Posted at 2:03 PM on August 7, 2006
by Gayle Ober
Filed under: Concerts
“Oh, to have a camera right now!,” Brian Newhouse lamented on Friday afternoon as we watched Jorja Fleezanis, the Concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, rub “Tiger Balm” into the shoulders of one of the young violinists studying at Music@Menlo. We all stood around a picnic table on a bright sunny California afternoon and watched as Jorja accompanied her ministrations with stern, caring words about stretching, warming up and generally taking care of the body during these intense rehearsals. Meanwhile all around us, the younger students were playing ping pong or laughing like they were at a playground.
Having spent some time at the Aspen Music Festival, also a marvelous training ground for young musicians, I tried to remember if I’d ever witnessed such a personal interaction between a professional musician and a student. I’m sure it happens there as well, but just the sheer size of that festival, versus the intimacy of Music@Menlo, would preclude an outsider like me from sharing in the joy and awe of that moment.
This opportunity to hear great chamber music and watch as professional musicians teach others their craft flows everywhere throughout Menlo. And, it’s done right out in the open for all to see. From open rehearsals to the coaching sessions, those of us watching are invited to be a part of the learning. One more example:
Saturday morning was the final coaching sessions for the Sunday concert given by the 18-and-under students. The session began with the oldest students and finished with the very youngest. Some of them could be described as prodigies, others are just talented young people who work very hard to play this well. During this coaching session, Wu Han (coffee cup and cell phone in hand) took time to offer last-minute advice on technical and musical matters. She also heaped praise on every student and encouraged those of us in the audience to help her through our applause and cheering.
Then David Finckel and she talked about getting on and off the stage, gave tips on how to manage your audience when you have a quiet ending, and how to get your face out of the score during your solo part so the audience knows that something special is happening. Each student is also required to speak to the audience via a little introduction to their piece. No detail was forgotten and no opportunity for praise overlooked.
In the midst of creating some of the most memorable chamber music concerts I’ll ever attend, I could not help but be reminded of the fact that Wu Han and David and their teaching and performing colleagues are creating the next generation of chamber musicians. They are also nurturing and educating the future of our world and doing it with great love and affection for the music and for those who create it. The students are asked to be the best they can be but in an environment that acknowledges that they are indeed emerging human beings who need more than just lessons, coachings and performances.
If I were the parent of one of the young students at the Music@Menlo Festival, I would want to know that in addition to giving the incredible musical experiences, someone rubbed Tiger Balm on my child’s tired and sore shoulders and made sure they played ping pong after lunch.