In February, three students from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Finland spent a week at the Colburn School for a week of rehearsals, performances, classes, concerts, and field trips. In May, three Colburn students will be traveling to Helsinki for a similar round of activities. It will be the culmination of the School’s first pre-college exchange program.
This exciting new initiative takes its place alongside Colburn’s partnerships with the Saline Royale Academy in Arc-et-Senans and the Barenboim-Said Akademie in Berlin which have provided Colburn students with broadly curated international opportunities for conservatory study. And the Helsinki-Los Angeles connection, which began in earnest when Esa-Pekka Salonen became music director of the LA Phil in 1992, deepens further with this new relationship.
All four of the students I talked to were still pinching themselves to make sure it was all real. Cellist Mira Kardan of the Olive Trio, with violinist Anais Feller and pianist Daniel Wang, told me that when she heard the news, “We were so excited. We’d never been to Finland. It’s such a beautiful country. And it’s really exciting to travel with good friends.”
For their audition, the Trio had prepared Schubert’s B flat trio and were asked to play excerpts selected by the judges during their 15-minute ordeal. “It was a challenge,” Kardan admitted, “but we pushed ourselves. I’ve been here since I was three. I was in the Community School and then I came to the Academy. I’ve learned that everything is possible.”
When pianist Isabella Pätiälä, violinist Albert Sahlström, and cellist Saima Malmivaara in Helsinki saw the call for applications they “immediately thought that we must apply,” according to Pätiälä, “because it’s not every day you get a chance to go to the United States. When we learned that we would be getting lessons from some of the best teachers here,” she added, “we were really excited. And it’s really been great.”
After arriving late on a Sunday night they had a short tour around campus in the morning and started their lessons at 10. “We’ve been working all week and finally tomorrow we’re getting a tour of LA. It’s been quite intense.” They worked on the first two movements of the Mendelssohn D minor, the first movement of the Beethoven’s Ghost, and a modern Finnish piece by Einar Englund. “It’s the last movement. We played it at the concert Tuesday. It’s very fun music.”
When I asked what they would like to show the Olive Trio when they come to Helsinki, Malmivaara said, “Nature, because it’s very important to Finnish people to have forests and lakes near them. Also, the older parts of Helsinki and the fortress on Suomenlinna island.”
Adrian Daly, Colburn School Provost, detailed the American itinerary: “They’ll get to go to Ainola near Helsinki where Sibelius lived with his family for part of his life and where he wrote some of his music including his last three symphonies. They’ll interact with students at the Sibelius Academy. They’ll perform at a joint concert like they did here. They’ll have coachings with their faculty. They’ll get to hear the Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra.”
Daly also gave an equally detailed account of what Colburn had planned for the three Finns for their weekend in LA. “Tomorrow they’re taking a bus ride around the city including Griffith Observatory, Santa Monica, Farmer’s Market, and the Getty. Tomorrow night the LA Phil at Disney Hall. On Saturday they will sit in on the music history and movement for musicians classes. We’ll have pizza and go to the Colburn Orchestra concert at Ambassador Auditorium in Pasadena. We’ll have a brunch on Sunday with donors who have helped support the program. They’ll fly back on Sunday evening.”
For Markus Utrio, Vice Dean, Faculty of Classical Music, Sibelius Academy, “these exchange programs are something really special. They’re a whole society’s attempt to be an ambassador to other countries. It’s not sending people to be trained, it’s sending people who will say something about Finland or about America. In Europe where travel is easier, exchange programs are so natural that at the Sibelius Academy we have more than 100 students going in and out.”
Daly, who had already set up exchanges between the Sibelius Academy and Eastman and the Cleveland Institute before partnering Colburn with the Academy, pointed out that, “like many European schools, the Sibelius Academy is very invested in the idea of cultural exchange and student exchange. They have a dedicated international relations office and a person charged with creating and managing exchange opportunities. It would be lovely to make that more available to more students at Colburn.
“In my mind, there’s always been a sense that with exchange programs, part of what’s going on is the kids are acting as ambassadors for their countries. Absolutely. Is that too big a responsibility to put on them? No, it’s never too early to be a citizen.”
Last September, one month into their two-year stint as the current Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence, Quartet Integra garnered second prize at the prestigious ARD International Music Competition in Munich, Germany.
“They also won the Audience Award at ARD, which to me, says everything about Integra. Their spirit is infectious because of the joy they gain from the music. They are compelling and charismatic performers,” says Lee Cioppa, Dean of the Colburn Conservatory of Music.
The Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence program provides support for a pre-professional, pre-formed group of chamber music artists to promote the genre on campus, in the Los Angeles area, and on the international stage. Each member may enroll in either the Artist Diploma or Master of Music-Chamber Music Emphasis program, and as such, they are entitled to the same level of scholarship awarded to all Conservatory students, covering tuition and room and board. Additionally, the musicians receive high-level instruction and mentorship from faculty, including weekly chamber coachings, performance opportunities, and invitations to influence the next-generation of artists.
Integra also participates in the Colburn Artists program, which counsels students to work with industry leaders and artist managers. They gain career advice on developing repertoire and cultivating a professional presence, including social media.
Kyoka Misawa, violin, Rintaro Kikuno, violin, Itsuki Yamamoto, viola, and Anri Tsukiji, cello, found their unified voice as Quartet Integra in 2015, and had already accumulated several accolades — in 2021, the group earned first prize at the Bartók World Competition, to name one — before being accepted as the second Ensemble-in-Residence at Colburn.
“The four of us must always blend together like one instrument, while at the same time, each of us must express ourselves as an individual musician. By playing with the same members for a long time, a mysterious power that is unique to us is born,” says Yamamoto.
“The work of the quartet is a true labor of love and requires wholehearted intellectual, physical, and emotional commitment,” says Clive Greensmith, cello and Chamber Music faculty and former member of the renowned Tokyo Quartet. “It is an enriching experience for the members and has a demonstrably positive effect on their peers.”
The inspirational environment of Colburn has always encouraged the harmonious and collegial spirit of collaboration among artists of all ages. Indeed, it seems to be particularly conducive to those seeking an identity as a small ensemble, such as trios, quintets, and especially quartets. The Calidore Quartet, for example, organically formed as members’ discovered a shared vision while attending the Conservatory. The foursome forged a musical personality that continues to capture audiences. Over the past decade, Calidore has recorded several albums and performs around the world.
Greensmith, along with fellow Chamber Music faculty member Martin Beaver, recognized this extraordinary atmosphere could function as a strong foundation for an official ensemble-in-residence program. While performing with the Tokyo Quartet, they both served in the quartet-in-residence at the Yale University School of Music.
“Although Calidore had formed and was being nurtured by our faculty colleagues when we arrived at the School in 2013, there was no formal structure in place,” says Beaver, who also teaches violin.
Both artists/instructors worked toward formalizing the initiative, which launched in the fall semester of 2019, and they continue to play significant advisory roles.
The Viano Quartet, another group born out mutual experiences at the Conservatory, was named the first Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence. Despite COVID’s interruption, Viano emerged as a remarkable new voice in the chamber music community. In 2019, for example, they were named co-first prize winner at the Banff International String Quartet Competition.
