In this episode, we spoke with ballet dancer Samuel Melnikov. After studying in the Dance Academy from 2014 to 2017, Sam joined the New York City Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2020.
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BACH Suite for Violin and Harpsichord in A Major, BWV 1025
Kako Miura (Conservatory ’19), Violin
Ian Pritchard, Harpsichord
DEBUSSY Afternoon of a Faun
Martha Chan, Flute
Wei Pan, Clarinet
Kristina Annamukhamedova, Piano
We caught up with Molly Turner after her first semester in the Conservatory of Music’s Negaunee Conducting Program to discuss her musical journey so far, her passion for contemporary music, and what she’s learned from assisting and covering for Esa-Pekka Salonen.
The Negaunee Conducting Program is made possible by the generous support of the Negaunee Foundation. Under the direction of renowned conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, a select group of pre-professional conductors come to Colburn each year as the School’s Salonen Fellows in the Negaunee Conducting Program. Beyond their performance opportunities with Colburn, the Fellows’ robust activities with Maestro Salonen is a unique aspect of studying at the Colburn School. The Foundation provides for the tuition, room, and board of each Salonen Fellow, as well as their travel expenses so they can accompany Maestro Salonen on his professional conducting engagements, prepare the orchestras he conducts, and often perform on stage nationally and internationally.
In addition, the Colburn School is proud to host a Lab Orchestra, supported by Anne Akiko Meyers and Jason Subotky, in honor of James DePreist. The Lab Orchestra provides special opportunities for the Salonen Fellows to learn and prepare repertoire that may not be on the main stage in a given season, and for the Conservatory and Music Academy students to work with the Salonen Fellows throughout the year.
To learn more about how you can support these exceptional programs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
This interview has been lightly edited for style, content, and clarity.
Tell us about your musical background, including how you got into conducting.
I grew up playing violin and piano. In high school, I gravitated towards composition. I was really drawn to improvisation and just making music up in the now. So I studied composition first and then I realized composition was kind of lonely and it wasn’t something that I wanted to pursue through a terminal academic degree. So later in my undergrad, I explored conducting. I was really lucky to be at a place where I could watch inspirational orchestra rehearsals led by Larry Rachleff at Rice.
For me, composing is having a core musical intention in your head and then writing it down and then getting it performed. But conducting is walking that road backwards and talking about how we perform works and how we rehearse and then taking a step back into what the composer thought. As a conductor, we take steps back into what a composer’s core musical intention was. So, they go hand in hand for me. They’re incredibly related. It always helps to be a composer that conducts their own works as well.
How did you come to be a part of the Negaunee Conducting Program at Colburn?
I first auditioned in 2019, the first year Colburn hosted auditions. Although there wasn’t room in the program that year, after finishing my masters at Juilliard, there was an opening! It’s a very young program so it’s exciting to be a part of it as it takes shape.
This is your first year in the program. How is it going so far?
It’s going really well. I am originally from Seattle, so I’m happy to be back on the West Coast. I have never lived in California, and I am thoroughly enjoying the weather and everything that Los Angeles has to offer.
My program itself is extraordinarily flexible, which is probably the biggest positive. We don’t take classes and we travel quite a bit. It feels a lot more like a fellowship or assistantship rather than getting a degree at a school.
It’s been great getting to know Esa-Pekka Salonen and my two new colleagues, Ross [Jamie Collins] and Kyle [Dickson]. They’re awesome. We’re all so different and I think we benefit from this a lot. We’re all different ages and we have very different backgrounds which is great.
What have you done so far in the program?
A substantial element is cover conducting and assistant conducting for Esa-Pekka. I spent two separate weeks in San Francisco, and then he was here in Los Angeles doing a performance with the Colburn Orchestra where all three of us worked with him. We also did a lab orchestra session with him, which covered Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique.
And then in the beginning of December, I was in Paris with the Orchestra de Paris for two weeks, which he regularly guest conducts. For me, it was great to see how different orchestras work. I haven’t done much work abroad or seen many [non-US] orchestras perform or rehearse. Just to see the culture, the sound, the audiences, and the music they play is something you can’t really learn in school. Experiences like this really get us out of the “student conductor mindset.”
I’ve also participated in the Colburn Contemporary Ensemble with Ted Atkatz, the percussion professor. I love contemporary music. I performed the Lou Harrison Violin Concerto with [Conservatory student] Fiona Shea, which features five percussionists and violin solo. The whole fall program was spectacular.
One of my goals for this year with Colburn and Salonen is to improve the contemporary music scene at Colburn. I think that’s a huge entry point because I’m a composer and Salonen is also a composer.
How is it working with Esa-Pekka Salonen?
He’s very attentive and thoughtful and maintains this through his extremely busy schedule. He trusts the orchestra an immense amount and he shows that in his teaching. He doesn’t really like if you click [the baton] or if your movements are too jerky and whatnot because that doesn’t really help the orchestra.
