Colburn In Focus

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.

Community Engagement in Action: Michael's Reflections on Student Success

by Michael Yoshimi

I’m clarinetist Michael Yoshimi, and I am entering my fourth year as an instructor in the Community School of Performing Arts and teach students in the Jumpstart Young Musicians program. Working in both programs, I’ve been lucky to see some of my Jumpstart beginners develop as players and continue their studies with me in the Community School. As a teacher and mentor, I’ve seen students grow both as players and as people, and we do it together with the support of our Colburn community.

I've been with Jumpstart since its inception over three years ago, and have seen it grow leaps and bounds. We now have students reaching higher, getting into the All-Southern Honor Bands and being awarded the prestigious Herbert Zipper Scholarship to study at the Community School. As for the teaching staff, I feel we have become more efficient and effective in teaching the beginners each year as we learn from our previous experiences.

Jumpstart was founded on the overarching musical principle of simply creating a beautiful sound and having sound fundamentals. Regardless of whether or not they decide to become professional musicians, the solid foundation will stick with them into high school, college, and beyond. I can say that the concept of sound that all the teachers of Jumpstart have cultivated over the past three years is one of the program’s greatest strengths.

In addition to musical gains, Jumpstart has fostered within its students a strong culture and sense of community. The opportunity to be part of a positive, healthy environment is incredibly valuable to their development. Additionally, our students are learning how to interact with others who may have different backgrounds, cultures, and opinions, and older students in the program strive to set a strong example both in performance and behavior.

Throughout the past few years, I have been in the position to bridge Jumpstart and the Community School, as generous scholarships have allowed three Jumpstart students to continue their studies with me in the Community School, with access to great facilities and performance opportunities. I hope that their Community School experience motivates them to reach and set even more ambitious goals than the high standards that we hold them to in Jumpstart.

Here's where you come in. I’m proud to be part of Jumpstart and the Community School, and we can’t do it without you. Support from the community is crucial to the continuation and growth of engagement programs at Colburn, and contributions provide the generous scholarships that allow my students from Jumpstart to continue their studies with me.

This holiday season, give the gift of music to students like mine in Jumpstart and the Community School with a donation to Colburn.

Café Closes for Renovations, Starbucks to Open in January

We are happy to share news with you regarding changes and improvements to our campus dining experience. Through the investment of our food service provider, Bon Appétit, the Colburn School will be opening a new full-service Starbucks, as well as renovating our current café over the next few months. The refreshed café will allow for greater variety of food preparation and provide enhanced options and an improved environment for all of our café clients.

The renovations will affect cafe hours for the holidays and new year, as the café will close December 15 for construction and reopen in February. Starbucks will be open daily beginning in early January to serve the campus community both during and following café renovation.

Starbucks Hours
Monday through Friday, 7 am–8 pm
Saturday, 8 am–5 pm
Sunday, 7 am–8 pm

Posted by lmatchett on Monday December 12, 2016
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Violinist Blake Pouliot Wins Grand Prize in OSM Manulife Competition

by Lillian Matchett

Congratulations to violinist Blake Pouliot, who took home Grand Prize at the 2016 Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal (OSM) Manulife competition in Montreal on November 26, 2016. Blake’s awards included a $17,500 cash prize, his debut with the orchestra in February, and numerous upcoming recordings, concert engagement, and tours.

At 22-years-old, Blake has already garnered many accolades as a concert violinist, starred in two successful films, made numerous television appearances, and performed as keyboardist in an award-winning pop band. He’s currently pursuing his Professional Studies Certificate in the Conservatory of Music with Jascha Heifetz Distinguished Violin Chair Robert Lipsett. Visit Blake’s website to learn more about him and his playing.

Blake performed the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto with the late Sir Neville Marriner conducting the Colburn Orchestra in 2015 at Walt Disney Concert Hall. He talked about the experience with KPCC’s The Frame prior to the concert date. You can hear the interview, in which he likens performing with the esteemed conductor to “standing next to Beyonce,” on KPCC’s website.

Student and Alumni Accomplishments

by Lillian Matchett

Conservatory violinist Blake Pouliot, a current Professional Studies Certificate student, took home the Grand Prize in the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal Manulife Competition, which includes awards totaling over $17,500 and a future appearance with the orchestra.

Yewon Ahn, a Conservatory student in the Professional Studies Certificate program, joined the cello section of the Houston Symphony.

Community School jazz trumpet student Evan Abounassar won the Los Angeles Jazz Society’s 2016 Shelly Manne New Talent Award.

Pianists from the Music Academy and Community School of Performing Arts placed in the 2016 Los Angeles International Liszt Competition. In their respective age groups, Carey Byron (Music Academy) and Victor Shlyakhtenko (Community School) each won first prize, Yuhang Nan (Music Academy) won fourth prize, and Tyler Kim (Music Academy) won fifth prize. Madeline McCanne (Community School) and Richard Qiu (Community School) both received honorable mentions.