“People followed the Viano Quartet from the beginning. It was a wonderful opportunity to see the musicians travel from where they were to where they are now entering into their careers,” says Cioppa.
One of the Ensemble-in-Residence pillars is to create multiple opportunities for the group to fine tune and further develop their persona before a variety of audiences. In addition to their appearance at the ARD competition, Integra played a Debussy string quartet for Colburn’s Discovering Debussy celebration last month. Other appearances included performances at the Tokyo Opera City, Suntory Hall, and the California Club in Los Angeles. In April, they are slated to partake in the Quartet Festival Charity Concert for Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine at the Prince Hall Memorial Auditorium in Los Angeles. In May, they travel to Japan for several concerts.
Serving as chamber music ambassadors, introducing the genre to new audiences, is another key component to the program.
“Musicians become invested in their communities as artists, teachers and mentors, and should be open about sharing their art,” says Cioppa. “They then bring those relationships to their art.”
“Recently, we participated in outreach activities and master classes for a middle school and high school in Bellingham, Washington. Through the music, we could communicate with many people even though English is not our native language. These experiences will definitely be helpful for our career growth as a string quartet,” says Misawa.
The third Ensemble-in-Residence function is to assist others in advancing their talents. On campus, Integra members informally interact with fellow Colburn students.
“They act as mentors/role models to young aspiring ensemble players in both the Music Academy and the Conservatory,” says Greensmith.
Next year, the artists will assume more tutorial roles.
“This gives them experience of not just learning as a quartet from masters, but learning the teaching pedagogy from master teachers,” says Cioppa.
Just the Beginning
Although the Colburn Ensemble-in-Residence program is still relatively new, the benefits clearly are reverberating among the School community and beyond.
“We certainly hope that this will encourage other Colburn groups to strive for excellence in chamber music,” says Beaver.
The Colburn School would like to thank Mimi Rotter for generously supporting Quartet Integra’s residency at the School.
Music Academy student Lillian Feng, piano, is a junior fellowship recipient at Montecito International Music Festival this summer and won first place in category three the CAPMT Romantic/Impressionistic competition in late May.
Community School student Landon Fringer, piano, received First Prize in the Palisades Symphony Young Artist Competition, and he was one of six finalists to perform during the 2023 MostArts Festival in Alfred, New York during the final round of the Young Pianist Competition.
Community School student Isaac Fujikawa, piano, received Honorable Mention in the Advanced B category of the California Association for Professional Music Teachers Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Trudl Zipper Dance Institute students Totocani Garcia and Natalia Reszka both received the Young Artist Scholarship through Laguna Dance Festival and will be receiving funds to put towards their dance education.
Community School student Elysian Kloepfer, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School students Kento Ishikawa, piano, received First Prize in the Advanced Complete I category of the California Association for Professional Music Teachers Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Community School student Leyna Ishikawa, piano, received First Prize in the Advanced B category in the California Association for Professional Music Teachers Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Community School students Holly Lacey, violin, Nathaniel Yue, cello, and Tiger Zhang, piano, received the Horszowski Trio Prize for Piano Trio of the 50th Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as the Nth Trio.
Community School students Amy Lee, violin, Samuel Tatsuki, viola, and Kailey Yun, violin received Third Prize in the Junior String Division of the 50th Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as the Evie Quartet.
Community School student Richard Liu, piano, received Honorable Mention in the Advanced B category of the California Association for Professional Music Teachers Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Conservatory grad Bobby Nunes ‘23, oboe, won Principal Oboe with the Sarasota Orchestra.
Community School student Yena Oh, violin, won the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic Concerto Competition.
Community School student Mia Safdie, harp, is a finalist in the American Harp Society National Competition.
Community School student Liam Thomas, violin, received First Prize in the 2023 Great Composers Competition, Music of the 19th Century (Age Group 2) and First Prize in the Charleston International Music Competition.
Community School student Luke David Thomas, violin, received First Prize in the 2023 Great Composers Competition, Music of the 19th Century (Age Group 1).
Conservatory grad Molly Turner ‘23, conducting, was appointed as a Conducting Fellow with the New World Symphony.
Community School student Allen Wang, violin, received First Prize in the 2023 CalASTA Los Angeles Bowed Strings Competition (Novice Category).
Conservatory grad Jonathan Wisner ‘23, percussion, won Second Percussion with the Seattle Symphony.
Community School student Gavin Yang, violin, received First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California Glendale Concerto Competition and performed with orchestra on May 21.
Community School student Ryan Yang, cello, received First Prize in the 2023 CalASTA Los Angeles Bowed Strings Competition (Novice Category).
Community School students Samantha Adams-Blanco, cello, Joanna Bai, violin, Aviv Pilipski, viola, Kai Yoshimoto, violin, won First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, VOCE Competition as the Kraft Quartet.
Conservatory students Nadia Azzi, piano, Zi Yang Low, violin, Eugene Lin, cello, advanced to the live rounds of the ARD Music Competition in the Piano Trio category as Trio Tokava. Live rounds will be held in September 2023 in Munich, Germany.
Conservatory students Yanfeng (Tony) Bai, piano, Duncan McDougall, violin, and Ye Un Park, cello, advanced to the live rounds of the ARD Music Competition in the Piano Trio category as Trio Azura. Live rounds will be held in September 2023 in Munich, Germany.
Community School student Kristina Brick, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Conservatory student Ben Brogadir, oboe, won solo English horn with the Oregon Symphony, and will begin in Fall 2023.
Community School student Caden Guo, piano, received First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California Scholarship Competition.
Community School student Kai Canton, piano, won First Prize in Category B of the California Association for Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Community School student Kai Canton, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Raymond Cai, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Raymond Cai, piano, won Second Prize in Category C of the California Association for Professional Music Teachers (CAPMT) Sonata/Sonatina Competition.
Community School student Andrew Chang, piano, earned an honorable mention in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School students of the Colburn Jazz Workshop Big Band won Outstanding Performance in the Downbeat Student Music Awards.
Community School student Evan Dexter won Outstanding Jazz Arrangement from the Downbeat Student Music Awards for “Alice in Wonderland.”
Community School student Joaquin Garde, guitar, won Outstanding Jazz Solo Performance from the Downbeat Student Music Awards.
Community School student Caden Guo, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School students Enni Harlan, piano, Lauren Hsu, cello, and Marena Miki, violin, won Third Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, VOCE Competition as the Elm Trio.
Community School students Aaron Ho, Catherine Kang, Emily Wang, and Isabella Zhou, violin, won First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Junior Division.
Community School student Aaron Ho, violin, won Third Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Junior Division.
Conservatory student Mei Hotta, cello, was a semifinalist for the 38th Irving M. Klein International String Competition to be held at the San Francisco Conservatory in June 2023.
Community School student Dylan Iskandar, piano, was awarded the Edison Scholar and the Amazon Future Engineer scholarships for his research in combining his interest in music/piano performance with artificial intelligence.
Community School student Catherine Kang, violin, won Second Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Junior Division.