He trusts at arrivals that the orchestra will come together. He believes that orchestras have this innate ability to play together and we should trust that. So, it’s not really our job to put the things down in a vertical way all the time. And you can really see it in his conducting which has this beautiful flow and freedom to it. It’s been great to watch him so much because I learn a lot by watching.
There’s this thing among young conductors where it’s difficult to learn at lessons on the podium. It’s really hard to implement new gestures and new things right on the spot. You see, we don’t get to practice our “instrument” very much. A violinist can redo that run 100 times, but we can’t really give a downbeat 100 times in front of an orchestra.
And so most of our learning is actually by watching. So just seeing what he does with a huge variety of repertoire has been the one of the biggest contributions to my learning.
What’s involved in assisting and covering an orchestra?
Assisting and covering are slightly different but often combined. Assisting is about helping the conductor in any way possible. You are taking notes during rehearsal about things that you hear. And then you gauge if they’re looking for feedback in between the breaks. It’s primarily balance issues because what you hear on the podium isn’t always what you hear in the audience.
Covering often goes with assisting and simply means covering the concert. So that means being prepared to conduct the entire program at a moment’s notice and that could even mean a rehearsal. It can sometimes be difficult to prepare scores where there’s only a chance you’ll conduct, but that’s the job! That’s how a lot of young conductors, including Esa-Pekka Salonen, have gotten important debuts.
Assisting is something that you don’t really learn in school. You’re not really looking at the whiteboard, learning how to assist and cover. It’s a very flexible thing. They might ask you to tell a note to the clarinet player or stand in a different part of the hall. Sometimes you’re involved in approving recordings of concerts and working with recording teams after the concert.
How has it been working with the Colburn Orchestra?
The Colburn Orchestra rehearses pretty much like a professional orchestra. They have more rehearsals, but they’re all stacked up the week before the performance. It’s a very intense rehearsal schedule!
It’s been great. I prepared the orchestra for Bruckner 6 and then Kyle did the Shostakovich Violin Concerto. And it’s cool because a first rehearsal’s honestly sometimes the hardest work that you have to get done as a conductor. You have to orient musicians on how the piece goes and you can’t really get into the kind of metaphor and color-oriented language yet.
As the prep conductor you have to be prepared to explain tricky transitions in an efficient way. You want everyone to be really comfortable for when the guest conductor comes in.
How do you prepare for that?
Everyone has their own score study preparation process. For me, it’s a mix of playing the score at the piano and listening to recordings. There’s of course so much to consider alongside that: historical background, other pieces by that composer, tempo maps, harmony, form, etc. Ideally before I listen to recordings, I can look at the score and hear it exactly in my head, the precise kind of sound that I want. It reminds me a lot of composing—having to hear sounds in your head in the abstract without an orchestra.
You’ll be preparing the Colburn Orchestra for their upcoming concert on January 23. What’s on the program?
It’s a Coleridge-Taylor piece called Ballade that he wrote when he was 23. It’s a very young, kind of gutsy, dramatic, fun opener, and then Shostakovich 9, which is one of his shorter symphonies. It’s about 30 minutes and it’s very satirical. That one’s going to be super fun. It features the woodwinds quite a bit and Yehuda Gilad is the conductor.
The second half is the Brahms Double Concerto, which is an extraordinary piece. It’s essentially a symphony in terms of its proportions and Charlotte and Olivia Marckx are the soloists.
What are you looking forward to for that concert?
It’s a very diverse program. So Coleridge-Taylor is English and then Shostakovich is Russian and then there’s of course Brahms representing the German speaking world. I think it’ll be interesting to really lean into each of those different “musical dialects” through each of the three pieces.
What’s coming up for you the rest of the semester?
I am covering a week in San Diego at the end of February and then the Salonen Fellows are going to do something with the Colburn Contemporary Ensemble. And then the three of us are doing the Gala concert, and I’ll be performing one piece at the Academy Virtuosi concert. Academy Virtuosi is traditionally a conductorless group, but they occasionally program more contemporary works that will need a conductor.
I’m also hoping to write a little bit more music this semester. The first semester I was still sorting myself out and traveling a bit but now I think I’ve got the flow of things.
Where do you envision your career going after finishing the Conducting Fellows program?
It’s really hard to tell. I’ve always had a strong interest in moving to Europe. But really any career that includes both contemporary music and symphonic music would be amazing. For example, a dream job would be anything involved with the Ensemble Intercontemporain or an ensemble like that. It would be great to mix that in with symphonic performances.
What do you hope to achieve with your music?
Perhaps it’s less about what music achieves than what it contains. Gustav Mahler once said, “A symphony must be like the world. It must contain everything.” It’s incredible how multidimensional music is. It expresses history, architecture, nature, story-telling, math, psychology, virtuosity, languages, and on and on. The purpose of my music-making is to tease out the specific corner of the cultural fabric that a given piece expresses and to bring that to the forefront of the audience’s experience.
