Posts Tagged ‘Peter Askim’

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

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

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

Copyright 2011 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

Student Orchestra Focuses on Dances & Rhymes

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

Music Director Peter Askim congratulates Xiao after the Dec. 12 concert

By Marcia E. Gawecki

Last weekend’s Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra concert was without any special guest artist or fanfare, but it was wonderful nonetheless. It featured dances from Platee and Marosszek, and, after intermission, a Mother Goose Suite that showcased Kodaly’s interpretation of five familiar nursery rhymes. This concert comes on the heels of the academy’s last popular concert, “Peter and the Wolf,” by Prokofiev, which was narrated by humorist Harry Shearer.

Music Director Peter Askim brought up Shearer again in his introduction Sunday. He said that next Sunday afternoon (Dec. 19), Shearer will be rebroadcasting the academy’s recording of “Peter and the Wolf” on his radio show called, “Le Show.”

“So if you’re anywhere near a radio or the internet, be sure and catch the broadcast,” Askim said.

He also mentioned that the arts academy orchestra has its Tschakovsky’s 5th Symphony release now on iTunes, which would make a perfect Christmas gift. Later, Askim thanked Gaylord Nichols for funding this and Saturday’s concert.

“Today’s concert features music from many different worlds. They’re almost like perfumes,” Askim explained. “Rameau was the father of modern day harmony, and we’re going to perform it the way it should be done–without a conductor.”

And with that, Askim walked off the podium, joking that he would be at JoAn’s (an Idyllwild restaurant).

For the “Suite of Dances from Platee,” the orchestra took direction from Xiao, a first violin student. Throughout the three movements in the suite, the student orchestra sounded much larger then the 25 strings onstage. They were helped, in part, by college-level and professional musicians, including Mariya Andoniya Andonova, a bass player who now attends The Colburn School of Music in Los Angeles.

Askim returned to the podium for the next piece, “Symphony No. 4 in C Minor,” by Franz Schubert. According to the program notes, Schubert completed this piece in 1816 at age 19, not much older than these students. The symphony is scored for strings, pairs of winds and timpani. It opens in a sober and serious mood, yet builds to show Shubert’s gift for melody.

Charles Schlacks, Jr., one of the many locals who attended the Sunday’s concert, said that the orchestra did a fine job on the Schubert piece “that really doesn’t go anywhere.”

Ai-Ching, who plays viola, said that the first half of the concert was good, but she liked the music in the second half.

“The Mother Goose Suites are worth listening to again,” said David, a music student, who had attended the concert the night before. He liked “The Mother Goose Suite” so much that he pursuaded his mother, who works in Idyllwild, to attend the second half after her shift.

The five suites included “Pavane of the Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,”Little Homely, Empress of the Pagodes,” “Conversations of Beauty and the Beast,” and “The Fairy Garden.”

According to the program notes,Ravel was inspired by Perrault’s popular “Mother Goose” book collection and wrote a short suite for a piano duet, that was later expanded into a full ballet score.

“Schubert just took some of our favorite nursery rhymes and set them to music,” David said. “You wouldn’t recognize them from the original Mother Goose nursery rhymes, but you also won’t easily forget them.”

After a three-week Winter Break, the concerts will continue on Monday, Jan 17, with the ever-popular Piano Fest at 7:30 p.m. at Stephens Recital Hall. The next orchestra concert will be held on February 5 & 6. For more details, look to the Idyllwild Arts web site at

Copyright 2010 Idyllwild Me. All rights reserved.

From Caracas to Idyllwild

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

William performed at the Redlands Bowl this past summer

By Marcia E. Gawecki

It’s not unusual for Idyllwild Arts Academy to attract music students from all over the world. Last year alone, they came from China, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, Canada, Costa Rica, Bulgaria, Venezuela and Germany. Yet, only one auditioned for the school via You Tube from the mountains of Caracas, and has studied with the LA Philharmonic’s hot new conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

William, a flute player at Idyllwild Arts, is tall, modest, and could be a dead ringer for President Barak Obama. His English has improved greatly since his audition from the mountaintop a year ago. And, as a postgraduate senior, he stands a good chance of getting into college.

His whirlwind journey began when Peter Askim, Idyllwid Arts Music Director and Composer-in-Residence, contacted one of his friends from the Venezuela Philharmonic, William said, and asked her to find him a flute player.  However, William was up in the mountains when he got the call.

“I was 10 hours from Caracas,” William said. “There was no way that I could make a demo tape and send it.”

So he missed the deadline, but they called him again.

“So my friend videotaped me playing, and I posted it on You Tube,” William said.

When the school e-mailed him that he was accepted, William’s mother (who didn’t speak or read English) was skeptical.

“She wasn’t going to send me halfway around the world based on an e-mail message,” he said. “She thought I was going to be abducted.”

So Marek Pramuka,  Dean of Admission and Financial Aid at Idyllwild Arts, asked Georgina, a music student from Costa Rica, to talk to his mother in Spanish, William said.

“She told her all about the school, and the orchestra, and she convinced my mom  that it was OK for me to come to America,” he said.

