Colburn In Focus

Calidore String Quartet Wins Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award

by Lillian Matchett

Congratulations to Colburn alumni the Calidore String Quartet, winners of the 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award. The quartet was nominated by Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in acknowledgment of their extraordinary talent and budding career. They’ll be honored at the awards program and dinner hosted by Golden Globe winner and Oscar and Tony nominee Sigourney Weaver on March 1.

Violinists Jeff Myers and Ryan Meehan, violist Jeremy Berry, and cellist Estelle Choi formed at the Colburn Conservatory of Music in 2010. Their musical bond was fortified during one of their very first rehearsals as they read through Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 2, a piece which they sentimentally featured the piece on their 2015 debut album.

The group has forged a promising career, performing across the world in venues such as Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall, Lincoln Center, and more. In 2016, they made international headlines as the Grand-Prize winner of the 2016 and inaugural M-Prize International Chamber Music Competition, the largest prize for chamber music in the world. They were selected as a BBC New Generation Artist through the 2018 concert season.

Visit this link to learn more about the awards and view the full list of winners.

Student Accomplishments, February 2017

by Lillian Matchett

Current Performance Studies Certificate student Patrick Hodge was named Assistant Principal Horn of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra.

All Dance Academy students who recently auditioned for the Boston Ballet (11 students) and Pacific Northwest Ballet (10 students) received invitations to participate in each company’s summer intensives.

Music Academy student Tyler Kim won first place in the Blount-Slawson Competition, with a cash prize of $10,000. He will be playing the entire Chopin Concerto No. 2 with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra on May 1.

The Community School’s Monday Night Band, Thursday Night Band, and Big Band have all advanced to the finals of the Monterey Next Generation Jazz Festival, which will be held in Monterey the weekend of April 1 and 2.

Community School student Ethan Moffitt won first prize in the 2017 Herb Pomeroy Jazz Composition and Arranging Contest for his arrangement of Chick Corea’s big band composition Humpty Dumpty. The honor earned him a performance of the work by the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra on February 11 and a full scholarship to the school’s five-week Summer Performance Program.

Benjamin Crofut, 2015 Performance Studies Certificate recipient, was appointed Instructor of Double Bass at the University of Alabama.

Cellist Arnold Choi, 2009 Bachelor of Music graduate, joined the Calgary Philharmonic.

Wes Precourt, a violinist who received his Artist Dipoma in 2009, was appointed Associate Concertmaster of the San Diego Symphony.

Peter Myers, a 2008 Bachelor of Music alumnus, was named Assistant Principal Cello of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

Luca Buratto Explores Great-Grandfather’s Legacy, Fascist Italy’s Dark Musical and Cultural History

by Lillian Matchett

Italian composer Renzo Massarani, a composer active during Mussolini’s regime, was one of the many Jewish artists and composers who were silenced, had their works suppressed, and were forced to flee their home countries during World War II. Today, his great-grandson Luca Buratto is a piano student in the Colburn Conservatory of Music, and Luca will revisit his family history when he performs his great-grandfather’s Three Preludes for Piano in the Recovered Voices class on February 13.

Massarani was of born in Italy of Jewish heritage in 1898, studied with Respighi, and was beginning to forge a promising career as a composer in the 1930s. However, after World War II broke out, Mussolini’s Italy became a dangerous place for him and his family. Following the late-1938 enactment of Racial Laws in the fascist regime, which also suppressed Jewish art and culture, Massarani fled to Brazil with his family.

He’d always had great pride in his country, but left with a feeling of disillusionment. “The music he was composing was very connected to his country, and he was so disappointed that he wanted to destroy all his music,” Luca said in a phone interview.

After arriving in Brazil, Massarani mostly abandoned composing, as he associated his works strongly with a sense of Italian identity. However, Luca insists that “music saved his life.” He started a piano bar and eventually became the principal music critic in Brazil’s most influential paper. “It teaches you that music can be very powerful.”

Massarani with his family on the beach in Brazil, 1943.

It was by chance that Luca met Robert Elias, director of the Ziering-Conlon Initative at the Colburn School, who organizes and instructs the Recovered Voices class with LA Opera’s James Conlon. The course examines lesser-known composers whose works and success were suppressed by the Nazi regime. Robert invited Luca to play in a guest lecture by Michael Beckerman, in which he discusses the music in Fascist Italy and how it differed from the situation in Germany.