The Community School of Performing Arts is proud to announce the selection of our students in the YoungArts 2022 National Arts Competition. This year, eleven Community School students and three Music Academy students have been selected for this prestigious honor.
Every year thousands of performing, visual and literary artists age 15-18 apply to YoungArts through their national competition. Finalists attend National YoungArts Week to collaborate with peers and develop their crafts with internationally recognized leaders in their fields. Finalists in their senior year are further eligible for nomination as a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts—one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.
All award winners—including Finalist, Merit and Honorable Mention award levels—receive mentorship and financial awards; gain access to a lifetime of creative, professional development, and funding opportunities; and become part of an uplifting, inter-generational community that helps artists connect, create, and collaborate.
Congratulations to both these students and their respective teachers on this remarkable achievement!
Evan Dexter, Jazz Trombone *
Fengyang Ju, Oboe +
Noah Jung, Clarinet +
Abigail Hong, Oboe *
Angeline Kiang, Cello +
Jack Lieberman, Jazz Alto Saxophone *
Duy Minh Max Nguyen, Jazz Percussion *
William Schwartzman, Jazz Piano *
Adam Zilberman, Jazz Baritone Saxophone *
Evan Dexter, Jazz Composition *
Brenda Greggio, Jazz Piano *
Apsara Kasiraman, Composition *
Cosmo Lieberman, Jazz Alto Saxophone *
Leilani Patao, Popular Voice & Singer-Songwriter *
William Schwartzman, Jazz Composition *
Luciano Soriano, Jazz Trombone *
* Community School of Performing Arts student
+ Music Academy student
Colburn spoke with violist Natalie Loughran who won first place in last month’s prestigious 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition about her music development and experience at the weeklong competition.
Would you tell us a little bit about yourself, such as where you’re from and your education?
I grew up outside of Philadelphia in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, and then moved to Princeton, New Jersey during high school; so I’m kind of from both places. I started on violin at the age of five, four or five, I believe, with Suzuki instructor named Gerry Rice. And I was with her actually for about 10 years and she was the one who influenced me to switch to the lovely instrument of viola. She’s a violist herself, so she knew that I didn’t have the eight hours a day of practicing in me to be a violinist. And she introduced [the viola] to me, and I really fell in love with the instrument—just the gorgeous sound. And honestly this week [of the Primrose competition], it showed a lot about the temperament of a lot of violists and how we’re such a loving, warm community. I’m very happy to have done [the competition].
And then I did a lot of Philadelphia pre-college programs such as Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and Temple Music Prep, and then I started Juilliard. I went into the New York scene in my undergrad. I started in 2016 with Roger Tapping, and he was just an incredible teacher. He has a smaller studio at Julliard, but really unique players. And he really just encourages everyone to find their own voice, which I really admire. I’ve really gained so much from him in the past six years. Then at my masters, I stayed with Roger, but split between him and Misha Amory. It’s really just been such a joy to work with two of the most incredible quartet violists in American history. It’s pretty exciting; it’s been such an incredible journey so far.
You’ve touched on some of this, but would you go back into your five-year-old mind to think about what it was that drew you to music and ultimately what led you to make that definitive decision to make the transition to viola?
Yes—both my parents are actually classical musicians. My mom is a cellist and my dad’s a conductor, so I really grew up [around music]; we watched family videos a few weeks ago and I saw my sister and I listening to music all the time and dancing around ourselves. And it was really just a part of us growing up, which I’m very appreciative of—I think that at such a young age, it really sticks with you. They started me on violin. I think I started on piano first, which did not last long. I still can’t play, which I wish I could. It’s hard to remember exactly how it worked, but I remember them telling me that I really couldn’t put the violin down.
My teacher was pretty strict about having a controlled practice hour in the day where I was monitored to make sure I was doing the right things. I wanted to walk around and fool around with it, but wasn’t necessarily allowed, which I think was a good thing. She really encouraged a stable technique from the beginning, which I think has really helped me. Even recently throughout the past years, I haven’t had to think about that so much, which I’m grateful for. I really just loved it from the beginning. And then switching to the viola; it’s hard [to recall]. I also don’t necessarily remember what it was like when I was 11 years old…but I do remember loving the sound. I was practicing violin and didn’t love all the screeching that I was having all the time. So the C-string, it was just an awesome trade for me. The depth and the soul of a viola is unparalleled, I think.
What is your favorite genre or time period of music that you like to perform?
Oh, that’s a good question. Well, I think Brahms has had a special place in my heart for a very long time. My teacher, Roger Tapping, just wrote a whole article about this and his love for Brahms, which I think has really rubbed off on me. Just how well he [Brahms] knows how to write for the viola, especially in the quartets, quintets, and sextets. Just the incredible viola parts, but also the clarinet sonatas that were transcribed by Brahms for viola I think work beautifully. And not to mention also his symphonies and things like that that I really love to play. But this summer, I really dipped my toe into more contemporary music, which I haven’t done before, at the Yellow Barn Summer Music Festival. Now I have a whole new love for this different genre that I haven’t had before, which I really appreciate. So it’s been fun to explore that.
