmic progression, and gave the “A, B, A, B, A” pattern variables.

“As you can see, it is taken on a linear shape,” Iyer said. ‘But this is not music.”

He said that the challenge of being a composer today is to remain fresh, and always learning something new.

“But it helps me to start with something artificial,” Iyer said. “That way, you’re not always starting from the same place each time.”

Then he played some of his improvisations from an amplifier attached to his laptop.

However, Iyer wasn’t the only one with an orchestra piece that was performed Saturday night. Askim, too, featured one of his pieces, a trombone concerto.

“His piece was hard to play too,” said Connor.

Ieseul Yoen, shown at her recital, is looking forward to playing at RedCat Sunday

Senior pianists Ieseul, Linda and Daphne “Kitty,” each got to play different pieces with the orchestra.

Ieseul said that she’s looking forward to playing at the REDCAT.

“Any chance we get to go down the hill and perform before a live audience, is a good thing,” she said.

Another good thing for the Idyllwild Arts student orchestra also happened this weekend.

“Our recording of Tchaikovsky’s 5th Symphony came out Friday, May 7 (Tchaikovsky’s birthday),” Askim said. “It is a CD/DVD set, and I think it will be good.”

To hear that recording, visit iTunes at

For tickets and more information about the RedCat performance on Sunday, May 9, at 5 p.m., visit, or call (213) 237-2800. Tickets are $25 for the general public and $10 for students with I.D.

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

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