Luca describes Three Preludes for Piano as somewhat neoclassical and very Italian, with marked influence of his mentor Respighi. During the lecture, he hopes to learn even more about his great-grandfather’s legacy and the historical context. “I, of course, never had the chance to meet him, and I’m curious about what [Michael Beckerman] is going to say. I’m very curious from a musicological perspective.”

The lecture is part of the Recovered Voices class led by James Conlon and Robert Elias, which is open to the public and meets on Monday evenings at 7. The class is part of the Ziering-Conlon Initiative for Recovered Voices at the Colburn School, inspired by LA Opera's groundbreaking series

Ethan Moffitt Wins First Prize in Berklee’s Herb Pomeroy Jazz Composition and Arranging Contest

by Lillian Matchett

In late January, Community School student Ethan Moffitt won first prize in the 2017 Herb Pomeroy Jazz Composition and Arranging Contest for his arrangement of Chick Corea’s big band composition Humpty Dumpty. The honor earned him a performance of the work by the Berklee Concert Jazz Orchestra on February 11 and a full scholarship to the school’s five-week Summer Performance Program.

The idea for the piece first came to Ethan in August, when he wanted to write something “orchestral, but traditional, that swings hard, but with a really pastoral and contrapuntal side.” He finished the arrangement in December, submitted it to the competition in January, and got the news that he won just a couple of weeks later.

The support of his Community School mentors and colleagues was of vital importance to Ethan while developing the piece. Throughout the process, he received guidance from Big Band Director Lee Secard and Assistant Director Dr. Walter Simonsen, who offered suggestions on orchestration, voicing, and developing ideas. The Colburn Jazz Workshop’s Big Band premiered the work at their winter concert this January.

Though he currently studies both jazz and classical, Ethan hopes to go on to pursue jazz performance and composition in college and ultimately forge a career in the field. “I’m going to devote myself to something, and jazz just better suits me because of its spontaneity. You could sit down with anyone and play around at any time.”

Ethan will be making two trips up to Berklee, located in Boston, following his win. First, he’ll fly out to meet the band and hear his arrangement live. Then, this summer, he’ll devote over a month to the Summer Performance Program intensive with other young musicians from across the country. “I’m looking forward to going there and thinking about only music for five weeks,” he said of the opportunity.

Ethan is a recipient of the Richard D. Colburn Scholarship. He studies double bass with Dr. David Young and Peter Lloyd, music theory with Kathy Sawada, composition with Michael McLean, and orchestral conducting with Maxim Eshkenazy. Ethan plays viola in the Honors String Quartet coached by Jacob Braun, double bass in the Colburn Jazz Workshop’s Big Band and Monday Night Band directed by Lee Secard, and double bass in the Colburn Youth Orchestra directed by Maxim Eshkenazy.

Recently, Ethan was a named Finalist for jazz double bass in the National YoungArts Foundation’s annual competition, was a winner in the high school division of the 6th Annual Ithaca College Jazz Ensemble Composition Contest for his piece Cross Streets, and received outstanding jazz soloist and outstanding composition in both the small ensemble and large ensemble categories for Solism and Cross Streets in DownBeat Magazine's 39th Annual Student Music Awards.

Help students like Ethan have the opportunity to pursue their musical dreams with your gift to the Colburn School. Visit this link to support programs and scholarships.

Conservatory Trumpet Players Learn, Grow Tackling Pintscher’s Concerto Together

by Lillian Matchett

When Josh Rogan and Michael Harper got news over the summer that they would be performing Matthias Pintscher’s Chute d'étoiles with Pintscher himself conducting the Colburn Orchestra, they were honored and excited by the opportunity. They also understood it was a huge responsibility. The piece is exceedingly difficult and intricate, requiring close collaboration between both trumpet soloists.

Performing Chute d’étoiles holds distinct significance for Michael, as it was originally premiered by his former teacher Michael Sachs, alongside fellow trumpet player Jack Sutte and the Cleveland Orchestra in 2012. “It’s very special to me personally,” Michael remarked. “I spent two years in Cleveland and learned a lot from my teacher, so it’s really cool to be playing the same piece that he premiered only five years ago.”

Michael had the good fortune of catching up with the two Cleveland Orchestra trumpeters over dinner and drinks shortly after finding out he would be performing the demanding piece. “I asked [Michael Sachs and Jack Sutte] if they had any tips on how to practice it and they just said ‘start it as soon as possible, learn it very slowly, and do a lot of finger drills.’”