You’ve spoken about music, but what else do you enjoy investing your time and energy into?
Over the past few years, I’ve been really into yoga. I’ve had quite a bit of back, shoulder, and neck pain from playing viola. That’s one of the downsides of this incredible instrument is that it comes with a few injury prone things. And I also play quite a large viola. It’s about an inch more than most people play, which adds weight. So I’ve gotten into yoga to help really decompress mentally and focus my attention to my breath, which is also so important in being a musician. Also physically, I find yoga very helpful because it stretches and also strengthens at the same time. I feel like it’s all encompassing and kind of what I needed; it’s helped me quite a bit.
Congratulations on your Primrose International Viola Competition win! What led you to audition for the competition?
Competitions have been on my mind over the past few years. I’ve done a few, and to be honest, they’re not always my favorite thing to do just because of, I mean, it’s competitive—it’s stressful and honestly, a little bit of it can be a grueling thing to go through. And it’s hard to have something that’s so personal, being judged right in front of you; it’s not a natural thing. I feel that every competition that I’ve done, I’ve come out a better violist. Maybe it’s just because I push myself more, but also the feedback from a lot of different people is/has been hard, but very helpful.
And this competition specifically was such a warm environment of violists, I’m even getting messages from people who I haven’t met that were also competing that were [saying], you sounded beautiful, congratulations…It’s nice to have that support, and I had a good amount of friends too that were there from Julliard. Two of the others who placed second and third are good friends. It was a nice environment to be in—and I also now can say that because I won. So it’s a little bit easier for me to say that; I definitely acknowledge that not everyone is feeling that way.
Leading up to the competition, how did you prepare for it?
It was kind of a bumpy road of feeling like I was very confident in how I was preparing and then some weeks felt terrible, and I would think, I’m not going to go. It was quite a bumpy road, but I started by preparing—there was the Walton Viola Competition at Julliard that was at the beginning of the semester. So I really got my Walton up to where I wanted it, kind of early on, which was good I think because then I could bring it back in a fresh new way after that. Then after the [Walton Viola] Competition, I scheduled my graduation recital a week before the Primrose Competition, which I’ve never done before, and I was kicking myself because I [knew] this was so much to try to do in two weeks. But I had videos of my performing, and you learn so much by listening to yourself perform. So I listened back and just having the feeling of playing all of my repertoire through for people in a formal way was a great way for me to prepare.
How was the weeklong experience for Primrose?
Definitely by the finals, I was pretty exhausted. I had never done three big rounds in a week before, and it was a good amount of repertoire, though not too much. But to have so much pressure on you, three times in one week is quite a lot. But as I said before, I think going through that you come out a better musician technically and even with thicker skin. Overall it was exhausting, but very rewarding.
When you were announced as a finalist, what was the first thing you thought or did?
It’s funny; my boyfriend was actually there with me and he’s a violinist, which was really nice to have that support. But I wasn’t so happy with how I played in the semi-finals, and I was beating myself up over that and he thought I played beautifully. So we actually made a bet about me getting into the finals, and he won because I got in. The bet was that I had to go golf with him Sunday morning. So that was the first thing that I thought about and was, oh gosh, like yay finals, but now I have to golf Sunday morning, which turned out to be very lovely. But I think I was also very excited to play Walton with an orchestra. I’ve never actually played with a large orchestra like that before; it was a difficult experience, but I had so much fun.
What does winning the Primrose Competition mean to you?
It’s been honestly very surreal. I knew that this was obviously what I was striving for and I’m so happy, but it’s like, whoa; I wake up and I’m is this real life? It’s been something that I’ve strived for probably as long as I’ve known about the competition. And it really gives me the confidence to go in the direction I’ve been wanting to go in. I feel that this helps me and guides me along to do whatever I work hard to do or what I want to do. That’s not the best way of putting that, but I feel like this gives me the fuel to strive harder to achieve more things and really just pour my passion into this art form that we do.
What does the legacy of William Primrose mean to you?
Oh, it means so much. He was really just one of the best violists in the history of violas. And I read a little bit about his teaching style and his playing style and obviously listened to incredible recordings that he’s made. His legacy means so much—I think as violists, we wouldn’t be where we are now with this important solo instrument if it weren’t for him. And Lionel Tertis and many other violists of that generation really were the first ones to be, this is a beautiful instrument and it needs to be heard alone. I’m eternally grateful for that, definitely.
In addition to the cash prize, you also received invitations to perform at the 2022 American Viola Society Festival & 47th International Viola Congress in June and then an invitation to participate in the semi-finals of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh International Competition in May. Besides those two invitations, what else is on the horizon for you?
