Our 22 Virtuoso Program students continue to amaze us, even in distance learning, with their resilience and ability to excel, and even thrive, under challenging circumstances. An essential aspect that makes studying music so engaging and, frankly, so much fun, is the ability to share it by playing together with others. Because of the inherent delay of Zoom interaction, we’re unable to play together and hear one another simultaneously, but we’re still meeting virtually and taking advantage of the opportunity to develop other skills related to successful and satisfying music-making.
Students returned from the summer break having practiced assiduously on their own, making significant progress on their technical fundamentals and solo repertoire. That work, as well as our regular diet of chamber (small ensembles of 2-4 players) and sectional (instrumental group) rehearsals, continues unabated this fall. VP faculty creatively coach students over the course of an hour. Sometimes they work with individual students in sequence, giving manageable assignments that they then revisit together later in the hour, after each student has had the opportunity to practice. Another approach is to have one student play aloud while the others play along muted, which gives an opportunity for everyone in the Zoom room both to be heard and to respond musically to his or her colleagues. We can also play along to various existing YouTube performances, adjusting the speed as necessary in settings to allow for slower and more careful work in preparation for the ultimate goal tempo.
The orchestra has been learning shorter selections every two weeks or so, spending four hours per week practicing their repertoire and developing associated knowledge and abilities. After stretching and tuning together, we launch into custom Canvas assignments tailored to strategize practice technique, research the composer’s personal circumstances and historical context, explore the score in scavenger hunt fashion, from the big picture down to the smallest details to understand how their parts fit together, engage in peer review, and analyze and compare existing performances. Finally, students synthesize all that knowledge and practice by recording their individual parts while listening to an audio guide track. Their parts are then assembled into a virtual performance, as you see here.
Our first two works from the early 18th century are by Italian Baroque composers on different ends of the fame spectrum, the relatively unknown Maria Margherita Grimani and the extremely prolific and celebrated Antonio Vivaldi. Both pieces are well crafted and full of life and energy. We’ll also prepare a movement entitled The Soul of Remembrance from Oakland composer Mary Watkins’ 1993 suite Five Movements in Color, which Ms. Watkins has described as “a statement about the African-American experience… an ethical painting or poem about our journey as a people in this country.” Music is often referred to as a universal language, and in the bittersweet, nostalgic second movement, “a melody floats over a march (in) a song of sorrow and a song of hope.”
May we all find hope daily in the work we do - separately, and together.
- Ann Krinitsky, Virtuoso Program Director