The duo did just that, spending months meticulously preparing their own parts before coming together to work out fine details together in January. “It’s the kind of thing you can’t quite learn on the go,” said Josh. “The trickiest part is when there are passages when Michael has 35 notes at a very quick speed and I have to come in and join him.”

Working with a partner provided Josh with feedback into his own playing, and insight into how to improve the process. “For the first rehearsal we sat down to play the fast running stuff, and I noticed that Michael had a lot more clarity to the changes. So I thought ‘OK, I’m going to work on that,’ and the next time we got together it was much better.

The two started working with Pintscher upon his arrival in Los Angeles earlier this week, but Michael was lucky to get some early advice from the composer and conductor when working with him at the Lucerne Festival last summer. His advice? Don’t get caught up on the little stuff.

“There are some rhythms in this piece that are kind of scary to look at, and Pintscher told me ‘don’t worry about the exact notations of the rhythms, but play the gesture. It’s more about getting the right notes and having the gesture than getting the precise metronomic rhythm.’”

They’ve found another key to duo success is simple congeniality. “It helps that Josh is a very pleasant guy to work with. I mean, playing a solo piece is great, but the fact that there’s someone else playing this piece with me is reassuring and more fun.”

Josh returned the sense of camaraderie and quipped, “there’s been no point at which I’ve thought ‘if only Michael wasn’t playing.’”

When asked what they are most excited about, both players emphasized that the significance of playing Pintscher’s work with Pintscher. “It’s always great to work with a composer and get their verbal feedback and energy, but so rarely do you also have the chance to get their physical gestures,” said Josh.

“We are very fortunate. This is not a normal experience. I know it’s something I’ll be proud of forever.”

Josh and Michael perform Matthias Pintscher’s Chute d’étoiles and Mahler’s Symphony No. 7 with Pintscher conducting at Ambassador Auditorium on Saturday, February 4. Visit this link to learn more and get tickets.

Composed Dives Deep into Issue of Performance Anxiety

by Lillian Matchett

For years, musician and filmmaker John Beder watched his friends and colleagues struggle to manage their stage fright through auditions, recitals, juries, and other nerve-wracking situations. His observations and personal experiences inspired him to focus on the issue through film. On Friday, January 20, the Colburn School will host a free screening of his final project, the documentary Composed. Following the presentation, John will be joined on stage by Nathan Cole and player James Wilt, both LA Phil musicians and Colburn Faculty who are featured in the project, for a panel discussion and audience Q and A.

The documentary tells of the struggles and triumphs of musicians actively working to manage their sometimes incapacitating performance anxiety, following two highly-trained players as they actively audition for orchestra jobs. The film also shares the stories and insight of established professionals, including soloists, members of major orchestras, and their doctors, demonstrating the diversity of ways that stage fright manifests and the breadth of tactics musicians use to curb it.

John drew initial inspiration from the surprising use of beta-blockers, a common class of heart medication, to curb the jitters associated with performance anxiety. “We were talking about how strange it was that beta-blockers were so commonly used with very little dialogue around why they were becoming so ubiquitous,” he said.

He realized, however, that the medical method of anxiety management was only a piece of the puzzle, and expanded the conversation to include topics like why musicians get nervous in the first place, pressures faced by music students, and other methods for dealing with stage fright. “In starting our interviews it quickly became apparent that though many musicians had at least tried beta-blockers, they were not the only thing helping musicians address performance anxiety.”

Since completing Composed, John has been touring with the documentary, with screenings across the country. The film has hit home for many, shedding light on a topic John believes is not discussed often enough.

“I’ve seen some people in tears after watching it. So many musicians struggle with performance anxiety, and they are so relieved to see they’re not alone.”

The Colburn School will host the free, public screening of Composed in Thayer Hall on January 20 at 5 pm. To learn more about the film, visit

Posted by lmatchett on Wednesday January 18
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Conservatory Students Learn Skills, Try New Repertoire with Their Own Concert Series

by the Conservatory of Music Student Council

When Dean Lee Cioppa called in members of the Colburn Conservatory Student Council for a meeting to discuss an exciting opportunity, we couldn’t have guessed Colburn’s latest performance series would be born. Together, we crafted the plans for AdLib!, the first concert experience completely curated by the Conservatory student body. Through AdLib!, we aim to create a relaxed and supportive environment. Audience members can pop-in for whichever performances they choose, and performers can try out new styles or pieces.