Although William was accepted on a full-ride scholarship, the logistics of getting to Idyllwild was challenging.

“First, we had to transfer bolivars (Bolivar fuerte currency) into dollars,” William explained. “But we couldn’t do that at the bank, so we had to rely on street venders.”

Then he had to get a passport and visa to leave the country. Since his mother doesn’t have a car, they relied on public transportation and a family friend to take them to the various places.

“Although gas is cheap in Venezuela, cars are expensive,” William explained. “Gas is about 25 cents a gallon, but a car that costs about $25,000 in the US, would cost nearly double in Venezuela.”

He lives with his mother (who is studying to be a nurse) and uncle in a tough neighborhood. His father remarried, and William worries that his younger stepbrother will get into trouble with gangs. According to various web sites, 30 percent of Venezuelans live on less than $2 US dollars a day.

'El Sistema' is supported by Gustavo Dudamel, LA Phil's conductor

“William is a product of ‘El Sistema,'” said one of the Idyllwild Arts patrons while talking about scholarship recipients during the Jazz in the Pines concert this year. “It’s an excellent model of how to keep young at-risk kids interested in music. They give them instruments and keep them so busy that they’re not tempted to join gangs or get into trouble.”

According to various web sites, the State Foundation for the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras of Venezuela, commonly known as ‘El Sistema,’ is a government-funded organization, founded by maestro José Antonio Abreu, aimed at music education through symphony orchestras and choruses. A link to ‘El Sistema’ is listed under “Fesnojiv” in Gustavo Dudamel’s personal web site.

William said that his orchestra rehearsals began right after school, and lasted for hours. They also kept them occupied during summer vacations.

“I was glad that I was part of the orchestra,” William said. “I had somewhere to go after school.”

He chose the flute because he’s always been attracted to the sound. And, although female flutists are common in the US, male flutists are more common in South America, he said.

The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra was a great training ground and that’s where he worked with LA Philharmonic’s conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. But he didn’t say much about him.

William and Kitty (partially hidden) won $500 in scholarship money from the Redlands Bowl

“Maybe he’s sick of talking about it,” said Kitty’s mom at The Redlands Bowl. William and Kitty, a fellow Idyllwild Arts music student, won $500 scholarships and were asked to perform before a live audience in June.

“All of LA is talking about Gustavo Dudamel,” Kitty’s mom said. “He’s LA Philharmonic’s hand-picked darling. Of course, the New York Philharmonic thinks he’s too young and inexperienced, but we don’t think so.”

William and Kitty talked about the other performers that evening, including a violin player who couldn’t be more than 10 years old.

“We hate to follow her in the program,” William said. “How can you compete with that cuteness?”

The night before, William had been to the Redlands Bowl for a practice run and sound check with his flute teacher, Sara Andon, and his piano accompanist, Lara Urrutia.

William and his piano accompanist, Lara Urrutia

“Lara’s great,” William said. “She keeps up with me. Other accompanists I’ve played with fall behind, and I end up following them.”

They discussed the amphitheater’s acoustics and what to wear for the performance. Since William was playing excerpts from Bizet’s French Opera, “Carmen,” they decided to wear red.

However, William was concerned about playing in an open-air ampitheater, something that wasn’t made clear to him.

“When you play a wind instrument, you already are maxing out your lung capacity,” he said. “Now I have to project even more so that the audience can hear me. I just hope that the wind is not blowing at me, but away.”

William’s selections from  “Carmen” was a crowd pleaser at The Redlands Bowl. Kitty played two contemporary pieces, “Prelude,” and “Alternating Currents,” but wasn’t as happy with her performance. Kitty, who attended Idyllwild Arts all four years, now attends Rice University on a full music scholarship.

When William applied for the Redlands Bowl scholarship, he had to save up for the $50 entry fee.

“At school, you get $20 a week allowance, so I had to save up for three weeks,” he said.

In fact, 68 percent of the 250 students who attend Idyllwild Arts receive some sort of scholarship money, states The Boarding School Review.

When William told his grandmother about the competition, she was certain that he was going to win.

“She said, ‘You’re going to win,'” William said. “Even when I told her how many people tried out. But she’s always believed in me.”

Another person who has believed in William is Askim, who brought him here from Caracas. William said that he didn’t see Askim for two weeks after he arrived. Then when he was in the orchestra, he was annoyed by his name.

“You see, there are two Williams in our orchestra, me and a clarinet player who sits right behind me,” William said. “Whenever Peter would shout, ‘William,’ we both would answer. So he tried calling us ‘William No. 1’ and ‘William No. 2,’ but we both wanted to be ‘William No. 1.”

So Askim nicknamed William the flute player, “Baldy” and William the clarinet player, “Hairy,” for his spiked hairdo.

Hear “Baldy” playing the role of the bird during the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra’s performance of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” on Oct. 16 and 17. The show will also feature guest narrator, Harry Shearer, from “The Simpsons” fame. The show is free and open to the public and will be held in the Bowman Arts Building. For more information, visit

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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.