Sunday, February 28, 2016

Highlight: Lunch Time!

One of the best times of the day comes at noon, when classes break for the lunch hour and the lunch time concerts.

It's nice to sit with friends, enjoy a delicious lunch (whether you pack in your own lunch, buy individual items from the school cafeteria, or run to one of the nearby restaurants for take-out), and talk about the great things you've been learning that day.

If the weather's nice, students can even head outside to play on the lawn and get some fresh air.  Getting those wiggles out in the middle of the day is always a good idea!

This is also a great time to visit the vendors' tables, where you can purchase anything from fine instruments to books to stuffed animals to treats and hair bows!

After enjoying your lunch and having a little down time, you want to be sure to head in to the auditorium to enjoy the lunch time concert, which always starts at 1 pm.

Every day has a different offering: sometimes the performers are our guest artists (such as the Fry Street Quartet or cellist Dane Johansen), sometimes they are student ensembles who are participating in the Fry Street Days chamber program, and sometimes the performers are actually students from ISSI, who audition for this particular performance opportunity via video submission.  (More information here).

Hearing professionals and peers present polished performances in the middle of the day is a great way to find inspiration!

Monday, February 22, 2016

Highlight: Chamber Music

Without a doubt, a class that students always love is chamber music!

A chamber group is a small ensemble of musicians who each play their own part.  A smaller group than an orchestra, and with less people on each part, chamber music gives students all the fun of playing together, but with the added responsibility of being a leader on their own part within the group.  Chamber groups, which can be comprised of any number of combinations of instruments, rehearse daily with a chamber coach, and perform at the end of the week without any help from the coach.  No conductor means students really take ownership of their note-reading, rhythm, and ensemble!  (Enjoy this performance of a cello chamber group from 2015):

Chamber music is part of a daily schedule for violin students in late book 4 and above, and viola and cello students in books 3 and above.  Students receive their music in the mail a few weeks before Institute starts, and should come with their part solidly prepared, so they can truly contribute to the group.

ISSI is truly fortunate to have an incredible partnership with the Fry Street Quartet (FSQ), quartet in residence at Utah State University.  The FSQ made their debut at Carnegie Hall, has been involved in numerous projects and performances throughout the country, and has been hailed as a "triumph of ensemble playing" by the New York Times.  This incredibly talented, dynamic group works with advanced string quartets in The Fry Street Days chamber program at ISSI; an intensive chamber music experience.  (For more information on Fry Street Days, visit this link here.)

It is always fun to see the friendships develop between members in chamber groups.  I know many friendships that started this way (as chamber groups at ISSI), and are going strong 25 years later!

Do any of you ISSI alumni have fond memories of, or keep in touch with, members in your string quartets?  Tell us about it in the comments!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Highlight: Orchestra

Another class that is always a hit with students is orchestra.
In fact, you might say it makes them all very Happy...

Michael McLean groovin' with the students in one of his orchestra classes

Orchestra class is a large group of mixed instruments who meets together to work on note-reading and prepare a piece or two for a final concert on the last day of class.

ISSI has orchestra classes available for students as young as 8 years old, and in books 2 and above.

Highlights of this class include getting to know students who play other instruments, learning note-reading, getting experience playing in an ensemble, and learning how to receive direction from a conductor.  Some conductors even let their students conduct and compose music!

Denise Willey works with one of our younger orchestras is 2011

One of ISSI's favorite conductors is Leo Kitajima (aka "Mr K"), who often writes music the week of institute that exactly fits the level of the students in each of his groups.  Last year during one of his class's sessions, he asked for a few volunteers to improvise a few measures of music.  He recorded the individual students as they played for their class, and then took those little nuggets of music to create an entire piece for them to perform at the end of the week!  What a magic moment for those students to perform something they had helped create!

Older students in the Advanced String Camp get the opportunity to work with the Fry Street Quartet for one hour of orchestra each day.  In this class, the Fry Street doesn't conduct: rather, they sit in the principal seats and lead the group as if it were just a giant chamber group.

Above: Gabe Bolkosky lets a student try conducting the orchestra

Another favorite conductor at ISSI is Connie Hadlock who dons a curly wig, thick black glasses, and fake teeth.  She speaks in a German accent and pulls in the funniest props and games (such as an Indian headdress and a Statue of Liberty costume) for the children to play with!  There is never a dull moment in her class; everyone should stop in and see how much fun she has with the students!

Whichever conductor a student gets the opportunity to work with, they will come away from their orchestra experience better note-readers, more sensitive ensemble players, and musicians with a better understanding of how their individual talent can contribute to a beautiful musical whole.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Highlight: Master Class

One of the most valuable classes in a student's day at Institute is Master Class.

In this class, a group of between 3-4 students meets with a master teacher each day.  Each student is given a short, individual lesson every day and receives a small, concentrated assignment to practice before returning to the master class the next day.  It's best to consult with your home teacher, prior to institute, to make sure you bring a polished piece to play for your masterclass at ISSI.

Working one-on-one with a teacher every day yields the opportunity to really delve into some details, and make tremendous, specific progress.  Students also learn so much by observing the mini-lessons of their peers.

In a master class with Helen Higa in 2015, she delved into the concept of space.  As Lao Tsu asked, why do we build buildings?  To use the space inside.  As Mozart put it, the music happens in the space between notes.  As one mother learned in this class last summer, a child's growth happens when a parent steps back to give the child space to discover on their own.

From a master class with Elizabeth Means in 2015, students learned the importance of telling a story through their music; getting past the technique and the correctness of it all, to expressing feelings and ideas that were in their hearts.  She had one student draw a story in pictures that represented the piece she was working on.  The best part: to represent a part in the piece that sounded angry, the student drew a picture of what her dad looked like when he was upset his children weren't going to bed!

Master class is magical because the students get both individual and group instruction, and are able to connect one-on-one with master teachers.  It is one of the highlights of the day!

Have you had any meaningful or memorable master class moments?  Share them with us in the comments!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Highlight: Performance Class

With so many classes offered each day, there is never a dull moment at ISSI!

Let's take a moment to highlight one of those wonderful classes: Performance Class.

In this class, students work together to polish a few pieces (typically two) in preparation for a concert at the end of the week.  Teachers use all kinds of fun games and ideas as they teach a high standard of technique and musicality through games and fun.

In this cello performance class in 2014, Elizabeth Means had the students sit in a circle facing outwards, so they couldn't easily see each other.  This required them to listen more carefully to each other in order to stay together.

What are some of your favorite performance class moments?  Leave a comment and share with us!

Stay tuned for future posts that will highlight other fun parts of a day at institute!

Want to know more about a typical day at ISSI?  Read this post here.