I’ve learned the importance of discipline and the power of mere repetition. I’ve seen how music truly can be a right for all and not a privilege for the very few. I’ve seen the dedication and alignment all ES teachers have there. I’ve also learned the “a la orden” mentality (to your request) of truly wanting to genuinely help in anyway possible. I’ve learned things I didn’t anticipate such as how to read musicography (Braille music). – Sara Zanussi
I learned about myself as a musician and as a person. In Sistema culture, the lines between practice, rehearsal, teaching and performing are much less defined. There were many times when I would sit down to practice but ended up performing, or when I expected to perform but ended up teaching. I realized how these are all just different forms of making and interacting with music, but at their core express the same thing – myself and those who are there to enjoy the process with me. – Andrea Landin
In Caracas and Barquismento, we met students with a range of goals; there were students who were really interested in concentrating on music, some with dreams of coming to NEC, and we met students
who just liked playing with their friends and to grow up to become doctors, lawyers and music teachers. All of them shared the same vision of Maestro Antonio Abreu: To help children young and old to reach their full potential and acquire values that flavor their growth and have a positive impact on their lives in society. –Xóchitl Tafoya
I have learned what it truly means to share and give. Everyone we met who is part of El Sistema had such big hearts, and it was evident that they do this work because they love it and it gives them joy. I learned about the importance of having a vision, purpose and about being very intentional in everything we do. I saw many people who give their lives to this work, and this inspired me. –Monique Van Willingh
HOW HAS YOUR TEACHING PHILOSOPHY CHANGED?
I think sometimes we in the El Sistema field get so caught up in social change and how to manifest that that we forget the whole point of why we’re there: to create musical excellence. It is through THAT as the foundation where social change can transpire. From now on, I will have musical excellence as the goal and not underestimate repetition and discipline as important tenets to make that happen; I hope from that excellence that social change occurs naturally, rather than something about which we preach. – Sara Zanussi
I saw teachers who were able to strike an amazing balance between supporting their students and expecting excellence from them. One of the nucleo leaders said that there is no limit to what children are capable of, but teachers often place this limit on children because they do not believe that children can achieve.The experiences we had with the teachers, parents and students from every nucleo—so many people whose lives are completely entwined in the vision, mission and essence of what it means to serve others– are imprinted on my heart as beautiful examples of the power of this work in the lives of those involved. Being in Venezuela and having the honour of meeting Maestro Jose Antonio Abreu has deepened and cemented my resolve to do this, and exponentially expanded my hope for the possibilities for my own country. -Monique Van Willingh
FAVORITE MEMORIES FROM VENEZUELA:
Every Venezuelan truly inspired me, even people outside the nucleo. Hearing about El Sistema from the
first year into the “middle years” gave me great perspective and showed me we CAN do this. We just have to remember that right now we’re comparing a four-year-old toddler (the US movement) to a 38-year-old adult (the Venezuelan movement). Hearing about El Sistema in its fledgling state gave me the understanding of how it was so successful and truly a “poco a poco” project. – Sara Zanussi
Elise and I met an old couple while we were waiting. They very proudly told us about their son, who has Down syndrome and plays in the percussion ensemble. He has been going to the nucleo for 11 years, where he started out in music literacy, moved to the choir, and now plays in the percussion ensemble. Before he came to the nucleo he could not speak, but because of the influence of music, he found his words. -Monique Van Willingh
The people of Sistema Tamaka, located just outside Barquismento, made a music school with dirt roads, dirt floors, and an abandoned building. Why? Because to them, it’s all about the music. Their nucleo is filled with genuine, authentic people who know why they do what they do and love doing it daily. -Xóchitl Tafoya
After a six-year-old told me he couldn’t afford English lessons at his school, I told him I’d give him a “regalito,” any word he wanted to learn in English. His choice? Dudamel. This shows the impact that Dudamel has had on his hometown, even in a six-year-old’s mind. I can’t think of any six-year-old in America who would choose a classical music director’s name if they could learn any word. – Sara Zanussi
by HANNAH NICHOLAS 1st year MM Viola
For the past month, I’ve been so swept up in life at NEC that I have not taken a moment to simply sit and reflect on my recent experience with the students from the Afghanistan National Institute of Music (ANIM). Their residency at NEC marked the end of a brief tour of the United States, following Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center. In anticipation of their stay, I organized a side-by-side rehearsal between string players from ANIM and string players from the NEC Chamber Orchestra. The impact from their visit still lingers with me: for the first time, I felt that my own hazy, albeit intuitive, path in music had found definition.
On the morning of our joint workshop, I arrived early to set up in Keller Room. The plan was to rehearse Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, which ANIM students were currently working on for school. When I walked into the room, I found Julia Yang, one of the cellists in our group, and a video cameraman, who gave no introduction and quietly continued to set up his equipment. I briefly panicked – what if no one from ANIM showed up? The last I had heard, four string players would be attending; they play together as a string quartet. Just a few moments later, players from both schools shuffled into the room. A crowd of young Afghan students and their teachers filled the audience, with stragglers standing in the back, as the rest of us tentatively approached our stands. The concertmaster, Hojat, looked confident and collected, probably much more than I did. Soon we were in full gear, conducting a rehearsal not so drastically different from our usual – deciding on bow strokes, tempo, and character, and demanding clear cues and togetherness.
We worked hard that hour, taking apart one spot at a time with a bit of humor and teasing interspersed – the eyes of the audience glued on us the entire time. There was an air of collective pride and satisfaction after our final up-to-tempo run-through of the first movement of Eine Kleine. The audience’s cheering elevated our excitement. But what heightened the experience was that this joint musical endeavor allowed for our two very disparate cultures to work together in a natural, personal way.
In the second half of our workshop, the members of NEC Chamber Orchestra remained on stage to perform a well-known work – Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings. Not a single student from ANIM had heard it before; just a few were familiar with Tchaikovsky and mentioned his symphonies. We talked for a good while after the performance, and I blurted out a naïve question: did anyone want to be a professional musician? Hojat answered, politely explaining that he loves violin and plans to continue playing with his rock band, but there are no professional orchestras in Afghanistan. There is no “music scene” like ours in the United States, no path for musicians resembling anything remotely close to what makes up our world at NEC.
The many layers of this visit – that we could relate to one another and then within moments our newly formed impressions could be shattered by a stark reality – reveal how narrow our perspective can be in struggling to sum up a culture based on brief interactions—or often none at all.
During the last ANIM concert, on the eve of Valentine’s Day, I stood up with rest of the audience for the last piece and joined the performers in singing an Afghan melody. I cried while I sang, from the warmth and emotion in the completely packed hall, and from the nostalgia that the melody recalled, at once familiar and utterly foreign.
CHINA | Hui Weng, guzheng
My name is Hui Weng and I am from China. After practicing the Chinese zither (Guzheng) for 20 years, I’m seeking a breakthrough in my personal style and, more importantly, to reimagine this music. To achieve this, I’m studying Guzheng in the Contemporary Improvisation department at NEC, which is a wholly new attempt. Through this, I hope to achieve mastery of my skills so that I can steer the music of the Guzheng to modern practice. From my Boston solo concert, “Twin Flower,” I’ve learned that the Guzheng can be quite popular and welcome on the American stage. I named the concert after the plant of the same name, in which two flowers blossom from one stem. I hope that Guzheng music can be like that, with one flower rooted in China and the other developing in the US. Although my instrument is a traditional Chinese instrument, I believe that it will still blossom with beautiful music in its new environment. Music is a language that knows no boundaries, and art and culture exchanges take place every single minute. Sure, Chinese culture is very different from American culture, but I love these differences because they can create amazing things in music. I can develop my own personal style by combining these great differences. Because of the guidance of Dr. Hankus Netsky and my other mentors at NEC, I cherish my time here. At this school, I receive beautiful ideas, meet with musicians from all over the world, and exchange powerful music.