It’s funny; I’ve been so much a planner my whole life. What am I going to audition for next? Where am I going next? And it’s grounded me definitely a lot and validated what I’m doing, but I’ve tried within these past few months to get away from that a little bit; I’m trying to go with the flow and see what happens. This [Primrose] was really the last thing that I have had planned. So now, for me the next step is going with the flow and getting back a little bit of what’s going to happen next, but I think there’s something to be said about spontaneity and just seeing what happens with my life and my career. And I’m really excited for that to happen.
Do you have any advice or recommendations for someone preparing for a competition, specifically a music competition?
As much as the technical work we have to do and all the hours of practicing we have to put in, I think the most important thing is staying true to your own musical voice. And trying to express that in the best way possible and having that really be on the forefront of your mind, because it’s easy to get caught up in, oh, I messed up this note or this didn’t go as well as I thought, but I think the biggest thing that will shine through is your voice and how you feel about what you’re doing. So, yes, that’s been the biggest thing for me.
Given the very high rate of COVID infections in the Los Angeles area due to the Omicron variant, Colburn will be taking some important additional precautions in order to protect our community.
Community School of Performing Arts
Trudl Zipper Dance Institute
Beginning the week of January 3, students and faculty will have the option to switch to online instruction. Faculty and students/families should be in direct contact with each other if they wish to shift to online instruction for the near term, based on local conditions.
Please see details below for specific areas of study.
Individual Lessons: Students and faculty have the option to switch to online instruction. Your instructor will be in touch with you directly to coordinate lessons.
Bass Ensemble: Classes will resume in person on January 23rd.
Big Band and Jazz Workshops: Sessions are continuing outside.
Cello Ensemble: The ensemble will continue online beginning January 9th.
Chamber Ensembles: Strings and piano students will resume in person following the Martin Luther King holiday (unless notified by your chamber coach). Winds and brass will resume outside as scheduled by their chamber coach.
Colburn Chamber Orchestra and Colburn Youth Orchestra: Rehearsals will resume in person on Sunday, January 16th outside.
Concert Band and Wind Ensemble: Rehearsals will resume in person on January 22nd outside.
Dalcroze for Suzuki: Classes will resume on January 19th online.
Dalcroze Classes on Saturday: Classes will resume in person on January 22nd.
Drama Classes: Drama classes will resume on Saturday, January 22nd in person.
Group Guitar and Piano: Classes will resume online on January 8th.
Percussion Workshops: Classes will resume January 8th online.
String Ensemble and String Orchestra: Rehearsals will resume in person on January 19th.
Suzuki Group Classes (violin, cello, guitar, and Violin Sight Reading and Musicianship): Classes will resume the week of January 10th online.
The spring semester will begin Monday, January 10. In the coming days, we will keep you updated about next steps beyond January 10th.
A native of Bulgaria, Moni Simeonov began playing the violin at age 5, and ten years later, came to the United States on a full scholarship to the Idyllwild Arts Academy in California. He earned his DMA at USC’s Thornton School of Music where he studied with Midori. An active member of the IRIS Orchestra, Mr. Simeonov also performs with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Pacific Symphony, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Opera, Ensemble San Francisco, and until recently, served as the Concertmaster for the Sacramento Philharmonic. His doctoral studies included minor fields in Viola Performance, Schenkerian Analysis, Japanese Language, as well as an emphasis on the interpretation of Balkan folk music. On tour and in Los Angeles, Mr. Simeonov dedicates considerable time and energy to community engagement work and to musical activities and presentations for young people. Moni has performed and coached alongside Midori for her Orchestra Residencies Program American and International tours. Until 2014, he served as a director for the program. Outreach activities have taken him to places as diverse as homeless shelters in Los Angeles and at-risk centers in Tennessee, to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon, and hospitals for the terminally ill in Sri Lanka.
Moni’s first CD recording was a result of his winning the Idyllwild Arts Academy Concerto Competition. Upon graduation from Idyllwild, he was named Most Outstanding Musician of his class. He continued his education at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Zvi Zeitlin on full scholarship, earned first prize at the school’s concerto competition, and was awarded a Performer’s Certificate. While at Eastman, Moni regularly performed on the school’s Antonio Stradivari of 1714. He also served as concertmaster for the Eastman Symphony, Philharmonia, and Opera Orchestras. Having earned his Artist Diploma from Yale University studying under Ani Kavafian, Moni completed his master’s in music there as well. He was the concertmaster for the Yale Opera, and Philharmonia Orchestras, as well as the New Music Ensemble. Following Yale, he earned his Graduate Certificate Degree from USC’s Thornton School of Music, where he studied with Midori and received the Outstanding Student Award.
Mr. Simeonov has attended several performance festivals, including Tanglewood, the Music Academy of the West, Pacific Music Festival, the New York String Orchestra Seminar, and the Oregon Bach Festival.