Community School student Catherine Kang, violin, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Conservatory student Sooyoung Kim, oboe, won a Fellowship with the New World Symphony and will begin in Fall 2023.
Community School student Elysian Kloepfer, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School students Holly Lacey, violin, Nathaniel Yue, cello, and Tiger Zhang, piano, won First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, VOCE Competition as the Nth Trio.
Community School students Amy Lee, violin, Samuel Tatsuki, viola, and Kailey Yun, violin, won First Prize alternate in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, VOCE Competition as the Evie Quartet.
Community School student Zoey Liu, piano, earned an honorable mention in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Elizabeth Lu, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Conservatory student Shengyu Meng, cello, was the Grand Prize Winner of the 2023 Hennings-Fischer Young Artists Competition and will perform the Elgar Concerto with the Burbank Philharmonic next season.
Conservatory student Zecharia Mo, viola, was a semifinalist for the 38th Irving M. Klein International String Competition to be held at the San Francisco Conservatory in June 2023.
Conservatory student Javier Morales-Martinez, clarinet, won first prize at the Fine Arts Club of Pasadena.
Community School student Amanda Nova, piano, earned an honorable mention in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Sonata Festival.
Conservatory student Bobby Nunes, oboe, won Principal Oboe with the Virginia Symphony and will begin in Fall 2023.
Community School student Nathan Ortiz, cello, won the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) Concerto Competition.
Conservatory student Ye Un Park, cello, is a finalist for the Paolo Cello Competition to be held in October 2023 in Finland.
Community School student Jackson Perry, jazz guitar, is a finalist in the 2023 Music Center Spotlight Competition.
Community School student Mina Ree, piano, earned first prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Sonata Festival.
Community School student Mina Ree, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student William Schwartzman, jazz piano, won the High School Honors award for Jazz Solo at the Downbeat Awards, is a finalist in the 2023 Music Center Spotlight Competition.
Conservatory student Michael Song, cello, is a Finalist for the Paolo Cello Competition to be held in October 2023 in Finland.
Community School student Luciano Soriano won Outstanding Composition for Small Ensemble from the Downbeat Student Music Awards for “Embrace,” as well as for Jazz Arrangement of “We See.”
Community School student Lev Sakae Taira, violin, won the 2023 Pasadena Youth Symphony Orchestra Concerto Competition.
Community School student Rivenka Tomasian, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Conservatory student Benett Tsai, cello, is a finalist for the Paolo Cello Competition to be held in October 2023 in Finland.
Community School student Emily Wang, violin, won Fourth Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Junior Division.
Community School student Emily Wang, violin, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Richard Wang, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Conservatory student Ray Ushikubo, violin, is a semifinalist for the 38th Irving M. Klein International String Competition to be held at the San Francisco Conservatory in June 2023.
Community School student Jason Yang, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student YiQi Yang, piano, earned an honorable mention in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Nathaniel Yue, cello, received Third Prize in the Music Teachers’ National Association National Competition.
Community School student Nathaniel Yue, cello, is a finalist in the 2023 Music Center Spotlight Competition.
Community School student Winston You, piano, won First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Junior Division.
Community School student Ashlyn Zheng, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Boyi Zheng, piano, was a prize winner in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Oriana Zhou, piano, earned an honorable mention in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Community School student Celine Zhu, piano, won First Prize in the Music Teachers’ Association of California, Concerto Competition (Glendale Branch), Senior Division.
Community School students Trevin Ching, Leyna Ishikawa, Richard Liu, Yahan Lin, and Alexander Wang, piano, were winners of the branch level of the Southern California Junior Bach Festival.
Music Academy student David Choi, piano, was one of five finalists selected in the Hilton Head Young Artist Competition.
Community School students Scarlett Cohan, Dagmar Huskey, Vienna Lee, Mia Safdie, and Matisse Wittman-Chesney, piano, received First Prize in the Elite International Music Competition.
Trudl Zipper Dance Institute student Alexa Dollar has accepted a position with Ballet Austin as an apprentice.
Music Academy student Lillian Feng, piano, was selected as a semifinalist to compete in the Redlands Concerto Competition, and awarded second place in the CAPMT’s Honors Piano Competition and the Concerto Competition Regional South.
Trudl Zipper Dance Institute student Totocani Garcia received an Honorable Mention in the Music Center’s Spotlight.
Community School student Sophia Glicklich, piano, was a panel finalist and was awarded State Honors in the Music Teachers’ Association of California Certificate of Merit program.
Community School students Sophia Glicklich and Cordelia Scoville, piano, were medal winners in the Southern California Junior Bach Festival, Orange County West Branch.
Community School students Sam Guevara, cello, Amy Lee, violin, Samuel Tatsuki, viola, and Kailey Yun, violin, received first prize and the Junior Division Grand Prize in the Coltman Competition as the Evie Quartet.
Community School students Kento Ishikawa, piano, received first prize in the California Association for Professional Music Teachers State Final Honors, Category A. He also performed Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, K. 39 with the Los Angeles Youth Philharmonic as a winner of their concerto competition.
Community School students Enni Harlan, piano, Lauren Hsu, cello, and Marena Miki, violin, were semi-finalists in the Coltman Competition.
Community School students Holly Lacey, violin, Nathaniel Yue, cello, Tiger Zhang, piano, were finalists in the Coltman Competition and quarterfinalists in the Fischoff Competition as the Nth Trio.
Community School student Narayan Neti, Cordelia Scoville, and Iris Zhou, piano, were awarded State Honors in the Music Teachers’ Association of California Certificate of Merit program.
Community School student Chloe Yoon, violin, received first prize in the Bellflower Concerto Competition, Intermediate/Senior Division.
This March and April, a series of performances and events across Los Angeles explore the music of Claude Debussy. Curated and directed by LA Opera Music Director James Conlon, “Discovering Debussy” includes events presented by the Colburn School, the Hammer Museum, LA Opera, Norton Simon Museum, the Opera League of Los Angeles, and the Ebell of Los Angeles.
The exploration of the life and legacy of this influential French composer is anchored by LA Opera’s eagerly awaited production of Pelléas et Mélisande. Originally scheduled for May 2020, the production was cancelled due to COVID. Beginning March 25, the landmark 20th-century opera makes its long-awaited return. David McVicar’s production marks the opera’s first time onstage at LA Opera for over 25 years.
In a letter drafted in 2020, Maestro Conlon recounts his lifelong fascination with the opera, which he has called “one of those rare works that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, for which there is no substitute.” As we read his letter today, we remember the sense of uncertainty which permeated those days and feel deep gratitude that music has returned to our stages.
James Conlon on Pelléas and Mélisande
Written for LA Opera, Spring 2020
Teach us to care and not to care. Teach us to sit still.
T.S. Eliot (1930)
On the eve of what would have been the LA Opera opening of Claude Debussy’s magnum opus, Pelléas et Mélisande, I am sitting still, caring and trying not to care.
Long overdue, the work was to have returned to the stage of LA Opera for the first time after 25 years. I have been yearning to conduct it once again for almost as long. It has been 23 years since my last time around.
