Learning to Listen: Concertmasters

by Emily Reese, Minnesota Public Radio
July 14, 2014
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St. Paul, Minn. — What's it like to lead an orchestra not from the podium, but from the violin section, just to the left of the conductor?

As a quick aside, it's helpful to describe the concertmaster's duties. The concertmaster sits to the conductor's left, closest to the audience, and makes decisions regarding bowing and other technical details of violin playing for the violins, and sometimes all of the string players. Concertmasters are responsible for ensuring the strings -- and often the entire orchestra -- is correctly tuned. Perhaps most importantly, the concertmaster frequently represents the voice of the musicians to the conductor.

Steven Copes, the concertmaster of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, says it's much like being a conductor, but Steven has to listen to the ensemble while he's playing and listening to himself too.

The Minnesota Orchestra's concertmaster, Erin Keefe, also joins today's conversation, as does Erin's predecessor, Jorja Fleezanis.

Steven, Erin and Jorja will share music containing their favorite concertmaster solos with you, and give a behind-the-scenes look at their jobs.

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