CHILE | Sergio Muñoz, viola
Hometown? Santiago, Chile. What do you miss most about home? The food! In Chile, we’re lucky to get relatively cheap good produce most of the year, so it’s not too hard to eat balanced and healthy. I was raised eating well and got used to that. Also, the subway in Santiago is BEAUTIFUL, clean, and the staff is friendly. Why did you want to come to the US? A serious appreciation for classical music is only starting to develop in Chile. The funding, facilities, variety of institutions to study music, and access to great artists-teachers that exist in the US is something you can’t get in Chile. The main reason for me to come here was my current studio teacher, Kim Kashkashian. Since I was little, I always heard of Ms. Kashkashian as some unreachable viola superstar. When I found out she was a real person who taught at NEC, I said to myself “I’m going to get there!” How is American culture different than your home culture? The difference that impacts me most is how Americans are “colder” than people from Chile in their daily interactions. People are more formal and aware of personal space here. For example, people here freak out when you touch them, while people in Chile kiss women on the cheek or shake hands between men every time they say hello and goodbye between family members or even people who are friends remotely. Favorite part of Boston? First of all, I love that Boston is a very pedestrian-friendly city. It is very small compared to Santiago, so it is very manageable; you can walk everywhere! This year I got a bike and places have become even more accessible; it’s been great to explore the city from a different perspective. I like the atmosphere of the South End: brownstones, red brick sidewalks, hidden green areas, lots of restaurants. Also, Comm. Avenue is a good walk to see the seasons go by.
ISRAEL | Maya Jacobs, SAC superhero!
Hometown: Tel Aviv What do you miss the most about home? Fruit and veggies. Food in general. Missing my family and friends (of course) and the beach! Why did you decide to move to the US? I moved to the US for my master’s at NEC. The music scene here is much bigger so there are more musicians to learn from and to be exposed. How is the American culture different than the Israeli culture? The Israeli culture is very direct and honest. I feel like the Israeli culture might look tough at first but then it is very sincere. The American culture is very supportive and accepts many opinions and diversities. I love both places and I feel like I have two homes!
BRAZIL | Henrique Eisenmann
What’s your hometown? São Paulo, Brazil What do you miss most about home? The beach!! The yearlong warm weather, samba jam sessions, and the food, of course. Why did you want to come to the US? Sometimes you only understand your own culture and your own music when you are away from it. Boston is an inspiring city, and it’s great to be surrounded by great artists. How is American culture different than your home culture? People hug each other more in Brazil!! What’s your favorite part of NEC? My favorite part at NEC is that you are allowed to have you own voice. No one here tries to shape or change your character or your musical ideas. Favorite restaurant: Fogo de Chão, the Brazilian Steakhouse at Copley Square. (Editor’s note: Read about Henrique’s Ethnic Jam Sessions on page. 16!)
FRANCE | Louise Grevin, cello
Hometown? My hometown is Toulouse. It is in Southwest France, close to the Pyrénées mountains, which are the natural border between Spain and France. What do you miss most about home? This is cliché, but I’m afraid it is true: every time I come back to France, the thing I enjoy the most is the food. Nothing better than good cheese, like Comté or Bethmale, which is a cheese from the Pyrénées. I also sometimes miss a softer way of life. Why did you want to come to the US? I first came to the US to pursue a master’s because I wanted to discover what the classical music world was like on this side of the ocean! Well, five years later, I’m still here… How is American culture different? American culture is very dynamic! People are optimistic and positive. The work ethic particularly strikes me as very strong. Americans are also really good at communication! However, I find European countries are more open culturally, the arts in general are more accessible to mainstream, more daring and more present in everyday life. Favorite part of NEC/Boston? NEC is an incredibly inspiring place bursting with so many talents. I love being part of this wonderful community where great concerts happen every day! You can never run out of good things to hear… Boston has a European feel which I enjoy very much.
SINGAPORE | Nicholas Loh, piano
Tell us about your picture. The background in the picture is what you’d typically find in a HDB (Housing Development Board) estate, which is basically a place where there are lots of residential flats. Land is very scarce in Singapore, so making the most out of a small area is the name of the game here. This residential area is called ‘Serangoon’ What do you miss most about home? Family and friends most of all, plus I had a stable job before I came to NEC, so I really miss having a regular income! Other than that, I would say it’s just a real change of environment after having settled into a regular lifestyle back home, seeing the usual people and hearing the local slang everywhere. Oh, and the fact that you can get some really awesome, affordable local food (hawker food, as we call it) anytime of the day—including midnight to 6 a.m.! Why did you want to come to the US? I did my undergraduate studies in the UK, and I was contemplating a change of environment and educational system. Furthermore, I needed a studio teacher who could big me up on contemporary music and I found him here (thanks Steve~). How is American culture different than your home culture? People tend to be a lot more vocal here, and it is much easier to start a conversation with most of the locals here. What’s your favorite part of NEC/Boston? The weather. No really, the weather! Now I know that a great deal of people here can’t stand the snow, slush and frigid winds, and it probably wouldn’t help if I told you that Singapore is pretty much in the 80s-90s with sun all year round. Well, just so you know, humidity is no fun at all – you step out of the shower and you’re more or less sweating again. People back home would hide in the air-conditioned comfort of shopping mall just to escape the heat and humidity (while looking at all the pasty white Caucasian tourists outside almost masochistically mopping up the sun), and I am probably one of those unusually heat-intolerant south-east Asian people who would rather have a chill than a heat wave. The recent snowstorm was definitely, and most certainly unfairly, enjoyed by yours truly (and at least I didn’t lose power…that would have been a tragedy).
CYPRUS | Andria Nicodemou, percussion/CI
Hometown? I’m from a small area of Nicosia (the capital of Cyprus) called Kaimakli. Kaimakli is a semi-occupied suburb. 84% of the area is part of the dead zone or occupied by the Turkish. Nicosia remains the only divided capital in the world, with the southern and the northern portions separated by a green line (this is a demilitarized zone, patrolled by the United Nations and established in 1974 following the Turkish invasion of Cyprus). The DMZ is located near the center of the island on the banks of the Pedieos River. The northern part of the city functions as the capital of the self-proclaimed Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, a disputed breakaway region whose independence is recognized only by Turkey, and the rest of which the international community considers as occupied territory of the Republic of Cyprus since the Turkish invasion in 1974. My language is Greek, but in Cyprus we speak with a Cypriot dialect. What do you miss about home? I miss the old city of Nicosia, specifically the small distances. You can go from one to the other side of the island in 2.5 hours. I miss the beaches and the fresh air of the small villages up in the mountains. Why did you want to come to the US? I came here for the musical opportunities; people here understand and respect your work. The art world in Cyprus is not the same. What do you love about Boston? Boston reminds me a European city with American air. You can find both silence and noise, and you don’t need to go far for either.
My name is Liz Tobias and I’m an international student. Even though I’m originally from an English-speaking country that is fairly similar to the USA, you’d still be surprised at how challenging life can get when dealing with a new culture on a daily basis.
I have so many funny and awkward culture shock stories from my last eight months of living here. The issue of trying to figure out when and how much to tip in restaurants is always a problem and I’ve almost been hit by cars driving on the “wrong side” of the road. Everyday I get caught using Australian expressions and slang that only about four other people at NEC would understand, and if I talk in my normal accent and speed, my friends politely listen to me while secretly wishing there were English subtitles playing above my head.
American culture can be crazy at times and Boston is certainly no exception to that rule. Here are a few tips to help you out in your overseas adventures while you’re living the dream here at NEC…
MAKE RANDOM FRIENDS OUTSIDE OF YOUR USUAL CIRCLE
I love the art of conversation and will talk to anyone who crosses my path. It’s fun to be curious about other people and find out what goes on in their world. Get diverse with your friendships!
All you have to do is ask people how their day is going! You’d be surprised where and how you can make new friends, and it’s refreshing to have non-musicians as friends! GASP!!!
BECOME FRIENDS WITH ALL THE COOL PEOPLE IN THE STUDENT SERVICES OFFICE
Every now and then I visit Mary Louton, Rebecca Teeters and the cool dude, Jeremy just to say hi. They are never opposed to chocolate and will always be up for a friendly chat. (They’re also totally amazing at the visa stuff if you need help!) If you visit, say hi and tell them that Liz sent you!!
DON’T COUNT THE DAYS UNTIL YOU CAN GO HOME
Embrace living here in this fabulous city. Be present and try to make the most out of every day in this international experience. Start thinking about home around 14 days out from your departure; you’ll certainly feel the difference!!!