The notion of “favorite” would be misplaced in this love affirmation. It is one of those works that can be counted on the fingers of one hand, for which there is no substitute. If it has possessed you, as it has me from the time of my adolescence, you are always possessed. While you are caught in its spell, no other music exists. The missed opportunity to share it with our public is painful. Its magic is irreplaceable, its embrace so personal, almost private, that words are inadequate. I would have liked to introduce many new listeners to its addictive power, that they might feel as I do. For now, we must sit still.
I was very fortunate to have stumbled over Pelléas early. I no longer can remember how old I was, 15 or maybe 16. Was it Destiny, an essential word from the world of Maurice Maeterlinck? I remember that its dark mysteries and haunting beauty captivated me. My customary refuge, the New York Public Library, provided me with opportunity to hear recordings. I remembered being mesmerized by the anguished voice of George London’s Golaud, a torment I knew from his renditions of Boris Godunov, Wotan, and the Flying Dutchman.
I never saw Pelléas until the New York City Opera produced it in 1970, and then I saw it several times. Two years later, the Metropolitan Opera staged it (after a hiatus of 12 years), and again I went to as many performances as possible. That production came back repeatedly over the next decades, and I attended it every time I was in New York.
I was also privileged to have studied conducting with Jean Morel, at the Juilliard School, from the time I was 18. Destiny again? A French expatriate, he was an extraordinary musician, a ferociously demanding teacher, and an enormous inspiration. He was quintessentially French, having been born into the world of Debussy, less than a year after the premiere of Pelléas. We systematically studied the symphonic repertory in class, including a significant dose of the French literature. I asked him if the class could study Carmen (of which I still have his handwritten notes) and Pelléas. As it was not possible in class, he offered to work with me privately, and accorded me the time to do so.
And then, for a long time, I had to sit still with it all. Throughout the next 20 years, it followed me, and I, it. There was a long gestation period of two decades, years in which I spent much time in France. And then, to my good fortune, between 1992 and 1997, I conducted five separate series of Pelléas in three different new productions: directed by Harry Kupfer at the Cologne Opera, Frank Galati at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and Robert Wilson at the Paris National Opera. After that, rather than feeling that I had had enough, I couldn’t wait for more.
Subsequently, I have waited, and will wait again. I have decided, despite the cancellation of the current production, to pass my time in its presence. Every day, whenever I can, I spend time with Pelléas. In a monastic routine, I pore over my score, with all of the markings and (unprinted) changes from Debussy that I had received from Jean Morel and Pierre Boulez. I have listened to recordings, with which I was unacquainted, on iTunes and YouTube, including a Met broadcast from 1954 conducted by my teacher.
I am writing in my studio, surrounded by ten books on Debussy, five on Pelléas, and three editions of Maeterlinck’s original play. I have various program books from productions I have seen in Europe, replete with articles. The most precious possession among them is a study and analysis published in 1926 by Maurice Emmanuel, a contemporary and colleague of Debussy. My teacher had lent this small book to me before he passed away. It bears his signature. I have kept it all these years as a memento.
Now, instead of rehearsing and performing Pelléas, I am living it, spiritually, at home, sitting still. It is no less beautiful and captivating, whether reading and writing about it, listening to it, playing it at the piano, or just thinking about it. When these months have passed, I will not have been deprived of the time I would have spent with Debussy and Maeterlinck.
Teach us to care? I have been taught. I have not yet, however, learned not to care. I must sit still. I live with the same hope and desire with which I exited the stage door of the Palais Garnier in 1997, after my last performance of Pelléas. The identical thought is on my mind now, as was that night: I hope it is not too long before I conduct it again.
LA Opera presents Pelléas et Mélisande March 25–April 16, 2023.
Learn more about additional Discovering Debussy events throughout Los Angeles
Alonzo King, choreographer, artistic director, and co-founder of Alonzo King LINES Ballet is recognized and applauded for his unique artistic vision. King’s works have a world stage in leading ballet and modern companies’ repertories. Named one of America’s “Irreplaceable Dance Treasures” by the Dance Heritage Coalition, King holds an honorary Doctorate from Dominican University, California Institute of the Arts, and the Juilliard School.
In reflecting upon his early experiences of dance and his training, King shares that “movement was an internal part of my being. It was something that I did all the time. My mother was a dancer and she was an inspiration to me. And then I went to a formal academic education with School of American Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, Joffrey Ballet School, and Harkness Ballet.
King further elaborates on the subject of movement and its fullness. “Movement is the principal expression of life. The heart is beating, the brain is synapsing, blood is rushing through the veins. The peristaltic process—healing—many diseases pass through our bodies that could have been fatal but they are worked out so that this machine of breath and willpower [present] signs that this thing is living. There’s a radiation from rocks and plants, so movement is the principal expression of life, whether we’re in war or whether we are being kind to each other…. There’re natural spaces that are also moving with life and they have an effect on us. Our internal world, which is the instrument we dance from because dancers are musicians.”
King shares that he doesn’t see differentiations between the styles of what one may describe as contemporary or modern from classical ballet, but instead, he respects the basic influences threading through what has always existed. “There is nothing new under the sun. And so people are often fooled by style; classical ballet or what is a more precise term, Western classical dance, is based in science and nature. It is a science of movement. It’s replete with styles that come from choreographers that come from ways of thinking and different periods that come from trends. But in its essence, it is a technique, a scientific technique of movement. I wouldn’t define ballet by the choreographic looks of certain choreographers or certain periods in history. I would define it by its origin in nature and science.”
Connecting culture to the evolution and expression of dance, King suggests the importance of the “bird’s eye view” where one “can step back and see the progression of history, what dance is, and regardless of what form it’s in or what culture or who are the masters of dance, it’s a mind-boggling study in ancient cultures…. So in its very beginning, dance arose from spirit. Dance arose from what can be experienced that is beyond the five senses. And can I get information from that experience through movement or contradict it, as it may seem, through stillness. And so this specified idea of bodies moving in space, whether they’re planetary bodies or human bodies, are connected.”
In furthering a tenet of his practice, emphasis is placed upon recognizing the full scope of history. “Every culture looks back to the golden age of a previous culture.” However, King acknowledges this is limiting, as many don’t go back to the beginning to trace the full story arc. This stilted view of history leaves out important contributions and breeds opportunities for inflection points “where racism entered to cut off the block, the legacy and connection.”
This importance of accurate representation is founded in the pursuit of truth. As King noted earlier, “there’s nothing new under the sun,” so one’s pursuit is based on an “obsession with finding truth, with stepping into what you consider to be the truth of how things are.” To impart his meaning, he provides the example of one who is “inspired by nature in its manner of operation.” If this person created a painting, they would not “imitate a flower” but “try to connote the essence of the flower, the idea and the meaning that it’s conveying. And so the look of the flower is what we would call appearance. The meaning of the flower is what we would call its conveyance.”