Alumnus Emil Khudyev, a 2014 Performance Studies Certificate recipient, was appointed Associate Principal Clarinet of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

Cellist Peter Myers, a Conservatory alumnus who earned his Bachelor of Music in 2008, was appointed Assistant Principal Cello of the San Francisco Opera Orchestra.

Steven Tavani, who received his Bachelor of Music from the Conservatory in 2014, joined the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia as Concertmaster.

The National YoungArts Foundation recognized 21 Colburn School students as 2017 YoungArts winners. Visit this link to see the full list of students and read more about the YoungArts awards.

Colburn School Students Receive YoungArts Awards

by Lillian Matchett

Micah Preite, jazz guitar, and Evan Abounassar, jazz trumpet, were among this year's YoungArts winners.

The National YoungArts Foundation included 21 Colburn School students and alumni among those honored for their outstanding work in the performing arts. The 2017 YoungArts Winners receive support for their blossoming careers, including cash awards of up to $10,000, validation and guidance by renowned mentors, opportunities to participate in YoungArts programs, and a strong professional network.

Each year, the foundation recognizes young artists from across the country in the areas of literary, visual, design, and performing arts. Thousands of young artists aged 15–18 applied, and the foundation selected 693 as finalists, honorable mentions, and merit winners. Finalists are eligible to become US Presidential Scholars in the Arts, and get to participate in the National YoungArts Week in Miami.

Congratulations to these students and alumni on this tremendous accomplishment.

William Brandt, Jazz Voice*
Cristina Dougherty, Tuba†

Honorable Mentions
Anna Abondolo, Jazz Double Bass*
Evan Abounassar, Jazz Trumpet*
Nadia Azzi, Piano†
Jenny Bahk, Violoncello^
Zachary Hernandez, Jazz Keyboard‡
Nathan Le, Violoncello^
Nicholas Mendez, Piano^‡
Andrew Moses, Classical Composition‡
Jordan Reifkind, Jazz Guitar*

Merit Awards
Maxwell Beck, Jazz Double Bass*
Ari Chais, Jazz Keyboard*
James Day, Jazz Saxophone*
Sharon Hurvitz, Classical Composition‡
Austin Kim, Jazz Percussion*
Kristi Kim, Violoncello^
Spencer Lemann, Classical Composition, Jazz Composition, Jazz Guitar*
Ethan Moffitt, Jazz Double Bass*
Javier Morales-Martinez, Clarinet*
Micah Preite, Jazz Guitar‡

* Community School of Performing Arts student
^ Music Academy student
† Conservatory of Music student
‡ Community School of Performing Arts alumni

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

Fabio Bidini and Students Breathe New Life into Orchestral Masterworks

by Lillian Matchett

Beethoven’s symphonies have endured as staples in the classical repertoire for centuries with their iconic themes and melodies. This year, piano professor Fabio Bidini is revisiting these orchestral masterworks in a new light with his Symphonies for Piano series, featuring transcriptions for eight hands on two pianos performed by himself and pianists from his studio, with the next installment on December 7.

By performing symphonies on the piano together with three other musicians, Mr. Bidini teaches his students valuable lessons in listening and collaborating. “It’s an extremely difficult task,” he said. “We need to hear each other’s breathing and feel each other’s movements. They need to get used to listening to each other, with a radar in the brain and antennas in the ears.”

Mr. Bidini’s opted for an unconventional stage set-up, facing the pianos outward with performers back-to-back, rather than nestling two grand pianos toward each other. Performers can’t meet eyes in this formation, but eye contact, according to Mr. Bidini, is overrated. “I don’t need to know what your eyes are doing,” he explained. “I need to know what your hands are doing.” A compact group of pianists, even facing opposite directions, can communicate on a more meaningful level through gestures and breaths.

The instruments’ positioning also shapes the audience’s experience, as the sound is physically emanating from a similar area on the stage as it would in a symphony orchestra setting. “When you go to hear an orchestra, you have the division of sound and parts in front of you with the first violins on the left and so on,” he explained. “With the pianos in this position, there’s that stereo affect and it’s more clear, as it would be if the orchestra was on stage.”

Bringing symphonic works to the piano poses technical challenges. The instrument’s mechanisms limit the ability for a performer to hold notes for an extended period of time, affecting tempo, timing, and phrasing. “Sometimes it’s too slow. You cannot play it as slowly as the orchestra because then you’d have silence between the notes,” Mr. Bidini remarked, citing the second movement of Beethoven’s “Pastoral” symphony.

He sees opportunity, however, in this uncharted territory. “It wasn’t conceived for piano, so we’re visiting repertoire unexplored for piano, and it works fantastically.”

Visit the Colburn School's Facebook page for a video of Fabio rehearsing back-to-back with his students.

The second concert in the Symphonies for Piano is in Thayer Hall on December 7 at 8 pm. The third and final installment of the series is on February 1, and will feature works by Brahms. Tickets are free and open to the public. Visit this link for more information.

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