It’s ok to let go of your home country a little bit and embrace America. It doesn’t have to be forever, but sometimes it’s nice to enjoy the moment and make the most out of what’s happening right now.
Try to convince a local NEC friend who drives to take you out of town for the weekend. Go skiing in Vermont or antiquing in New Hampshire. Get out of Mass and see the USA!!! I’ve heard that there’s a super duper Six Flags roller coaster park only two hours out of Boston, not to mention that little city known as New York.
American movies are fabulous for practicing English and learning about crazy Yankee traditions. You’ll understand your American friends better after watching a movie or two… My entire understanding of American Christmases come from watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation… haha!
Eddie Murphy’s Coming to America is a classic and one of my favorites; it’s also hilarious for your personal American cultural studies.
COOK YOUR OWN FOOD
Invite your NEC friends around for an authentic traditional meal at your place. You won’t need to worry about tipping or being checked for I.D., even though you look 30. Your friends will appreciate a home-cooked meal for once and you’ll love the company. You could even create your own Master Chef type fun and get a little crazy with the knife set.
GET OFF CAMPUS
Go out to lunch somewhere other than the Bistro. Try taking the bus out to Harvard Square or the T to the Boston Common to sit with the little ducks for a change. There are some incredible places to eat in Boston! You can pick any culture or style of food and go nuts! YUM!
SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPESKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE SKYPE
We know how hard it is to balance living across two countries at once. The debate is whether it is easier being 4 hours behind or 15 hours ahead. For myself, Australian vs USA time zones are nasty and I could only imagine how hard the differences between Europe, Asia, Africa or South America are. Just give yourself a break and remember that you’re doing the best you can. Your family and friends back home will understand and love you even if can’t Skype them as often as you’d like.
GO SEE A SPORTS GAME
For a conservatory full of music nerds, you’d be surprised how much each one of us could enjoy a live sports game. I’ve attended a few Celtics games this season and the entertainment on that night out is so worth it! You might even get a cheap ticket for $20 online.
Figure out which season has which sport and get your friends together for a game. If you’re tight on the financial side of things, get everyone to come to your place and make some noise watching a game.
IT’S THE SMALL THINGS THAT COUNT, SO EMBRACE THEM!
Culture shock is made up of the little changes in detail causing you to feel overwhelmed. While you’re here, embrace the imperial measurement system and the use of Fahrenheit. Enjoy cars driving on the wrong side of the road and American money looking all the same (Seriously America… you think that you’ve got $41.16 dollars in your wallet, when you’ve really only got $4.16!!) This will be the only time in our lives that we’ll ever need to know this stuff and one day, when someone asks you at a trivia night back home if you know how many inches are in a foot, you can answer with conviction! 15….. right?
Lastly and MOST importantly, in order to
survive NEC on a visa, you need to become great friends with the people at Unos! My friends and I have decided it’s the fourth building of NEC. It’s a black hole where time ceases to exist and five hours later you’ll walk out feeling like you’ve experienced life-changing therapy! (Okay, I exaggerate a little.) It’s cheap and conveniently local.
If you go, say hi to my friend Janelle (she works Thursday and Friday nights) and tell her that Liz Tobias sent you! She might even let you eat the Snack Hour snacks out of hours.Liz Tobias, originally from Adelaide, Australia, is a first-year master’s student majoring in jazz vocal performance. She is passionate about life at NEC and spends much of her time trying to shake thing up in the MIE department. Liz loves learning about how a student’s comfort in the classroom can translate into stellar results. When she’s not roaming Jordan Hall, Liz loves cooking for her friends, hanging out at Unos (way too often)… and attempting a workout at the Marino gym. If you have any questions, you can contact her at email@example.com or check out MAMAJAZZ.COM.AU.
Director of International Student Services
International students studying in the U.S. must obtain a student visa and continually maintain their status through following specific U.S. federal regulations. The U.S. government attitude toward immigration policy changes with every administration and very soon, the Senate reportedly plans to roll out legislation to overhaul all U.S. immigration policies and regulations. This reform promises to be a much-needed but lengthy process to restructure the system of allocating U.S. visas to non US citizens, including regulations pertaining to student visas.
A group of educators working to advance international education recently hosted Advocacy Day on March 12-13 to promote our own agenda in this immigration overhaul. For the 2nd year in a row, I received a grant from the New England region of NAFSA to represent our musician international students and the state of Massachusetts. On the first day, we trained on how to “soapbox” our specific issues through story telling. I came prepared to share the experiences of our musicians and the regulatory challenges they face in the pursuit of education.
Day two was packed with meetings with staff from the offices of area representatives, as well as personal meetings with Representative Keating and our newly elected senator, Elizabeth Warren. I shared the stories of our students with Congress and how the immigration reform needs to address the frequent challenges that international students face while traveling in and out of the U.S., in addition to the strict limitations on engaging in work off-campus. Furthermore, we stressed the importance of clearing a pathway for students to stay in the U.S. after their studies and to create more opportunities to students to engage in short-and long-term employment options during and after their studies. For a full synopsis of our goals, please see www.nafsa.org/113thcongress.
I loved every second of working in Washington, DC on behalf of international students. It is important for the people who change the laws governing student visas to truly understand the issues and how a better system can serve the U.S. While immigration reform will go through many stages before it is finally put into law, everyone I met agreed: support is high for beneficial regulatory changes for student visas on Capitol Hill.
by ALINA CZEKALA BM ’13, Violin Performance (with a passion for fashion)
Boston may have kicked off the Spring season with unpredictable (and not very glamorous) weather, but this time of the academic year always comes with a lot of NEC student recitals — and so many female performers ask themselves:
“What should I wear?” Ladies, here are a few tips for your recital dress hunt:
• Go full-length — It is most appropriate for the occasion. Dresses ending below the knee will make you appear shorter, and anything hitting above the knee should be saved for the after-party. Respect your
• No matter the cut, limit yourself to one or two additional attention-drawing features: a vibrant color, subtle print, structured material (e.g. lace), or playful detail (ruffles, a brooch, a bow… no, not your violin bow). Don’t look costume-y — your Paganini left-hand pizzicatos are just as sparkly as any sequins!
• Get it altered — Why wear your dress with your tallest but most uncomfortable heels, or risk stepping on your dress? Department stores often provide alterations at a discounted rate for dresses purchased in-store.
• Don’t forget what goes underneath — especially if you choose a strapless dress or thinner fabric. Bring different options with you when shopping so you can check what fits best and won’t show/peek out.
• Go budget-friendly — You might wear this dress only once. Stores with affordable clothing often have a small selection of maxi dresses that can be glammed up with an elegant waist belt or headband. (If you would pair the same dress with beach sandals and sunglasses, then of course skip it.) Also, get extra discounts by checking stores’ websites for coupons — many can be sent directly to your smartphone!
• Most importantly: be free. No matter what instrument you play or if you sing, being able to breathe freely is absolutely crucial to a successful performance. Make sure that any movement (arm, leg, shoulder, neck, anything!) remains unrestricted while the dress stays in place. This doesn’t apply to walking on and off stage only — most of us move way more during performances than we think. Last but not least, string bows have gotten caught on dress embellishments before, so keep that in mind while shopping!
To sum it up: your recital dress shouldn’t distract you or anybody else from your performance. The dress is simply a “gift wrap” — your recital being the gift you’re giving to the audience. Good luck with both shopping and your performance!
Chili Powder: Mmmm. Pierogis: Yumsicles. Spring roll wrappers, boba, ponzu citrus extract, challah… Is your mouth watering yet? Mine is! Would you believe that all of these lovely ingredients can be found practically on the same street? Such is the magic of Harvard St in Brookline/Harvard Ave in Allston. If you like to cook exotic foods then a trip to this neighborhood is a must! The next time you have a free afternoon this is how you should spend it:
- From NEC take the 39 bus to Huntington and South Huntington Aves (A). From there, walk down Huntington and make a right on Harvard St (about 3 blocks). On your left you will see Japan Village Mart (B – listed as 200 Washington St, don’t let this confuse you). Here you can buy all the Japanese goodies that your heart desires. 6 or 7 blocks later, you will find Madras Masala Spice (C – 191 Harvard St near Marion St). In this store, you can stock up on lots of awesome Indian Spices. (I had an Indian cooking party a couple months ago and to prepare for it, I bought chili powder, mango powder, onion seeds, mustard seeds, lentils, and many other gems of deliciousness here.)