In transferring this idea to dance, King finds “ballets [to be] thought structures, and we can look at them, and we can argue with them, or we can agree with them…. The tuning fork used by choreographers, painters, mothers, and fathers raising children … is [asking] is this true? And if it’s true, it is therefore beautiful because truth and beauty are the same. And so that’s the obsession from the beginning of planet Earth until the end of planet Earth—is what I’m presenting and saying, is there truth emanating from this statement, this painting, this writing, this novel…”
Furthermore, “dancers have to look at everything that has ever been made: buildings, paintings, this Earth, the planets, the universes…observing everything [and] explore and challenge mainstream notions…. People have to find out who they really are. That’s the first quest.”
King’s philosophy on movement and truth is entrenched within the mission and purpose of Alonzo King LINES Ballet which functions “to nurture artistry and the development of creative expression in dance, through collaboration, performance, and education.” King’s artistic vision lives through the core ideology of his studio that “recognizes that art lives within each and every one of us; strives to balance law and intuition; believes in the full potentiality of the human being; invests in imagination and creativity.” Equally important, is the environment that “embraces a spirit of inquiry and openness to change combined with a reverence for legacy and history.”
On Wednesday, February 8, King will present an onstage master class working with Colburn Dance Academy students on new choreography that he has developed as part of his Amplify residency. This master class is open to the public and will be livestreamed.
Learn more about Alonzo King and Lines Ballet.
The Amplify Series
This series celebrates the careers of artists of color through a number of on-campus, short-term residencies that include performances, master classes, and panel discussions. Colburn supports each artist with institutional resources including recording projects, marketing support, and engagement work in the community through the Center for Innovation and Community Impact.
In addition to Alonzo King, artists for the 2022–23 Amplify Series are Thomas Mesa, cellist and first prize-winner of the Sphinx Competition, and Kris Bowers (Community School ’06), pianist and Emmy Award-winning composer. Past Amplify Artists include violist and composer Nokuthula Ngwenyama (Community School ’93), bassoonist Andrew Brady (Conservatory ’13), bassist Marlon Martinez (Conservatory ’15), and former New York City Ballet member Silas Farley, Dean of Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.
Katalin La Favre describes herself as “a classically trained percussionist on a non-traditional path.” Having studied with Jack Van Geem at Colburn’s Conservatory, she graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s in percussion. Thereafter, she received a Fulbright Grant to study with percussionist Jean Geoffroy in Lyon, France at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Lyon (CNSMDL) and continued to live in France for almost a decade, only recently returning to the U.S. a year ago.
Katalin speaks of the support she received from Colburn in making her studies abroad happen. Katalin worked with Library Director Deborah Smith to write her grant proposal for the Fulbright Scholarship. Aiding in her efforts, Colburn faculty Jack Van Geem and Doug Dutton also provided integral recommendations to secure her selection. Katalin received her master’s and artist diploma at the CNSMDL, followed by acquiring a degree in instrumental pedagogy at CEFEDEM Auvergne Rhône-Alpes also in Lyon.
Colburn’s care didn’t end once Katalin arrived in France. Noting that she is “very impressed by Colburn’s alumni support,” she shares that Colburn sponsored her to perform at the Fringe Festival in Edinburgh in 2013, with incredible support from Daniel Bee, Laura Liepins, Susannah Ramshaw, Montana Graboyes, and Carol Colburn Grigor. “That was an amazing experience. And Colburn arranged everything: booked the venue, did the marketing, arranged somewhere for me to stay, rented my instruments, and also supported me bringing somebody to help me with the lighting and moving equipment. And it was incredible …. That Colburn did that for me was marvelous.” Katalin further notes that the program was based on her Colburn senior recital and that she had an additional three performances in Scotland.
Another alumni offering that Katalin speaks highly of is the New Venture Competition hosted by the Center of Innovation and Community Impact. The New Venture Competition is a philanthropically funded opportunity for alumni to test the entrepreneurial waters and gain valuable knowledge and experience for real-world ideas and project development and pitching. “You need to be your own advocate if you want to make certain things happen. So New Venture was a great way to, in a safe environment, try out pitching and get feedback,” says Katalin. She further shares that the program is “really amazing and provides support both in terms of financial and guidance. And that even 10 years after graduating, there is always someone there providing support.” This latter statement is a shout-out to Dean Zeisler for his availability to provide guidance with her materials and address questions. Acquiring this knowledge and developing these entrepreneurial skills is “as important as playing your instrument,” states Katalin. “Students should really take advantage of these opportunities. It’s crucial.”
One of these opportunities, the Center of Innovation and Community Impact’s Teaching Fellows program, which is generously supported by the Max H. Gluck Foundation, is identified as an experience that “planted the seed” for her pedagogical studies and later motivated her music curriculum project for the New Venture Competition. The project is called Storytelling Through Music and was created for public school kindergartens and first grades. Her inspiration for the project is also connected to a childhood experience where she was supposed to read her favorite story but instead, she created a new story based on the illustrations in the book. She recalls being “really excited to share my story with the class … because I wasn’t always given an opportunity to do what I was really good at, which was to create things. So I really wanted to create something for the child version of me. I would’ve loved something like this when I was a kid.”
Storytelling Through Music is a curriculum within common core guidelines that intentionally incorporates creativity components. “I want students to be able to create; listen to music and use their imaginations in a space where there are no right or wrong answers. I also want to get more music into the classroom.” The project includes musical compositions by Katalin and illustrations by Jessica Sunderhaft and is set up in a series of four chapters. The introduction chapter includes a story developed with a musical accompaniment that the students listen to and then they create a sequel based on a musical track. The lesson plan includes discussion points for the teacher to engage the students with the material, such as conducting a simple analysis of the music. For example, “Is it slow or fast? What kind of instruments do you hear? And then how to apply those answers to create a story.” Other chapters include building upon story parts such as characters and settings with a musical connection. Common core elements are interwoven through discussion verifying students’ listening comprehension, practicing narration of sequential events, and being able to communicate their ideas clearly. The final chapter culminates in the full story creation based on musical tracks heard by the students to develop a beginning, middle, and end narrative. The students also provide illustrations and present their stories to their classmates.
Katalin is targeting an early 2023 release of the Storytelling Through Music curriculum that will be available on www.teacherspayteachers.com.
In a final reflection, Katalin shares that “Being at Colburn provided a real openness and freedom for me to do a lot of things. Not just because of the financial support, which of course is huge, but also because of the personal support of the teachers and the staff.” Evidence of this freedom to explore was Jack Van Geem’s encouragement in the percussion studio to create the Smoke and Mirrors Percussion Ensemble. Additionally, Katalin and another percussion student, Joe Beribak, helped establish the Colburn Contemporary Players with the support of Doug Dutton and Richard Beene. “A school that allows students to propose ideas like this and help make them a reality is really incredible. And that intimacy of Colburn where students can really have a big voice and get attention is huge. I miss having that artist community sometimes as a professional; it was so great as a student to have that support.”
In addition to co-authoring a book with a group of former students and colleagues on former Colburn Conservatory faculty Jack Van Geem, Katalin has several other projects in the works. Learn more about Katalin and her various events and projects here.