In the summers, Moni Serves as a violin teacher at the Interlochen Summer Festival, the Singapore Violin Festival, and the Atlantic Music Festival. In 2021, he created Bulgaria’s first chamber music festival “Quartet Intensive” in Sofia.
Mr. Simeonov has concertized and taught around the United States, South America, Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. His recordings have been archived by PBS, NPR, KUSC, Bulgarian National Radio and TV, as well as Japanese Broadcasting Company—NHK. Upcoming tour destinations include Japan, England, China, Singapore, and Lebanon.
Past chamber music collaborations have involved members of the Berlin Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Tokyo and Ying String Quartets, as well as Jerome Lowenthal, Giora Schmidt, Joseph Silverstein, Zvi Zeitlin and Midori.
Moni served as Adjunct Instructor of Violin and Chamber Music at USC’s Thornton School of Music until 2014. That year, he was appointed Director of String Studies and Violin Professor with the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach.
Co-presented by the Colburn School and the American Viola Society
(Saturday, December 18, Los Angeles, CA) – The Colburn School and the American Viola Society today announced that Natalie Loughran has been named the first-prize winner in the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition, which took place at the Colburn School, December 13–18, 2021. Samuel Rosenthal won second prize, and Nicholas Swensen won third prize.
Natalie Loughran has won $15,000, as well as an invitation to perform at the 2022 American Viola Society Festival & 47th International Viola Congress in June 2022, and an invitation to participate in the Semi-Finals of the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh International Competition in May 2022. Samuel Rosenthal has won $10,000, and Nicholas Swensen has won $5,000.
Natalie Loughran is pursuing her M.M. at the Juilliard School under the tutelage of Roger Tapping and Misha Amory, where she is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship. She appeared as a finalist for the 2020 Young Concert Artist Auditions and semi finalist at the Tertis International Viola Competition, where she was awarded a special prize for her performance of the Bowen Viola Sonata in C Minor. She is a member of the Kila Quartet, which has appeared on WQXR’s series, Midday Masterpieces, and has participated in the Perlman Music Program Chamber Workshop and the Robert Mann String Quartet Institute. Natalie has performed with the Verbier Festival Chamber Orchestra under Gábor Takács-Nagy, toured internationally with the Budapest Festival Orchestra directed by Ivan Fischer, and will be a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for the 2021-22 Season. In summers 2021 and 2022, Natalie will be attending Yellow Barn and Marlboro.
Samuel Rosenthal, age 21, grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where he began his musical studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Since the summer of 2016, Sam has attended the Perlman Music Program on Shelter Island, NY. More than anything, Sam enjoys playing chamber music with his incredible colleagues and friends. As a member of the Razumovsky Quartet, he received the Silver Medal in the Junior Division of the 2018 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. He was also the Third Prize winner in the 2018 Johansen International Competition for Strings in Washington, D.C. Sam is a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship at the Juilliard School where he studies with Heidi Castleman and Hsin-Yun Huang.
Nicholas Swensen is a passionate and active violist, chamber musician, soloist/recitalist, and conductor. As a violist, he has won several prizes such as first prize at the Oskar Nedbal International Viola Competition in 2020 (Prague), fourth and special prize at the International Max Rostal Competition (Berlin), the Danish Radio Classical Talent Award, and the Carl Nielsen talent award. Nicholas has performed at Denmark’s foremost music festivals, the Kronberg Academy Festival, Accademia Isola Classica, Oberstdorfer Musiksommer, Music@Menlo, and Ravinia Festival. In April 2021 he appeared with the Odense Symphony Orchestra performing the Walton Viola Concerto. He has received valuable guidance from esteemed musicians such as Tabea Zimmermann, Kim Kashkashian, Antoine Tamestit, and Ettore Causa, among others. Nicholas has studied with Barbara Westphal at Lübeck Musikhochschule and Lars Anders Tomter at the Royal Danish Academy of Music. He is currently pursuing his master’s degree at the Juilliard School with Heidi Castleman and Misha Amory.
Keoni Bolding won the Transcriptions Prize and received $1,000, for his performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca Paraphrase (Act II; arranged by K. Bolding), and Natalie Loughran won the BIPOC Prize for best performance of a work by a BIPOC composer and received $1,000, for her performance of William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano (2nd movement; arranged by N. Loughran).
During the final competition round, Samuel Rosenthal and Nicholas Swensen performed Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, and Natalie Loughran performed William Walton’s Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, with the Colburn Orchestra conducted by Salonen Conducting Fellow Molly Turner.
A total of 24 live round competitors from all over the world, representing 10 countries, participated in the 2021 Primrose International Viola Competition. The average age of participants was 23, with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest 29.