The process of creating a program begins like most Residential Life activities: with a sign-up sheet. Students have complete freedom over what they decide to play. In fact, obscure works are encouraged. Michelle Feng, a fourth-year undergraduate oboist appreciates the freedom, saying “I love having the chance to play a piece for an appreciative audience that rarely gets programmed.”

For Chandler Yu, a violinist, AdLib! is a safe space to experiment. “In past experiences, I’ve been able to let loose and have fun while trying out new repertoire,” he said. “I still get nervous, but the pressure of achieving perfection gets put on the back burner. AdLib! helps me find a new level of comfort with myself on stage.”

Once the sign-up sheet is filled, Student Council collaborates across the school to organize and promote the program, working closely with the faculty to decide program order, the Communications department to create marketing material and social media presence, and the Community Engagement department to continue developing a growing audience and find ways to keep the series thriving. Student Council has reached out to partners up and down the street, and is actively working on new partnerships for future performances. “It’s a really exciting time,” said Michaela Wellems, current Student Council President. “AdLib! is quickly turning into something way bigger than I could have imagined.”

It’s not all fun and games though, and the performers and organizers treat it as a learning opportunity, according Vice President and undergraduate flutist Anthony Trionfo. “The stresses that come with organizing each concert are really teaching us valuable skills that we will carry with us throughout our careers. I’ve learned a lot about time management and communication.”

January 18, 2017 will be the third concert in the AdLib! series, and we've been planning tirelessly throughout the holidays. For Treasurer Aiden Kane, it’s a great way to begin 2017. I can’t wait to present this concert to the community,” she said. “I am so excited to start the new year with a concert that will set the tone for an amazing year ahead,”

We hope to see you there!

Posted by lmatchett on Friday January 6
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Two Students to Appear on From the Top

by Lillian Matchett

On January 9, radio listeners can tune in to hear two Colburn School students, Music Academy cellist William Suh and Community School clarinetist Javier Morales-Martinez, on NPR’s From the Top. The program showcases the stories, character, and talent of young classical musicians, and William and Javier join the ranks of many Colburn School students and alumni the show has featured throughout its 21-year history.

William and Javier recorded their radio appearances at two separate live performances with host Christopher O’Riley when the show was in Hawaii, presented by Hawaii Public Radio. William played a movement from Cello Sonata No. 2 by Brahms at William Charles Lunalilo Center in Kea’au on November 30, and Javier performed Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie in Honolulu at Blaisdell Concert Hall on December 2. Both are also among a select group of musicians chosen to receive for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award through the radio program. The prize includes a scholarship of up to $10,000 to study music in college, and young musicians are selected for their musical achievements, academic performance, strength of character, and financial need.

William Suh, 17, lived in Honolulu for nine years before moving to Los Angeles, California where he studies cello with Clive Greensmith at the Colburn Music Academy. In 2016, he won the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra Concerto Competition, which awarded him a performance of Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with the Kamuela Philharmonic Orchestra and Oahu Civic Orchestra. The same year, he also won the Honolulu Morning Music Club Scholarship Competition. In his free time, he loves playing badminton, golf, ping-pong, and studying automotive technology.

Javier Morales-Martinez, 15, is originally from Mexico, and currently attends Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA) in Los Angeles, California. He studies clarinet at the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts with Michael Yoshimi and is a member of the Colburn Wind Ensemble and Colburn Honors Woodwind Quintet. He has also performed with LACHSA Symphony and with Interlochen’s World Youth Symphony. Javier can also play the saxophone, and enjoys his academic pursuits.

William Suh will perform on Show 330, and Javier Morales-Martinez will perform on Show 331. Both are scheduled to be released on January 9. Visit From The Top’s website to listen, or tune in live on your NPR station.

Help students like these William and Javier reach their full potential and access excellent performing arts education with a gift to the Colburn School. Visit this link to donate now.

Student and Alumni Accomplishments

by Lillian Matchett

Congratulations to these students and alumni on their outstanding achievements.

Cellist Arnold Choi, who earned his Bachelor of Music in 2009, joined the cello section of the Calgary Philharmonic in Alberta.

Peter Myers, a 2008 Bachelor of Music graduate, was appointed to the Assistant Principal Cello position of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

Music Academy cellist William Suh and Community School clarinetist Javier Morales-Martinez both appeared on NPR’s From the Top on January 9, 2016 following live recordings in Hawaii. Both students were chosen as Jack Kent Cooke Young Artists.