If you are interested in providing funding for the New Venture Competition or getting involved as a mentor for future student projects, please send an email to Dean Nathaniel Zeisler at email@example.com.
When conductor Gustavo Dudamel’s international tours were disrupted by deadly protests across his native Venezuela, filmmaker Ted Braun was there to document how one of the world’s finest and most beloved musicians would face a set of daunting challenges. In his new documentary, ¡Viva Maestro!, the acclaimed director follows Dudamel around the world as he responds to unexpected and imposing obstacles with stirring music-making that celebrates the power of art to renew and unite.
In late October, the Colburn School hosted a special screening of ¡Viva Maestro! followed by a Q&A with Ted Braun and Colburn Board Chairman Andrew Millstein which explored the art of documentary filmmaking and its similarities to music.
Watch ¡Viva Maestro! December 5 at USC’s Norris Cinema Theatre.
This Q&A is edited for clarity and space.
Andrew Millstein: How are filmmaking and music similar?
Ted Braun: I had a teacher in graduate school, Frank Daniel, who was Czech and had come from a long line of musicians before he turned to filmmaking. He explained to me that film structure is a lot like sonata form. If you look at a film it has three parts like a movement in a piece of music: exposition, development, and recapitulation. I heard that and a light bulb went off. I was like, oh my god, film is exactly like that. He went on to say if you think of the drive of a character as the melody of a film, in other words, that what a character is pursuing gets developed and tested in much the same way that a theme in a piece of music would – that too is similar to the classic sonata form. And if you look at the second theme as a kind of subplot, with a different character and a different but related drive – well suddenly the whole basic structure of cinema and how movies are shaped and affect audiences unfolded for me. And it opened the door to becoming a screenwriter and a filmmaker. So that was an analogy and an understanding that was really influential and helpful.
Millstein: Now, it’s an interesting place to go with the next part of the conversation when you talk about theme and subplot. Especially in the context of the arduous and unpredictable journey of making a film like this, a documentary. It’s a difficult and zig-zaggy endeavor. I was wondering, would you describe how both the pandemic and the political turmoil in Venezuela influenced the choices you made in making the film and also the approach to the subject matter?
Braun: This may be the only context in which I’ll ever say this, but the pandemic was the least of our problems. The film was intended to be an exploration and a celebration of Gustavo’s work as a conductor, and particularly his work as a conductor with the LA Phil and with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. We had intended for the film to be released during the hundredth anniversary of the LA Phil, which was the 2018–19 season. We were aware of the political, social, and economic problems of Venezuela. It was a difficult place to work when we shot the rehearsals of the Beethoven symphonies. And we had no intention of ignoring those problems. But when we set out those were imagined as a kind of backdrop to the basic drama of making art.
But as the film brings to life, the situation of Venezuela spiraled out of control very quickly. The day after the Bolivars (the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela) returned from that European tour, which was either March 31 or April 1, 2017, the street protests that you see depicted in the film erupted all across Venezuela and lasted for almost one hundred days. They were massive and widespread protests that engaged and involved people from all walks of life and all political sides. They were violent and many people died. And as a consequence, Gustavo was moved out of a position that he had tried very hard to maintain of staying adjacent to, but not involved in political questions. He spoke out. And this in turn led, as the film shows, to a couple of his important tours being canceled. And then members of the Bolivar Orchestra began to depart Venezuela. So a film that we thought was going to take us to Venezuela three or four more times became impossible to make – because we couldn’t go back and Gustavo couldn’t go back.
And now we were faced with a different kind of problem which was: what is the story of Gustavo’s life at this moment and can we bring to the screen? And I spoke with Gustavo in the middle of that summer and then in the winter after the Bolivar’s China tours had been canceled about whether we could ignore these interruptions and just continue on. We came to the shared conclusion – it was a difficult one – that this disruption somehow or other had to become part of the film. And then we were faced with a question: what is the story we’re telling now? And how do we schedule and shoot it? With a documentary film, there isn’t a script, a set, a general set of events that you are going to precisely film. You launch with a plan and a rough idea of what’s going to happen, then you respond to events as they unfold.
Millstein: At one level, I’m listening to you describe your creative process: You made a movie, a film about a creative process, but also you’re describing an improvisational creative process as a sensitive, documentary filmmaker.
Braun: Well, it’s really interesting, you should use that word because if there’s a musical analogy, it’s that scripted filmmaking—the kind that you see most often in the multiplex—is a lot like orchestral music making. There’s a script. Everybody knows what it is. All sorts of plans and resources are built around bringing that to life. With the doc, it’s much more like jazz. Here’s our subject; here’s what we’re following – him pursuing this one thing. He’s going to be doing this today; let’s see what happens. And you kind of let it go….
From a filming [perspective], the art of Gustavo conducting alone was enough to entice me. But having grown up watching televised orchestral performances – which I’m sure many of you have seen – well, they’re very specific. The instrument groups are cut to when a certain part of the piece is featured, and they’re very illustrative of the music. I was interested in the creative challenge that would take that circumstance, and approach it differently, and not just illustrate what was in the score, but get inside the dynamic of what was happening between the conductor and the orchestra. In particular, get the audience inside Gustavo’s head. Because if you think about a great feature film, a scripted feature film, you’re kind of with the character; you’re seeing the world the way that character is seeing it, and you’re hoping they’ll get what they want.
I very much wanted an audience to feel that with Gustavo for all sorts of reasons: thematic, musical, and human. I knew the only way that would work would be if, when he was on the podium, we weren’t out there in the audience watching somebody with magic hands pulling sounds out of an orchestra with some sort of dictatorial presence, not that Gustavo’s anything like this, but you know, the sort of fantasy of a conductor commanding people to do things that he or she wants them to do. So getting into a subjective relationship with Gustavo and the audience was super important. And fortunately, Gustavo was totally game for us putting the cameras wherever we wanted to, and micing him up whenever we wanted him to.
We, through a process of trial and error, came up with an approach where we had a cinematographer who was freely roaming around the pit area between Gustavo and the players and also able to pop up behind Gustavo’s shoulders on a set of little boxes. A great documentary cinematographer is really an artist because they have to both inhabit the drama of what’s unfolding, anticipate where the next exciting thing is going to be, and frame it all in such a way that it looks beautiful and is clear and Buddy [Buddy Squires, Cinematographer] is all those things.
Millstein: In the film, you get a sense of the growth of Gustavo as an artist, as a young man, and as he progresses. I’m curious about your arc and your creative evolution.
Braun: To spend five years around Gustavo, as a fellow practitioner in the arts, was a great privilege. Because of his ability to understand and articulate an artistic process, to share it in a very inspirational and open way—a collaborative way with a group of musicians—and then to present that to an audience in a way that’s electrifying. It’s incredibly rare and is part of why he’s a celebrated figure. And one of the things that I was able to learn from him is how fundamental a feeling of joy is; if people, regardless of the emotional color of the work that you’re producing, if people feel and share a sense of joy in the enterprise, the work rises to a different level. And that [joy] comes out of a really deep understanding of the place that art has in all of our lives and of its social value. Watching Gustavo during these two most challenging years of his life, to watch him understand and navigate all of those challenges and still see that what art offers the world is unique and that, however we respond to the problems of the world, if we respond as artists with an artistic contribution, we know where we are. We know what it is that we are doing and why it’s of value. And that in and of itself is a joyful endeavor.