- One block further is Coolidge Corner (D), which is home to a gigantic Trader Joe’s (1317 Beacon St) among other things. While Trader Joe’s is not an international grocery, they try to cater to the diverse community of Boston and their prices are pretty decent for semi-prepared foods such as mixed nuts or marinated artichoke hearts. Continuing down Harvard St, one will encounter the Jewish neighborhood, which is full of Kosher delis and bakeries. Make sure to stop in at Grape Leaves (E – 414 Harvard St) and Kupel’s Bagels (421 Harvard St).
- A few blocks later, you will cross into Allston and Harvard St will become Harvard Ave. When you reach Commonwealth Ave, make a little time to stop at Berezka International Food Store (F – 1215 Commonwealth Ave). You’ll find pierogis and lots of exotic cookies at this Eastern European grocery store.
- Continuing along Harvard Ave, you will find that you are now in Koreatown. While perhaps less known than Chinatown, this area is equally hopping and there are tons of interesting shops to go into. On the next corner, make a right onto Brighton Ave and walk down to Super 88 Market (G -1 Brighton Ave). This complex houses the Hong Kong Super Market (which has every Asian Food item imaginable). It is also home to an international food court where you can purchase some delicious bubble tea or a meal.
So now that you know about the best food-shopping neighborhood in the Boston area, go check it out! You won’t be sorry you did. The walk from South Huntington Ave. to Super 88 takes about 40 minutes with no stops, but if you don’t want to walk such a long distance, you can take the 66 bus which runs along Harvard St/Ave.
Approx. march 21-april 20
As we enter the spring equinox, and the Sun makes its way into Aries, a burst of excitement for life and a sense of adventure are awakened in many. For our feisty little rams, this may bring about a curiosity and thirst for quest. However, their tendency to power-stomp through the journey, horns first, may leave many tasks unfinished, unresolved, and quite frankly unimportant to Aries who is now, undoubtedly, on to the next big escapade.
Being the first sign of the Zodiac, Aries are like babies; constantly looking for unchartered territory to explore, often looking for themselves in the process. Their charisma may help to overshadow their self-centeredness and tendency to throw a temper tantrum if they don’t get their way. But, the fiery charge of Aries can have a warrior like aggression that even the toughest of creatures may have difficulty handling.
Their hyperactive flare for enthusiasm makes them excel particularly in careers such as sports and entertainment, although they are drawn to any field where they can lead the pack. And if Aries is leading, be ready to walk through the fire of the trails they’ll most certainly blaze or you’ll find yourself left behind buried beneath the ashes.
Planetary Ruler: Mars
Direct Opposite (Detriment): Libra
Ruling House: 1st
Positive Traits: Trailblazers, Popular, Energetic, Ambitious
Negative Traits: Selfish, Immature, Temperamental, Argumentative
Famous Aries Musicians
- J.S. Bach (Baroque Composer)
- Billie Holiday (Jazz Vocalist)
- Stephen Sondheim (Composer)
- Lady GaGa (Pop Entertainer)
- Famous Aries Non-Musicians:
- Vincent VanGogh (Painter)
- Booker T. Washington (Educator, Author, Civil Rights Leader)
César Chávez (Civil Rights Activist)
- Maya Angelou (Novelist and Poet)
by FIEL SAHIR Second-year undergraduate Classical Guitar Performance
What do you call someone who speaks three language? Trilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual.
What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.
It’s a stereotypically sad but reversible truth! If you see me walking down the hallways of NEC, there’s a great chance that you’ll hear me break out into at least two languages, which often leads to the question, “How did you learn/how do you speak so many languages?” As a kid, I would pore over maps, atlases, flags and history books. Being an “international student” has always been a part of me. I was once riding in a van full of adults who were all laughing their heads off and having the time of their lives. I wasn’t too happy because I didn’t want to be left out, but more importantly, I wanted to laugh with them! I vowed that I would learn their language.
I began learning Indonesian at the age of 13 when I went back to visit family, and from there I kept practicing with the Indonesian community in NYC. I took Spanish (and was excited) in 8th grade, but the teacher was horrible and could barely speak English, so I told myself I wouldn’t learn it in high school. To escape my horrible experiences, I decided to take French, but I became bored learning grammar rules…after all, languages are about people! Then I was given a scholarship to do community service in the French-speaking country of Senegal. It forced me to speak the language, and French became my “first second language,” following Indonesian from my childhood.
This past January at the age of 20, having dabbled in Spanish for years, I decided to step up to the plate and actually learn it. After a week, I was able to speak sentences (having vocab in your head is a good thing) and now I consider myself conversant. I’m currently at four languages, and I honestly believe that if you try hard enough, you can learn a new language every year (maybe even sooner if you try!) Don’t make excuses– most people in the world are bilingual, and there are polyglot societies everywhere! In the Senegalese Village I stayed in, they spoke Wolof, Serer, and French; in Suriname, they speak Sranan Togo, Javanese (or Hindi depending on ethnicity), and Dutch. The Afghani children from ANIM that came to NEC in February spoke Pashto, Dari, and English. Throughout the world, many people are required to learn the language of their state/province, followed by their national language, then possibly by the language of their ex-colonial rulers. It’s interesting to note that none of the countries I mentioned are Western World powers! Essentially, these people use one language with their family, another for the general population (amongst different ethnic groups) and yet another at school and for administrative purposes. NO ONE is incapable of learning another language. It’s all in the mind! It’s all fear for never having done it before.
You’re probably asking yourself, “Why should I bother?” You WILL meet amazing people you would have never met and gotten close to all because you know a little something about their culture or speak their language! I can’t tell you how many friends I’ve made because I speak French! If you think that you’re anti-social, introverted, and an “awkward” person (I hate the A word), learning a language is a good bubble burster! Languages are a great channel to help you make friends faster. If you get out of your comfort zone and learn a bit about the world, you’ll have conversation starters all over the place. Note: It does not mean when you meet a Parisian you talk about baguettes and Ratatouille (see Mathilde’s article on page 10!)
To close, learning another language will make you a better person and throw you out of your comfort zone! In this global world, we all need to learn another language and not depend on the fact that “EVERYONE SPEAKS ENGLISH.”
HOW CAN I LEARN A LANGUAGE?
- LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN! Movies, podcasts, and music! Listen to lyrics! Write things down!
- MAKE FRIENDS. If you care enough, you’ll find people who speak the language you want to learn (I always do).
- DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING PERFECT! People always make mistakes! We make
mistakes in English all the time!
- USE YOUR SMARTPHONE! There’s an iPhone app called “TuneIn Radio.” You can use it to listen to radio stations from across the world, and it’s an amazing resource!
- BRING THE CULTURE/COUNTRY TO YOUR ROOM. People say you have to go abroad. I’m sorry, but I call their bluff. There are people here! Wherever you’re from in this country, chances are there’s an immigrant community! One of my language learning role models is Benny the Irish polyglot (most of the ideas on fi3m.com are from him). He just spent three months in Brazil learning Egyptian Arabic to prove you don’t have to be there to do it. People say they don’t have time. It takes 30 minutes a day in this day and age, and that’s nothing because we spend that much time on Facebook. You can even change your languages on Facebook, YouTube, and your iPhone to your target language!
- RELATE IT TO MUSIC. You won’t be a guitar virtuoso in a day any more than you’ll be fluent in Zulu. Music is a language, and language is music, thus it takes time and practice.
- JUST GO FOR IT! This summer I plan to tackle another language. Don’t worry about how hard a language is. If there’s a will there’s a way!