The live round competition jury included Barry Shiffman (Jury Chairman, Canada), Andrés Cárdenes (USA/Cuba), Victoria Chiang (USA), Daniel Heifetz (USA), Mai Motobuchi (Japan), Dimitri Murrath (Belgium), and Chauncey Patterson (USA). For full biographies, please visit https://www.primrosecompetition.org/2021jury/.
As one of the most renowned string instrument competitions in the world, the Primrose International Viola Competition features the world’s best and most promising young violists. The Competition offers southern California one week of exceptional international competition, exquisite music, and an exhilarating finish. All rounds are open to the public, and audiences can expect to hear a broad survey of the viola repertoire.
Founded in 1979 by the American Viola Society as the first international competition solely for violists, the Primrose International Viola Competition is proud of the rich history and legacy it promotes. For over 40 years, the Competition has continued to attract distinguished jurors and talented participants worldwide, serving as an inspiration to young artists across the globe. The Competition has an international reputation for identifying the talent of tomorrow and is respected for its artistic and professional integrity. Its laureates occupy principal seats of major symphony orchestras, act as professors in major centers of education, and have achieved critical acclaim as international soloists.
About the Colburn School
A performing arts institution located in the heart of Los Angeles, the Colburn School trains students from beginners to those about to embark on professional careers. The academic units of the School provide a complete spectrum of music and dance education united by a single philosophy: that all who desire to study music or dance should have access to top-level instruction.
Each year, more than 2,000 students from around the world come to Colburn to benefit from the renowned faculty, exceptional facilities, and focus on excellence that unites the community. Learn more at www.colburnschool.edu.
About the American Viola Society
Founded in 1971, the American Viola Society inspires excellence and builds community through viola study, performance, research, composition, and lutherie. The AVS provides support and resources for a global community of violists and viola enthusiasts with online resources, live events, competitions, scholarships, online series, funding opportunities, and the Journal of the American Viola Society.
How did you get started in the performing arts?
When I was younger, I would always run around the house, so my mom thought it was a good idea to put me in ballet. I started ballet when I was three at a community dance studio. Then when I was around 10, I started getting more serious about ballet, so I moved studios to a more professional one. At 12, I actually discovered musical theater. That’s when I did my first musical theater performance, Beauty and the Beast. I played Lumiere. I went on to perform more roles such as Wednesday Addams in The Addams Family and Millie Dillmount in Thoroughly Modern Millie. I just enjoyed being on stage.
Something about musical theater that’s different from ballet is that you can use your voice. When you no longer have any words to say you can convey emotion through song. I like having that option. Ballet is very different. You don’t get to talk so every emotion must be conveyed through your face and body language. I love and see the value in both.
How do you see the two genres overlap?
I have seen many shows on Broadway with ballet in them. I love it when they incorporate ballet because it is the perfect mix for me. One of my absolute favorite shows that I have seen on Broadway was Carousel. It was choreographed by my favorite choreographer, Justin Peck. I was at the edge of my seat the whole show. I just could not get enough. His choreography is mesmerizing and brought in the perfect mix of ballet and theater. They also brought in some [New York City Ballet] dancers for the run of the show, which I thought was so cool because they are living my ideal life of being a dancer and on Broadway at the same time.
Elements of theater are also brought into ballets with some sort of a storyline. I love these ballets because I can bring my acting skills to them. Another one of my favorite choreographers is Jerome Robbins. His ballets are very theatrical, so I tend to gravitate towards them.
How did you find your way to Colburn?
I always loved and preferred the Balanchine technique, however my dance studio at the time was very classical, and I would often find myself wanting more leeway from the basic classical ballet so I could express myself without restrictions.
I had a friend that went to the same dance studio at the time, and she moved to Colburn. I ended up auditioning for Dance Academy and got in. I was so excited to be able to dance Balanchine technique with such amazing faculty. Once Covid hit, I ended up doing my first year of Dance Academy on Zoom. Though not my ideal year, I learned so much and felt very strong when it came time to join my friends back in the studio.
How have your classes been going so far this year?
It’s been great. It’s definitely different being back in the studio around all my peers. I feel like the energy is so much different than just being in your room by yourself. We used to have a slightly modified schedule so we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves during Zoom, but now we’re back into the full schedule and I am loving it.
How do you think your training at the Dance Academy will help you in musical theater?
I always say that ballet is the root of all styles because it helps you with everything. Once you know ballet, you can merge into jazz, contemporary, tap, even hip hop if you want to because you learn how to find your place of center. Also, I think the more skills I have under my belt, the better, because you never know what a show calls for. So it’s great to learn as many skills as possible for the highest chance of booking a role. When I look back on the best opportunities I’ve had, it’s because of my dance training. It really does make a difference.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, we are going to be the first students to do The Goldberg Variations by Jerome Robbins. It’s very exciting because we’re some of the very few dancers that have gotten to do this material. It’s very challenging to say the least. So, we’ve been working very hard in the studios to put on a great show. I just love Jerome Robbins’ work so it’s very exciting to be able to do one of his ballets.