Colburn’s Trudl Zipper Dance Institute offers instruction in various dance disciplines including ballet, modern dance, and tap dance. The Colburn Modern Dance Program is a unique offering of foundational modern dance technique not readily available nationally. Students can start as young as five years of age in Creative Dance and advance through Children’s Modern Dance (I-III) and on to Intermediate and Advanced Level instruction.
Colburn’s Modern and Creative Dance Chair, Tamsin Carlson, shares a glimpse into her past when modern dance took root and highlights the invaluable experience of a week with the Merce Cunningham Trust on campus.
Hailing from the UK, Tamsin started dancing at seven years old and attended a performing arts school that began in middle school around the age of eleven. Similar to U.S. academy programs, Tamsin lived at the school where she practiced her art form during the day intertwined with academic schoolwork. During her time at the performing arts school is when Tamsin’s love of modern dance took shape. A student from London Contemporary visited to teach the Graham Technique. This exposure to a new dance form solidified in Tamsin the power that modern presented. “I think what I loved is that I didn’t have to pretend anything. I didn’t have to smile if I didn’t feel like smiling. You literally could just be, and the drama was just in the movement. And if you’ve seen Graham, it’s very dramatic!”
Modern dance is like a strong physical expression. Whether it’s of an idea, or of a story, or of a feeling that uses space as one element and that also uses the people in the space. It’s a story about the relationship between the people to each other and to the space.
Modern dance is like a strong physical expression. Whether it’s of an idea, or of a story, or of a feeling that uses space as one element and that also uses the people in the space. It’s a story about the relationship between the people to each other and to the space.
Tamsin joined London Contemporary and later pursued Cunningham Technique training in New York where she became an understudy or “RUG” (repertory understudy group) for the Cunningham Company. Merce Cunningham recognized her talent in instruction and invited her to teach for several years. Sometime later after relocating to Los Angeles, Tamsin joined Colburn in 2014 as a Dance faculty member.
Reminiscing about her beginning at the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, Tamsin expresses how it reignited her love of teaching and brought the influence of her Cunningham background to the forefront. “The program here [at Colburn] is really unique…. I think we’re only one of the few schools that have modern. It’s not as ubiquitous as say contemporary or hip hop,” Tamsin notes. “There are only two schools that teach Cunningham to this age group, Colburn and the North Carolina School of the Arts.”
Modern at Colburn starts with the Lester Horton Technique and as students progress in age, strength, and technique, they then receive an introduction to the Cunningham Technique developed by Merce Cunningham and the Graham Technique developed by Martha Graham. Tamsin mentions that Yuka Fukuda teaches the advanced Horton classes at Colburn and Chard Gonzalez teaches both the Cunningham Technique and the Graham Technique, alternating by semester. This variance of teachers is important as Tamsin points out that “part of the Cunningham ethos is that you should have different teachers—that all teachers have a valuable viewpoint” to experience. With this in mind, the Modern Program attempts to present different Cunningham teachers and guest teachers to provide those varied perspectives to students.
In understanding the nuances of the three modern dance techniques (Graham, Horton, and Cunningham) taught at Colburn, Tamsin describes them as follows: Graham is dramatic with a lot of floor work. It’s a useful tool to really understand the pelvis. It’s very grounded and very physical. Horton is a little freer, but still very grounded and physical. Cunningham takes the ballet form in terms of working the lower half of the body, while the torso has multiple movements, in regard to tilts, twists, and curves. Cunningham is a little more abstract than Graham, but it’s still that you are a person in space relating to the other person or people in that space. For Merce, all of the space was important.
Delving into Tamsin’s specialty training and knowledge as a licensed teacher of the Cunningham Technique, she leverages the subject of space to define the technique further. For a dancer, any side they face can be front. “I liken it to a Rubik’s cube in that the body is divided into three so that it works as a whole. But then the three parts of the body can move independently: the legs can be going one way, the torso another, and then you have the pelvis which is the center.” She also mentions that Merce intentionally avoided terminology for his technique, which “makes it a very physical technique to teach because the language isn’t there.” A teacher uses other words like brush or a literal direction such as “extend the leg forward.”
As some confuse contemporary dance with modern dance, Tamsin highlights some of the differences between the two. “Modern is a bit more abstract and contemporary tends to be set to music, often popular music of the time, so it tends to rely purely on the momentum of the body and the movement.” For Cunningham, the choreography and the music are built separately. A cornerstone of the Cunningham technique is that the choreography and music come together on the stage. “The idea was that they could coexist and have a relationship, but the relationship was through chance.” Whereas the Graham Technique is based on myths, so there is a strong story or narrative connection.
In reflecting on modern and other dance disciplines, such as ballet and tap, Tamsin states, “it’s like with opera, I think modern can be really abstract … but people may be more intimidated by it. It’s a more challenging discipline; it challenges you as a viewer.” Tamsin inquires of Seth Belliston, a faculty member of ballet who is passing by, to define the difference between modern and other dance disciplines. He expresses that’s it hard to put into words as “it’s apples and oranges” in which Tamsin quips, “both are trees,” and Seth quickly follows up with “but in modern, you can be the tree.”
The Cunningham Modern Trust hosted a weeklong staging event at Colburn in late October. This was the first time that the Dance Academy and intermediate modern dancers were invited to participate with the advanced modern group. The students trained with Silas Riener, a Cunningham stager, in “TV Rerun,” “Scramble,” and “Changing Steps.” These phrases are quite challenging and Tamsin believes they empower dancers to “have more confidence in themselves because they are relying on themselves to make decisions.” She further notes that her students today are quite “bright and up for the challenge; they embrace it.” The opportunity to learn new repertory and work with and hear from another voice (the stager) are two significant takeaways for students participating in the week’s training.
Overall, Tamsin understands that modern dance gives her students “fearlessness because they have to develop confidence and strength in their body to move through space.” The value of modern dance for dancers: “it’s confidence, it’s technique, it’s strength, and the ability to really be able to travel fearlessly.” Fostering these aspects for her students is Tamsin’s goal.
Read more about Tamsin’s background here.
The Trudl Zipper Dance Institute presents the following upcoming performances:
See the Music, Hear the Dance, Saturday, November 5 at 7 pm in Zipper Hall
Joy! A Winter Dance Celebration, Saturday, December 17 at 3 pm in Zipper Hall and Colburn Plaza
Joy! A Winter Dance Celebration, Sunday, December 18 at 2 pm in Zipper Hall
Tap Fest, Saturday, March 18 at 7 pm in Zipper Hall
Counterpointe, Saturday, March 25 at 2 pm and 7 pm in Zipper Hall
Student Choreography Workshop, Saturday, April 29 at 2 pm and 7 pm in Zipper Hall
Spring TapWorks, Saturday, May 20 at 2 pm and 7 pm in Zipper Hall
Spring Dance Festival, Saturday, May 27 at 2 pm and 7 pm in Luckman Theatre
When the Colburn School’s Grand Avenue building was designed more than 25 years ago, deliberate thought went into how the architecture could enhance the performing arts education for students and their families as well as create a welcoming environment for audiences and visitors. When Toby Mayman, former executive director (1980–1999) and lifetime honorary board member, walked through the freshly painted halls, she recognized yet another opportunity. The bare walls were blank canvases waiting to be adorned.