- ASK FOR HELP! Are you ready to speak another language? Really? Show me. If you want to accept the challenge drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org I’d be more than happy to get you started and give you whatever help you need to begin your journey as an “international student.”
is ignorant of his own. – Johann Goethe
2 bunches of fresh parsley (1 1/2 cup chopped, stems discarded)
2 tablespoons of fresh mint, chopped
I medium onion, finely chopped
6 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 cup bulghur, medium grade
6 tablespoons lemon juice
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Romaine lettuce or grape leaves to line serving bowl (optional)
Preparation: Soak bulghur in cold water for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until soft. Squeeze out excess water from bulghur using hands or paper towel. Combine all ingredients, except for salt, pepper, lemon juice, and olive oil. Line serving bowl with grape leaves or romaine lettuce, and add salad. Sprinkle olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper on top. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator for 2 hours before serving.
TARTIFLETTE by BENJAMIN BECK
2 lbs. of potatoes
1/2 lbs of lardons (or diced bacon)
Oil, Garlic, Salt and pepper
*Reblochon is a soft washed-rind and smear-ripened cheese made from raw cow’s milk. Average weight is 1 lbs. It can be replaced if needed by Munster (stronger smell but also excellent)
Preparation: Peel the potatoes and cut them in dices. Wash them and dry them in a clean cloth. Heat the oil in a big pan, add the onion thinly sliced until they become tranparent. Add the potatoes, and make them bronze. Add the lardons (or sliced bacon) and finish cooking. Pre-heat the oven 400°F. Remove the crust of the cheese, but keep it, and cut the cheese in 4. Prepare a big dish for gratin rubbing the garlic at the bottom. Then, fill it with half of the potatoes with bacon, put half of the chesse, complete with potatoes and finish with the rest of cheese. Add the cheese crust, crust on the top. Cook for 30 minutes.
1st year MM Bassoon
What a conundrum food is. Our appreciation for it spans artistry to oblivion, but still it is a source of constant repute for every culture. With admission decisions having finally been sent out, a large number of international students will be joining us in Boston, and now is a great opportunity to reflect on just how the local cuisine sits with newcomers to the U.S.
During this writer’s time living in Mountain Dew-less England, the biggest culture shocks were food and crossing streets. On the up side there were fish and chips (large fries), a pint of warmish flat ale, and Ethiopian and Indian restaurants on every corner. Foreigners would happily yodel any book of the bible in exchange for a Cadbury bar, a treat that puts Hershey’s to shame. On the downside was buying everything in either tiny quantities or bulk, and these culinary gems called “pasties,” which were similar to but more off-putting than the Jamaican beef patties at Symphony Market, if you can imagine. Then there were more familiar establishments, like McDonalds and Pizza Hut. When it came to meals on the go, their standards of food quality seemed to be much higher than ours, whether this was a result of labor laws or food safety. It would be interesting to hear from international students at NEC as to whether their experience with fast food chains is the same in their country (Swedes and their meatballs notwithstanding).
Where could an international student go nearby to get a taste unique to them? There is a very good Mediterranean shop opposite the Mass. Ave T-stop, and J’s Tomodachi, across from the Christian Science center, has great sushi and even better customer service. Drop into any bar for a Guinness and the Irish population is set. This writier has yet to visit China but has sampled several dishes in Chinatown, and no amount of Tsingtao can justify stinky tofu. But where does one pick up some good spaetzle, pickled cactus (like shrimp, the trick is to ignore the texture), or poutine in all of Boston? Instead, the most convenient things near to NEC are typical “American” foods like pizza, burgers, and hotdogs. Ah, hotdogs: the Swedish meatballs of America. (That was the last Swedish joke.)
What impressions of the US are international students leaving NEC with? Convenience? Comfort? How about quality and customer service? Urban settings like ours are a haven for the former two traits, but the last two too easily fall by the wayside. Not convinced? Ask to see the nutritional facts of just about any local restaurant’s menu. Sometimes though, ignorance is bliss (You know who you are, Panera…). Speaking from experience, it can be difficult for international students to venture much beyond a small bubble that surrounds their apartment or school. What you see around NEC is the ‘Murica they will remember.
We hope you enjoyed our sneaky April Fool’s issue a couple of weeks ago! Despite this annual Penguin tradition, we had many of you fooled. Too bad for you– you’re still stuck with Kate Lemmon as editor!
For our real April issue, and just in time for Earth Day (April 22), we’re celebrating NEC students from all over the globe. As a music conservatory, ours is one of the most diverse institutionhs in the country. 35% of us are from outside of the United States and we represent 46 different countries. We’ll hear from Liz Tobias, a jazz vocalist from Australia; Israel’s Maya Jacobs, violist and SAC extraordinaire; Mathilde Geismar, France’s food enthusiast, and many others!
The Penguin is bringing culture to NEC for you to enjoy. Recreate your classmates’ cultural recipes from World FoodFest in this month’s extended food section. Read our eleven tips to surviving NEC on a visa. Or if you’re feeling lazy, just take in the eye candy from the Sistema Fellows’ trip to Venezuela.
Until next month, Penguins! Keep in touch– we’d love to hear your feedback and suggestions for future issues! Drop us a line at email@example.com. ¡Ciao, adiós, au revoir!
Gustavo Dudamel, Jose-Luis Hernandez, y Jose Antonio Abreu en São Paulo.
El Maestro mexicano Carlos Chavez, quien fuera uno de los primeros colaboradores de El Sistema decía: “La revolución en música es, en suma, la lucha del arte útil contra el arte inútil; la lucha del arte para todos." La orquesta Simón Bolívar de Venezuela es en parte símbolo de la magnitud de esa misma revolución musical. Es también, un símbolo de lo que puede ser posible cuando se trabaja en equipo. Es una gran familia. Una orquesta Latinoamericana para el mundo. Durante dos semanas fuí testigo y partícipe de la escencia misma que la caracteriza. Los adjetivos nunca seran suficientes—ahí colma la solidaridad, la audacia, y una ética de trabajo que sobrepasa el mas alto profesionalismo. Esa orquesta del presente tiene historia. De casi cuarenta años atrás.
Es una historia de enaltación humanística.
Plasmada en una nueva forma de pensar del quehacer artístico y por ende nueva formas y razones de hacer música. Ese paradigma, el hecho de hacer y compartir música dentro de un mismo esquema de elocución es lo que distingue a los jóvenes maestros de El Sistema. El que toca Stravinsky con maestría en el Teatro Colón también comparte su arte dando clases en su ciudad natal de Táchira. Aquella violista de Puerto Cabello que toca Revueltas haciendo relucir la estirpe misma de la Latinoamericanidad—esgrime con su arco un compromiso latente a favor de su raza cósmica.
En nuestros tiempos, ¿para que servirá el arte? Para unir a las personas, para enaltecer el espíritu, para aprender a ser mejores. Esa es la revolución que el Maestro Abreu ha forjado y la que todos nosotros en esa gran orquesta (en la que caben miles) estamos llamados a cumplir.
12 Abril del 2013, Bogotá.
As we prepare the young musicians of the 21st century for the professional world, it is vital to understand the new pathway that is emerging, that is different from the old paradigm, and that will utilize the very best of that astonishing skill set and talent that belongs to musicians. In this series of blogs, I have invited some of my colleagues to tell of their own experiences or discoveries as musicians, teachers, and entrepreneurs that shed light on the new pathway. Earlier posts in the series include my introduction and essays by Lyle Davidson and David Loebel.
The Borromeo String Quartet, Ensemble-in-Residence at NEC, represents for me one of the finest and most intriguing ensembles in the world. Their artistic quality, musicianship and energy are phenomenal, but their sense of curiosity in terms of repertoire choice, presentation and the use of technology in performance place them in a unique position in the world of chamber music. Their second violin, Kris Tong, who joined the quartet in 2006 after receiving his Master of Music from NEC in 2005, is a young musician who not only plays in the most energized way, but is also engaged in thinking and discussing the issues surrounding music and the world. This guest blog takes us into his world and reveals a personality concerned with every aspect of music.—Tony Woodcock
“So why are you doing this?”
