Conservatory Students Perform for a Younger, Gigglier Crowd

Actor Bennett Schneider and musicians Michelle Feng, Edoardo Passarotto, and Jordan Brokken perform in Community Engagement’s Musical Encounter Interactive.

It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done. We had to memorize music, memorize lines, remember all of that in performance, and engage with the audience. Michelle Feng, oboe

In February, Colburn Conservatory of Music students Michelle Feng, Jordan Brokken, and Edoardo Passarotto gave a dynamic performance for 1,600 students over the course of four days in Zipper Hall as part of Community Engagement’s Musical Encounter Interactive. The program, combining music, acting, and audience engagement to tell the original story of a musical trio’s encounter with a zany French chef, was a completely new experience for the group.

The trio worked hard for months with acting teacher Debbie Devine, developing their presentational skills and discovering how to engage and entertain young learners. They were involved in the process start to finish, and spent countless hours developing the script with Debbie and scriptwriter Leon Martell, workshopping the program, learning lines, and performing.

For oboist Michelle Feng, it was a brand new challenge. They’d worked with the Community Engagement department to perform outreach concerts before, but Musical Encounter Interactive meant much more than playing a concert. “It’s the hardest thing we’ve ever done,” she said. “We had to memorize music, memorize lines, remember all of that in performance, and engage with the audience.”

The group’s new skills will help them be more effective musical ambassadors as they embark on their careers. “The whole experience will be really helpful for future outreach. We were involved in the whole process, it was very interactive, and now we have that knowledge.”

The storyline follows a trio’s confusion as they work to impress a French talent agent, played by actor Bennett Schneider. They alter their playing to accommodate seemingly silly requests, not realizing that he’s no agent, but a chef describing food. Hilarity ensues, and they finally realize it’s better to trust in themselves and all of their preparation, rather than bending to what others say.

Throughout the performance, children in the audience are encouraged to participate and interact. Performing in this format was new for the trio as well, and has had its surprises for Michelle. “The kids laugh at everything, especially everything Edo says because I think they like his [Italian] accent, even things we didn’t realize would be funny.”

In two weeks, they move the show to The Broad Stage in Santa Monica. Aside from logistical differences and adaptations – the stage is just a little smaller – Michelle is eager to experience the new crowd on the west side.

“Each group of kids responds a little differently. I’ll be really interested to see what they’re like, and how they interact with the performance.”