“I was highly motivated to blur the space between the performing arts and visual arts. I feel they are part of the same creative effort, creative inspirations for students,” she recalls.
Mayman and then-Dean Joseph Thayer visited several Los Angeles galleries to pitch the idea of local artists volunteering their works to be displayed on Colburn’s walls for an entire school year. Peter Shire, who had been commissioned to create the chandelier hanging above the main staircase, was the inaugural featured artist. Year after year, the School connected with various galleries to showcase multiple mediums and stylings.
“It grew organically into the annual art installation. The faculty, staff, as well as students and parents looked forward to new installations. We usually scheduled a new art opening with a performance, too,” says Mayman.
Former board chairperson Wendy Kelman took up the mission of fostering relationships with LA painters, photographers, and artists, too. She introduced StudioEleven, an artist cooperative established in the StudioEleven Art Gallery that supports members through multiple efforts, including educational experiences and exhibitions. Almost immediately, members were keen on building a collaboration. Their first installation, titled Coda at Colburn, was on display for the 2015–16 academic year.
“The first year with StudioEleven was such a success that it led to another year and another year—their output is prodigious. That morphed naturally into the current relationship that seems to make everyone happy,” says Mayman.
Indeed, after a few years of submitting rotating collections, Colburn and StudioEleven agreed to an exclusive arrangement that the group would supply each year’s art installation on display from fall through summer. And now as a tradition, Colburn students typically perform in conjunction with each collection’s debut.
“Prior to that, we would seek out individuals, but now they are basically the resident rotating studio. The artists of StudioEleven are very passionate and they like the idea of integrating their art with the performing arts, students, families, and faculty,” says Randy Osherow, special assistant to Colburn School President and CEO Sel Kardan. As a trained visual artist, she also oversees the art installations on campus.
Each year’s collection illustrates a theme, oftentimes reflecting events impacting the city. So naturally when COVID-19 shut down classrooms and people were asked to work and learn from home, the artists expressed their reactions through their unique perspectives. The 2021 installation was called Lockdown Art: Reflection of StudioEleven Practices. Although the pieces found their home on the Colburn campus as planned, the pandemic forced the debut celebration to be postponed until January 2022.
“The artists were ecstatic when we finally held the event. They were able to revisit the work as if it was the first time, and it was wonderful,” says Osherow. “Also, I was surprised by how optimistic the work was. I think they came up with an amazing connection to the resurgence from COVID.
“The show that just opened this fall, called Cultivation, contains pieces by 25 artists and is an explosion of optimism, with every medium represented,” she adds. “From a visual point of view, the halls are alive with art designs in various colors, textures, and content. It is wonderful to share that forum with students, faculty, and families.”
“We are so grateful for the beautiful art displays around our campus. We encourage our dance students to take time to pause, reflect on the artwork, read who the work was created by, and allow it to inspire their own creative process as they develop themselves as young artists,” says Darleen Callaghan, associate dean for the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute.
Also gracing the campus halls, offices, and walls are black-and-white photographs courtesy of James Arkatov and the Arkatov family.
“The Arkatov collection harkens back to the friendship of Richard D. Colburn and James Arkatov. They were both lovers of classical music and they were both integral in founding the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra,” notes Mayman.
Born in Russia, young James and his family immigrated to the United States in 1925, where he began playing the cello at age nine. By age 18, he was invited to join the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He also became principal cellist for the San Francisco and Indianapolis symphonies.
Upon moving to Southern California, Arkatov landed work as a studio musician for film and recording artists, including legends Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra. Still, he never lost a passion for classical music, and in 1968, Arkatov became the founder of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra.
Arkatov was also a talented photographer, first as a hobby inspired by his father and later as a secondary career. For decades, he captured the essence of musicians and artists in portraits, including Isaac Stern (a childhood friend), Igor Stravinsky, Sir Thomas Beecham, Gregor Piatigorsky, and Yo-Yo Ma, among hundreds more. He also memorialized rehearsals and performances with both still photos and video recordings and published two books: Masters of Music and Artists: The Creative Personality.
Arkatov’s photos have been exhibited in several museums and collections have been archived by renowned institutions, such as the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, USC Libraries, and UCLA’s Ethnomusicology department. However, he personally gifted the Colburn School two collections of photos in 2001 and 2008.
“Photos from the first gifts were installed in what I call the artery of the School, the floor where all the students walk through to and from classes, so it was a perfect place,” says Osherow.
After his death in 2019, Arkatov’s wife, Salome, a UCLA emerita piano faculty member and documentary filmmaker, and his children presented the School with another permanent gift of more than 300 photos.
“For the most recent exhibit, I looked for what Mr. Arkatov touched and selected. Both of the earlier gifts, he personally selected, and of the 300, approximately 100 were already matted, so that told me he held particular interest in them,” Osherow explains. “My job was to represent these arrangements on campus to inform students. The floor that is home to the conducting program, composing areas, the piano chair, and faculty members with studios has images everyone on that floor could relate to. On the floors with faculty in jazz, wind, and percussion, I curated images for those disciplines.”
The common theme throughout each collection is the hope that all who see them will find inspiration and feel a connection to the photographer and his subjects.
“We were united in that the goal was to have the art up on the walls. It was always the family’s wish that the photos be accessible and inform new generations of the performing arts. Students and families see the milestone musicians of previous generations,” says Osherow.
“We chose the Colburn School to have a permanent collection of my father’s photographs, because of the great admiration and affection my parents have always had for the Colburn family, and for the exceptional impact that the School has had on the gifted students and the communities it so proudly serves. We chose photographs that we thought would complement and amplify their unique location—on the walls directly outside of the Colburn faculty and practice studios on the fourth and fifth floors of the Olive Building—by providing an insider’s look at the behind-the-scenes preparation of the world’s great artists,” says Alan Arkatov. “The extraordinary collection of photographs that now lines the walls of the Colburn School are a testament to my father’s passions and interdisciplinary talents, and the importance of what the arts bring to individuals and society.”
“I find the Arkatov collection incredibly inspiring. The expressions of musical life of those fantastic musicians is making any artist richer and having a deeper contact with what real music making is. As music is a life-changing experience for everyone, so is the Arkatov collection, able to make music through his eyes and poetic portraits. Colburn is extremely lucky to have the chance to expose this profound way to ‘see’ music,” says Fabio Bidini, the Carol Grigor Colburn Piano Chair at the Colburn Conservatory.
“It is an invaluable resource and inspiration to the faculty and the students, especially those in the Conservatory. For me, it’s a reminder of the School’s growth and history,” says Mayman.