I was surprised by the question. I had expected Lenny to be enthusiastic that I had chosen a life in music, that I wanted to apply to music schools and to continue the violinistic tradition of which he had made me suddenly aware, in less than a year’s time. Lenny (Leonard Braus, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony) had a reputation as a tough teacher; he didn’t take many students, and my waiting until the 11th grade to study with him made me feel like I was rather behind. But what a year it had been; my technique had been rebuilt from the ground up, from open strings and long tones to scales and Kreutzer etudes with various bowing exercises. I had played the violin my whole life, really, but it was not until I met Lenny that I knew what was really possible, how hard it was, what a responsibility it was to try to play well. He had been an assistant to the great violinist and pedagogue Josef Gingold, who in turn was the protégé of Eugene Ysaÿe. Studying with Lenny was like going back in time, like looking in on an era when musicians were still celebrated, when a life in music, in art, was very serious work indeed, and seriously regarded.
“You know, it’s getting harder and harder to get a job out there. The audiences are going down and nobody knows what to do. Someday, maybe in 10 years, 20 years, there are only going to be a handful of orchestras, in the biggest cities, and everyone’s going to be competing for just a few spots.”
How Lenny was so prescient in the summer of 1997 I’ll never know. The country was in the middle of a boom, just at the beginning of the dot-com craziness; the federal deficit had been cut and there was talk of even a surplus in the coming years. And here I was, on the phone with Lenny, who was suddenly all doom and gloom. How could he discourage me, when he was the one who had ignited in me this burning, insatiable desire to play, to play, like Heifetz or Milstein, Elman or Oistrakh?
Once, in a lesson, Lenny asked me what my favorite concerto was. There were too many pieces to name; how could I choose between Beethoven and Brahms; Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, or Mendelssohn?
“Conus. Your favorite concerto is Conus.”
This was news to me, as I had never heard (or heard of) Julius Conus’s little known Violin Concerto
(You can listen to Jascha Heifetz’s incredible recording here.)
But more than that, it was Lenny’s way of assigning me the task of not only learning the solo violin part, but also to charge me with the responsibility to explore what the piece was, to open myself to its beauties, and to love it. It was a great lesson, and an important one for me to learn. After all, ultimately, what we do in music is to empathize; we try to feel what a composer has felt and has transformed into physical tones, so that we may once again create these notes, just vibrations really, and in doing so evoke the same sensation that we ourselves have felt, imagined. And we get chills from the vibrations…
Of course, he was just making sure. Lenny needed to know that I was going in with my eyes open, that I was moving forward because of music, and not because of delusions of grandeur about fame and fortune and a big recording contract. That I would be happy just doing it, having a life in music.
“Gingold used to say that all we can ask is to play the violin. And if that’s not enough, then you should do something else.”
I suppose it’s never quite that simple. When I joined my colleagues in the Borromeo Quartet I was ready to dedicate the next several decades of my life to the intensive study of the quartet literature, interspersed with occasions when we would interrupt said study to perform, in public, for people who could not possibly understand the complexity or difficulty of our efforts, then to resume study. But I came to realize, very quickly, how entirely futile our efforts are without an audience to consume them. How it is a remarkable thing that people come to concerts, amidst their endlessly busy lives, and actually open themselves to having an experience, to receiving the sounds that you are creating, with all of their import. How it is an important thing to make yourself and your art available to those who may not have a native interest in your chosen profession. That in order to justify dedicating your life to something, you must ask yourself why it matters at all; you must ask why what you do is relevant.
And this is no small question. I remember sitting at Bear’s in Bloomington, Indiana (a local watering hole for Hoosiers) with my best friend from college, Aaron, a cellist himself, on September 12, 2001.
“Kris, what are we doing? There are people whose job is to rush into burning buildings to try and save people. What are we doing? It’s all so…selfish.”
I’m not sure I have an answer for Aaron, after all this time. I could never look anyone in uniform in the eye and tell them that my work is as important as theirs. But my feeling is that it is our responsibility to continue to prove our worth. That we need to continually find ways to share what beauties we have discovered with others. To invite people to share in our empathy.
One of my many duties as a member of the New England Conservatory’s quartet-in-residence is to teach some of the wonderfully talented students who come through Boston on their own personal quests for a life in art. I am constantly amazed at what these young musicians can do. They are hungry to learn, eager and ambitious, and they are all racing to get better, to be more accurate, more in tune and faster and louder and…I just need to be sure.
“So why are you doing this?”
Firebird Ensemble Director and NEC alum Kate Vincent joins us this spring to share her rich experience building a dynamic new music ensemble. Vincent will focus on the process of building fruitful collaborations—specifically interdisciplinary partnerships with dancers, poets, actors, filmmakers and visual artists—and best practices for shaping community-based performance programs.
Embajadores y jefes de gobierno en conferencia de prensa.
Hoy, a eso de las 11 de la mañana en el despacho principal del moderno Palácio do Buriti se concretaba un decreto histórico. El Gobernador de Brasilia Agnelo Queiroz y la primera dama, afectuosamente tomados de la mano, le expresaban al fundador de El Sistema (flanqueado por un selecto grupo de embajadores, oficiales de gobierno, y otros invitados especiales) su deseo de hacer de la educación musical una política de estado en su gobierno. La meta—convertir la música en un derecho universal para mas de medio millón de escolares en el distrito federal. Ellos comenzaran ese sueño en Septiembre de este año atendiendo a 132,000 estudiantes con un plan ya estructurado y financiado. Con humildad y un semblante lleno de esperanza, el gobernador expresaba como una educación musical inspirada en El Sistema podría ayudar a erradicar la violencia, la pobreza, y la deserción escolar. En un dialogo franco el mismo Maestro Abreu le auguraba éxito y le compartía como un proyecto musical de acción social bien articulado no solamente era “una garantía de vida comunitaria para los niños y jóvenes mas pobres, si no también, una garantía del estado para formar una ciudadanía plena.”
Se hablo de ese proyecto como revolucionario. Otros maestros de la música Brasileños comentaban que era un momento histórico no solo para Brasilia si no para el país entero. La firma de ese decreto no paso desapercibida. La misma Presidenta del Brasil, la excelentísima Dilma Rousseff, luego de condecorar al Maestro Abreu con la Orden Nacional del Crucero del Sur, se dio la tarea de asistir al concierto de la Orquesta Simón Bolívar en el Teatro Nacional esa misma noche; y la orquesta, vistiendo medallas con los colores de Venezuela le dedico el himno nacional de Brazil (haciendo que el ambiente se sintiera como el preludio de una gran final de un mundial de futbol).
Ya se habla de la formación de una gran orquesta binacional que sea ejemplo de la suma de voluntades y de la consagración del trabajo en equipo. "La música es un instrumento irreemplazable para unir a las personas,” dice el Maestro Abreu. Y en ese marco, unirá a dos países que podrán atravez de la música, imaginar nuevas formas de lograr acuerdos. Completar la inmensa tarea que se han trazado no será nada fácil; pero existe una voluntad política verdadera.
Eso es un buen comienzo. Y gran ejemplo.
9 de Abril del 2013, Brasília.
La orquesta Simón Bolívar llego a São Paulo vía Buenos Aires en un vuelo privado de Lufthansa cargado de instrumentos y de grandes sueños. “Que tengan una bonita estancia y mucho éxito en los conciertos,” dijo la sobrecargo al despedirnos. Con un día de descanso (cosa que muy pocas veces se suscita en las giras), los músicos llegaron renovados a la gran urbe Brasileña. Otro país, otro publico—pero también conocedor y exigente. El primer ensayo previo a los dos conciertos que se celebran aquí transcurrió con la intensidad que caracteriza a la orquesta y a su director. Tras los primeros compases de la Consagración de la Primavera, la acústica de la sala (una antigua estación de tren) gusto a todos; especialmente al fagotista principal que le inspiraba un timbre muy especial en su solo introductorio. Todo sonaba perfectamente claro, los pianos nítidos; los fortes expansivos. El Maestro Dudamel supo aprovechar muy bien las cualidades de la sala y a su vez les pidió a sus músicos mucho mas disciplina rítmica y calidad de sonido. Este como todos, era un concierto importante. Debía de sonar como si fuera “el primero o el ultimo” que la orquesta fuera a dar.
