This past June saw the inauguration of what we intend to become an annual tradition at WSSTE/NSS, a week-long chamber music day camp. The camp, was designed to strengthen reading skills, musical independence, collaboration and communication, while hopefully enriching old friendships and fostering new ones, and introducing students to great masterworks of the string quartet repertoire. By all accounts the week was a great success.
Camp activities began with a Sunday afternoon guest concert by the Chicago-based Kontras Quartet, professional Quartet in Residence and Western Michigan University. The event was particularly special, as Kontras cellist, Jean Hatmaker, is an alumna of WSSTE, and the program featured Ramshackle Songs, a recent work by another WSSTE alum, composer Dan Visconti. The piece was a musical tribute to the stylings of the great “Tin Pan Alley” composers of the 1920’s and 30’s, such as George Gershwin and Cole Porter. The program also included a work by contemporary Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov, and Brahms’ first string quartet. Hatmaker and second violinist Francois Heinekens returned at the end of the week to lead a spirited masterclass with the chamber camp students.
The intervening days were filled with a balance of hard work and fun. There were four student string quartets, each of which worked on a movement from a major quartet by composers including Haydn, Mozart and Tchaikovsky, as well as one trio of gifted young violinists. Each group had an hour of independent rehearsal and an hour coaching with faculty members Ryan Caparella, Maeve O’Hara and Alex Revoal. In addition each student had an hour of music theory, and then all students and teachers joined together to form a chamber orchestra in which they learned how to play together without a conductor. Each day culminated in exercises in listening and team building, some music history, and a masterclass in which each student ensemble had opportunities to perform and receive feedback from the faculty.
The week concluded with a Friday evening concert filled with highly polished student ensembles, as well as chamber orchestra performances of Gershwin’s Lullaby, and the “Dargason” from Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite.
Cellist Maddie Malinger’s favorite part of the experience was getting to rehearse with her quartet. “I liked that I got to play a piece that I recognized,” she said. Her mother, Kerry added that while Maddie had initially been apprehensive about participating, she and her sister “came home beaming” every day, and that the WSSTE/NSS Summer Chamber Camp had been Maddie’s favorite camp experience of the summer. According to Suzuki mom Kristen Yoon, “[Yoon’s daughter] Miya surprised herself at how much she learned AND enjoyed the chamber camp. [The instructors] expertly interwove the skills of theory, practicum, relationship building and constructive communication, all in a short span of time. Almost wish the chamber camp was for two weeks!”
If you have a budding young chamber musician in your family who might like to participate in the next chamber camp, you’ll find information on how to audition in an early 2018 edition of The Suzuki Triangle. Stay tuned for more details!