Community School students Luca Mendoza, piano, and Joey Curreri, trumpet, were among 32 students chosen in a nationwide search to perform in the 2017 GRAMMY Camp – Jazz Session. Luca will play in the combo and Joey will perform with the big band.

Liz Kinnon on Preparing Ryan Gosling for His Role as a Jazz Pianist

by Lillian Matchett

When producers for La La Land needed someone to prepare Ryan Gosling for his role as a jazz piano star, Liz Kinnon got the call. The gig was a unique challenge for Kinnon with an unprecedented goal. In three months, she had to take a student with inherent musicality, but who had never studied piano nor read music, and prepare him to play specific pieces to seamlessly emulate a seasoned star, both musically and physically. Kinnon, a jazz pianist, composer, arranger, and teacher with decades of experience, was up for the task and determined to succeed.

For the past seven years, Kinnon has worked with pianists of all ages and adult jazz groups in the Colburn Community School. In a phone interview, she described the process of working with Gosling on the project. This interview has been edited for clarity and style.

When were you approached to do this, and by whom?
One of the producers got my name from [Community School Assistant Dean] Sara Hiner because they were specifically looking for a jazz teacher, someone familiar with the jazz genre of piano playing. They called me and I had a few interviews with different people, including the director Damien Chazelle. When I heard nothing for two months, I just figured it wasn’t going to work out for some reason… it’s Hollywood, after all! Then a couple months later I got an email from the same producer that said the project had been delayed but was back on, and there’d been a change in the cast: instead of Miles Teller the new lead was going to be Ryan Gosling.

I talked to one or two more people and they got a sense of who I am. It has to be a good fit, especially when you’re working that closely with someone. Finally, I went and met with Ryan. We talked about music, family, and I got an idea of what he already knew, which was not a lot, but he’s a very musical guy.

Once working together, how often did you meet?
They told me five days a week for two hours a day was what he wanted. I thought, “Wow, that’s a lot,” but made it happen. Having grown up in LA, I’m not a star struck person, but rather it was a very fascinating challenge to me because I had never done anything like that before. I worked with him those five days a week for three months. When they started filming, I was on set whenever he was playing for guidance and support, as well as being a piano expert resource for the director.

The music team on this film was fantastic. The people I worked most closely with were the music supervisor, executive music producer, engineer, and the director. They were stellar in every way.

What were the main goals? Playing well, playing convincingly?
The goal was to play convincingly for the role of a serious jazz pianist. He was very serious and wanted to be as authentic as possible. He learned to play well enough that no doubles were used; it was always his hands and his body.

How was preparing someone to play for a movie role different than working with other adult students?
We really had a goal and a strict deadline. There’s no way that anybody could learn to play that level of jazz piano in the amount of time we spent because the role was for him to be a very serious jazz pianist with decades of study. So for the amount of time we had and the material we had to do, it was a very different approach. For example, if we had a long scene and the camera was only on him for a certain amount of time, we had to prioritize what we concentrated on more than just learning the piece top to bottom. From a technical standpoint, we were more focused on the physicality of the playing and what would need to be seen to be convincing in terms of matching what we were hearing. It was an obsession for me to prepare him to the highest possible standard.

It’s different than how I work with a normal private student, but one thing that is similar is my personal philosophy of very individualized teaching. It’s so important to have a good fit, teacher-student trust, and honest communication. With no formal training, Ryan did not read music at all, so our work was all by rote. Fortunately for me, he is very musical, has good rhythm, and has nice natural piano hands; he just didn’t know what to do with them in the beginning.

How did you prepare as a teacher?
I did lots of preparation and analysis for every piece of music we did so that I would have a game plan for myself in terms of how to communicate what was important. I spent a lot of time planning and analyzing the best way to approach each piece of music. That step was critical.

I had to think a lot about what would be the most efficient and visually convincing way to approach each piece of music, along with all of the musical elements of playing the piano in a particular style. However, everybody has a different style of playing, so I wanted to consider and respect Ryan’s individuality… as all artists bring something of themselves to their art.

Do you have any reflections on the process?
It was challenging, rewarding, and definitely a highlight of my career. I learned a lot and hope to do more of it.

Liz Kinnon is a pianist, arranger, composer, and educator in her native Los Angeles. She teaches jazz piano in the Colburn Community School of Performing Arts, where she is also the Director of Adult Jazz Combos and teaches other jazz classes. View her full bio on her faculty page.

Visit the movie's website to learn more about La La Land and see her work with Ryan Gosling in action.

To learn more about the Community School jazz program, visit this link.

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