En las recientes publicaciones alusivas a la gira, se ha descrito a la Bolívar como una orquesta audaz. Me llama mucho la atención el adjetivo. Audaz, según el diccionario de la Real Academia Española, se reduce a atrevido. Y si, es una orquesta muy atrevida que hace repertorios sumamente difíciles. Y valiente también, diría yo. Pareciera no le tuvieran miedo a ningún tipo de limite—seguramente por que ese concepto no figura en su estirpe. Su lograda perfección nunca es el fin si no bien el resultado derivado de esos dos elementos—valor y audacia. Esa misma audacia de lo indecible (por que la música se siente) es lo que provoca. Signo de todo eso es el publico incontenible. Se le escucha en el furor de sus aplausos, en el brillo de sus ojos. Es algo muy especial.
Mas aun es la cualidad empática con la que atravez de los años se ha forjado el carácter de su sonido tan propio y particular. Durante el intermedio del concierto en São Paulo, el Maestro Abreu me compartía que es “la solidaridad, y el amor incondicional que se profesan entre si los integrantes de la orquesta lo que define sus cualidades estéticas.” Para ser mas concisos, “la orquesta se ve reflejada colectivamente en un solo ser,” decía el maestro. Era hermoso ver tras bambalinas como antes del concierto Ismel Campos (el violista principal) tocaba a dúo música de Bach con uno de sus compañeros. O como Claudio Hernandez comentaba en su cuenta de Twitter el orgullo sin igual que sentía por sus compañeros tras finalizar el concierto.
De todo eso se trata la música. Eso es tan importante como un gran triunfo en una noche de concierto.
7 de Abril del 2013, São Paulo.
The winner of the fifth annual North Shore Star competition, back in March was classically-trained Sheree Dunwell, who belted out “I Believe in You and Me” by her idol, Whitney Houston.
“Whitney would be proud,” Bill Hanney, owner of North Shore Music Theatre, said during the judges’ commentary after the performance at the March 1 competition.
Dunwell, who sings in a wedding band, said her competition strategy was simply to perform one of her favorite songs.
“It was really easy to come up with a song,” she said. “I just really hoped that [the emotion] would come across, and I’m so glad it did.”
Fourteen singers performed at the competition, which was hosted by the Beverly Rotary Club and sponsored by North Shore Music Theatre. The event drew about 340 people to the Danversport Yacht Club in Danvers.
Joining Hanney and Kulhawik, president of the Boston Theater Critics Association, at the judges’ table was longtime radio and television personality Dana Hersey.
For $75 a person, North Shore Star attendees enjoyed dinner, an auction, and the singing competition. This year, the club raised $28,400 that will benefit North Shore charities.
Michael Harrington, chairman of the event and a Beverly Rotary Club member, said each year’s competition raises about $35,000.
“Our goal is to raise about $100,000 a year for charity, and we’re always trying to think of fun, creative ways to do it,” he said.
Auditions were held in January for the show. From about 70 hopeful performers, the highest turnout at an audition, North Shore Music Theatre representatives selected the singers to compete in the finals for the $1,000 cash prize and a crystal trophy.
Harrington, a former member of the North Shore Music Theatre board of directors, said compiling the list of 14 finalists was a challenge.
“We’re looking for star power,’’ he said, someone who gets on stage “and they kind of sizzle.”
He said audition judges sought diversity among the singers, as well as in their music styles.
Christina Jedra for The Boston Globe
This winner, Sheree Dunwell, with last year’s victor, Fred VanNess, after the contest at the Danversport Yacht Club.
Performers covered songs by Guns ’N Roses, Jason Mraz, Katy Perry, Martina McBride, Amy Winehouse, and from “Les Misérables.’’
And the contestants tried various methods to stand out before the judges.
Kayla Brennan coordinated her outfit, a white sequined evening gown, with a lyric in “If I Die Young” that refers to wearing white. Taylor Callahan confidently approached the judges’ table during her performance of “Sweet Child O’ Mine.”
And Amy-Jayne McCabe headed into the audience, dancing with no less than three male audience members during the instrumental breaks of her energetic performance of the Dixie Chicks’ “Sin Wagon.”
Despite the contestants’ best efforts, there could only be one winner. Kulhawik, an Emmy-winning arts critic, said Dunwell’s fusion of opera training and soul music made an impression on her.
“You wouldn’t think that those things have a lot in common, but in fact they do,” she said. “She held the audience.”
Dunwell said that she is thrilled with her win and that she will probably assign a portion of the cash prize to her Boston Marathon charity contribution.
“I am shocked, excited, really happy, but mostly shocked,” she said.
El Maestro Abreu, antes de iniciar el ensayo en el Teatro Colón.
Eran las dos y media de la tarde; casi doscientos músicos íbamos rumbo al mítico Teatro Colón. El trayecto del hotel al teatro fueron escasos 10 minutos. Todos en silencio. La algarabía que caracteriza a los miembros de la Orquesta Simón Bolívar de Venezuela o la Bolívar (como cariñosamente se le llama) quedo congelada en el salón del almuerzo. Por ahí, un músico solfeaba los patrones rítmicos de la Danse Sacrale de Stravinsky (tan complejos y tan riesgosos). Otro escuchaba el Quinteto para Piano de Shostakovich a todo volumen a través de sus audifonos. Cada quien con su propio ritual para prepararse. Ya no había tiempo de pensar en otra cosa mas que en el concierto—en el reto.
El Teatro, recientemente renovado, es un símbolo nacional y motivo de orgullo para los Argentinos. Ha sido escenario de grandes conciertos—las variaciones Goldberg con Barenboim, la Orquesta Nacional de Francia con Charles Dutoit; sendas y ya legendarias representaciones operísticas con Maria Callas y Enrico Caruso. La Bolívar ya había estado aquí. Bajo la dirección del Maestro Abreu y recientemente con Gustavo Dudamel quien ofreciera una Séptima de Mahler excepcional, y según me relato el concertino Alejandro Carreño, de memoria (inclusive la orquesta). Pero en esta ocasión el concierto quedo sobrevendido y se tuvo que abrir la sala durante el ensayo general. Ahí estuvieron los niños, los jóvenes músicos de Buenos Aires; sus maestros y otros conocedores de la música culta. Los asientos de platea para el concierto rondaban en los quinientos pesos. Pero todos ellos pudieron apreciar a la orquesta sin costo alguno.
A las tres y media en punto, el Maestro Abreu subió al podium y en un momento muy emotivo compartió la reseña previa del diario La Nación:
"Juntos estarán, y podrían ser nombrados en cualquier orden, la mejor orquesta latinoamericana (y entre las del mundo también), el director joven más talentoso y espectacular del planeta, el compositor más trascendente y cardinal de su tiempo (y, tal vez, de todo el siglo pasado) y uno de los compositores más talentosos y originales de nuestro continente. Sinceramente, pocas veces se da una conjunción tan extraordinaria. Podemos recordar infinidad de visitas al país de prestigiásemos y fantásticos organismos sinfónicos con directores sobresalientes. Pero pocas veces, o quizá nunca, una orquesta arriba a estas tierras con un programa tan sustancial, trascendental, contundente y riesgoso como el que hoy traerán Dudamel y sus muchachos."
Y comenzó el ensayo.
Cuatro horas de tremendo esfuerzo. “Si no se cansan, entonces esto no valdrá la pena, no funcionara,” les dijo Dudamel haciendo alusión a la coda de la Consagración de la Primavera de Stravinsky (el numero 177 de la partitura). La orquesta debía de dar todo, incluso en el ensayo. En la décima fila del teatro, Joshua Dos Santos (otro gran talento de El Sistema) y yo estuvimos muy atentos a cada gesto del Maestro Dudamel, a cada sonido que emanaba de la orquesta. Los balances debían de quedar perfectos. Había que reubicar a las percusiones en la Noche de Jaranas, el segundo movimiento de la Noche de los Mayas de Revueltas. Los encores estuvieron muy bien cuidados tambien. La "Muerte de amor" de Tristan e Isolda de Wagner recibio particular atención, sobre todo por la densidad de las texturas orquestales, los tiempos, los silencios. Los momentos cumbres debian sonar, como "olas de fuego."
Y al final, en el mayor momento de inspiración, Dudamel le dijo a sus músicos: “La Orquesta Simón Bolívar debe reconocerse visionaria; como la primera línea de batalla de un gran sueño, alimentado por la conciencia del trabajo en equipo.”
Por eso la orquesta cimbró el Teatro Colón. Por eso es ejemplo para todos.
4 de Abril del 2013, Buenos Aires.
As we prepare the young musicians of the 21st century for the professional world, it is vital to understand the new pathway that is emerging, that is different from the old paradigm, and that will utilize the very best of that astonishing skill set and talent that belongs to musicians. In this series of blogs, I have invited some of my colleagues to tell of their own experiences or discoveries as musicians, teachers, and entrepreneurs that shed light on the new pathway. Earlier posts in the series include my introduction, and an essay by Lyle Davidson.
After 11 years as Music director and Conductor of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, David Loebel joined the NEC faculty as Associate Director of Orchestras in 2010. In that capacity, he conducts both of our College orchestras and also works closely with the Youth Philharmonic Orchestra, our Preparatory School’s senior-most orchestra. We are extremely fortunate to have such a gifted, warm, and collegial member of the team. In Memphis, David, the administration, and players were particularly prescient in understanding what orchestras needed to do if they were not only to survive but flourish in contemporary cultural life. In this post, he discusses these requirements and how orchestras must consider these needs in their selection of players. The Future of Orchestra Auditions ?
I’ve literally spent my entire life around orchestras. My father played in the Cleveland Orchestra for many years; not until the age of six or so did I realize that not everyone’s father dressed up in white tie and tails to go to work at 8 o’clock on Saturday evening. In addition to playing and teaching, beginning in the 1960s my dad was among the founders of a movement to improve the pay and working conditions of orchestra musicians. (His generation’s story is well told in Julie Ayer’s enlightening book, More Than Meets The Ear: How Symphony Musicians Made Labor History).
As I began my conducting career, the efforts of my father, his colleagues across the country, and the boards and staffs of their orchestras had begun to bear fruit. Seasons and audiences grew, musicians’ salaries increased, and orchestras in smaller cities improved exponentially in professionalism and quality. Sure, there were occasional downticks in ticket sales and every so often a “gloom and doom” article in some national publication heralded the imminent death of American symphony orchestras, but somehow they always got back on track.
To many of us, the well-publicized problems that orchestras are currently facing feel different and merely tweaking around the edges of our “business model” will not solve them. The causes seem obvious: new forms of entertainment and new means of delivering them, changing lifestyles, a new generation of philanthropists uninterested in classical music, and the decades-long devaluation of arts education in our schools. The symptoms are similarly obvious: aging audiences, revenue not keeping pace with increased costs, contentious contract negotiations, the occasional bankruptcy, and a mad scramble by all concerned to come up with the magic formula that will instantly and painlessly solve all our problems.
It’s impossible to know exactly what orchestras will look like in a decade or two, but the job description of most orchestra musicians will surely change. In all but a tiny handful of very elite orchestras, merely sitting on the stage in a magnificent concert hall playing highly polished performances of great masterpieces will no longer be enough. Musicians will need to add value to their orchestras in myriad ways: working with young people and under served audiences, passionately advocating for music in general and orchestras in particular throughout their communities, playing in small ensembles with both traditional and non-traditional instrumentation, composing, arranging and much more. In an increasingly polyglot world, those musicians who are multi-lingual or are comfortable with jazz, world music and other non-classical genres will likely have a leg up.
The good news is that conservatories and universities, including New England Conservatory, are proactively preparing their students to enter this new world. But how can orchestras identify those musicians who will fit into it?
Before joining the faculty at NEC, I was Music Director of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. Like many orchestras, we recognized that our survival depended on connecting with our community in new ways and that our musicians would be the most critical factor in achieving that goal.
It was obvious that every new member of the orchestra would have to be able to contribute to our community engagement initiatives, yet the traditional format of orchestra auditions made it difficult to determine which candidate was best suited for that task.
Our auditions looked like everybody else’s: a preliminary round consisting of a solo piece and the usual orchestral excerpts, followed by semi-final and final rounds. Auditions for positions whose occupants would also play in a chamber ensemble included a chamber music round. For principal chairs, the excerpt list would be a little more elaborate and, if possible, the winning candidate would play for a week or two in the orchestra before receiving a final job offer. If we had questions about a candidate, we might call a few references. There was absolutely nothing out of the ordinary about our process.
Things began to change when we had an opening for Principal Oboe, a crucial chair in any orchestra. After all the finalists had played the excerpts and done some sight reading, we gave them a “tuning audition,” asking them to play several A-440s in a row to check the consistency of their pitch. Then the audition committee and I probed their musical personalities a bit, asking about such things as which oboists they admired or which pieces they most enjoyed playing.
This brief post-audition chat quickly morphed into an actual job interview, which we jokingly referred to as the “Miss Congeniality” round. It became an integral part of all our auditions. Our purpose was not only to make sure that a candidate’s personality would be compatible with his or her future colleagues, although in a few instances it was painfully apparent that there were problems in that area. Rather, we primarily asked questions that would measure what the candidate could offer the orchestra beyond just playing well: “What experience do you have working with young people?” “Are you comfortable speaking to a group of strangers?” “Tell us about a performance you played that was especially meaningful to you.”
The answers to that last question were particularly revealing. Invariably, the most compelling responses did not involve performing in Carnegie Hall or playing under a famous Maestro. More typical were stories of playing for underprivileged children or starting a lunchtime chamber music series in a downtown office building; not the glamorous gigs, but those in which music touched people whom it hadn’t touched before.
Sensing that the Memphis Symphony’s future would be substantially different from its past, we wanted to use every possible means to insure that our new members were a good fit with our long-term goals. (For more on the MSO’s plans, see pg. 26—39 in this League of American Orchestras’ report ) When I described the “Miss Congeniality” round to business people on our Board of Directors, they were incredulous that such an interview was not already part of our hiring process. It was sometimes difficult to explain that in professional orchestras, a musician plays an audition and is offered a position; if all goes well during the one or two year probationary period, he or she pretty much has a job for life, barring catastrophic on-the-job behavior or other extreme circumstances. So if nothing else, the interviews helped us avoid hiring errors that would have been awkward to undo later.
It would be too simplistic to say that adding an interview to auditions will help assure orchestras’ future. What’s more, such a statement runs smack into the “elephant in the room,” namely the question of artistic quality. Some years ago, I raised the issue of looking at more than just a candidate’s playing with a group of musicians from fine professional orchestras. Their vehement response boiled down to: “The person who plays the best audition gets the job. Period.” [ For a gripping account of the audition process and the search for “the best,” check out this article in Boston Magazine. ]
But what if “the best audition” merely means “the most note-perfect audition”? More importantly, what if the nature of the job changes? Imagine that two players make the final round of an audition; they both meet the orchestra’s minimum musical standard, but Candidate A plays a bit more compellingly, while Candidate B can add substantially to the orchestra’s standing in the community. Who gets the job then?
Carrying that example to its logical extreme, imagine two orchestras of roughly equal budget size. Orchestra A plays outstanding concerts to half-empty houses and only pays lip service to the idea of broader community involvement; Orchestra B doesn’t play as well, but has deeply embedded itself into its community’s fabric. One day, there’s a recession and both orchestras hit a financial rough patch. Orchestra B’s street cred helps it weather the storm, while Orchestra A falls into a life-threatening downward spiral from which it barely emerges after several pain-filled years. How much does the difference in artistic quality really matter at that moment?
As long as I’ve been a conductor, it’s been a given that musical excellence is our sine qua non, the value to which all others must be subordinate. I, along with countless idealistic musicians and administrators, still stubbornly believe that. But can our idealism survive the new realities we face?
I remain optimistic that it can, because increasingly I believe that we may not have to choose between traditional excellence and the attributes that the Miss Congeniality round reveals. Every day at NEC, I find myself surrounded by amazingly talented young people. They come to us already playing at a nearly professional level and their open-mindedness and enthusiasm dwarfs those of earlier generations. More than anything, they want to have long, rewarding lives as musicians. And already many of them understand that such lives will contain more than simply playing beautiful concerts in beautiful concert halls before a stereotypically beautiful audience. I have faith that they will arm themselves with the skills to make those lives possible and, more importantly, with the will to help reshape our musical institutions to accommodate a changing landscape.