How would you describe The Goldberg Variations to people who might be unfamiliar with it?
It’s very fast paced, even for the pianist. The steps themselves aren’t very far off from a regular ballet class but they’ve got that classic Robbins spin on them that makes it so enticing.
There was also a student choreography show at the end of the semester. Would you speak about that?
Last Saturday, we showcased our works. I was very excited when we first heard about this project. I love choreographing. I usually choreograph for myself for fun, and I’ve even gotten the opportunity to choreograph a few numbers of Annie the musical for a local theater. I love exercising my creativity and showcasing my ideas. My piece is called City Strut with music by Benny Goodman. It’s a very jazzy solo heavily influenced by George Balanchine’s Who Cares?
What else have you been involved with recently?
In September, I had the opportunity to play Diana Morales in A Chorus Line at the GEM Theater in Garden Grove. That opportunity came out of nowhere. I saw a Facebook post saying ,”We’re looking for a Diana in A Chorus Line,” and I thought to myself, “Wait, I’m perfect for Diana.” Though I was a bit young for the role considering she is 27 and I am 16, I still went out and auditioned anyway because I had nothing to lose. I ended up getting the role on the same day that I auditioned.
We had rehearsals for about two weeks and then we went into tech for another week. We had a four-week run, and it was probably the best experience of my life. I’ve never been a part of a cast that has been just so caring towards each other and so talented. The show itself holds such an emotional place in my heart because the show was based on real stories. Singing “What I Did for Love” every night brought me and the audience to tears, and I loved feeling their energy.
That sounds incredible. What was significant about that experience?
I feel like I really grew as an actor and person during that time. My director, Damien Lorton, was absolutely amazing. He really knows how to bring out emotion from all of the actors. He took a scene and turned it into something that I had never thought of before. I’m very grateful for him and my cast mates. I’ve learned so much from just watching them perform. This is the first time I have done a show with only adults around me. I was the youngest in the cast by far; it was very different. When I first walked into the theater, I was terrified, feeling like I had to live up to their expectations, but they reassured me and built me up.
What’s your dream role?
I have a lot but to name a few dance-wise, I would love to be in Slaughter on Tenth Avenue, Who Cares?, and Carmen. For musical theater, I would love to play Maria in West Side Story, Nina from In the Heights, Anastasia in Anastasia, and Natalie in Next to Normal.
What drives you to keep going with your art?
When I was younger, I had a hard time with kids at my school. I was bullied a lot and made fun of for having these big aspirations. I always found that interesting because I had big dreams for my future, but other kids thought that was weird and were dragging me down for it. I ended up switching to homeschool when things got too hard at school. My dance schedule was changed to the morning, which was better for me in the end because I got more time to train that way.
There is a flame in me telling me to keep going no matter how many noes I receive and no matter how many people are trying to drag me down because there will always be people trying to drag you down in this business. What matters most is what you do about it and how you take that negativity and make something wonderful. So, I will not take no for an answer. I will keep going until I get a yes.
Do you have any advice for dancers younger than you?
Someone else’s success is not your failure. Spending all your time upset about the things you don’t receive doesn’t do you any good. You can still be a bit disappointed but don’t let that take over and define who you are. Just keep working hard and eventually everything will fall in line.
Special appreciation goes to the Colburn Society members whose annual support is directed to the Trudl Zipper Dance Institute, including the extraordinary generosity of Ann Mulally, David Kobrin, Aliza and Michael Lesser, Lucy Farber and Jim Bright, Mazie and Gabriel Hoffman, Anne and Jeffrey Grausam, Meltem and Mehmet Ozpay, George and Linda Cassady, Susan Friedman, and Layla and Gac Kim. To learn more on how you can support our students, contact email@example.com.
An experienced arts and higher education administrator, Lee Cioppa has combined a commitment to data-driven decision making with a passion for collaboration and innovation throughout her career. Prior to her arrival at Colburn in August of 2016, she held the position of Associate Dean for Admissions at The Juilliard School, overseeing admissions for the Dance, Drama, and Music Divisions with over 5,500 applications annually. She has been a presenter and speaker on arts admissions at numerous conferences including the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, Arts Schools Network and the Classical Singer Convention. Ms. Cioppa’s higher education career began at the Manhattan School of Music, where just three years after graduating with her Master of Music in oboe she was appointed Director of Admission. Subsequently she worked with the Alberto Vilar Global Fellows Program at New York University. Her Bachelor of Music is from the University of Ottawa, Canada.
The Center for Innovation and Community Impact (Center) was formed in 2018 with a vision to be a convening space for world-class artists to receive practical experiences that enable them to embrace their expanded role beyond the concert stage. The Center empowers the musical leaders of tomorrow with the necessary tools for self-expression—building context, relevance, and sustainability in their work.
The Center also centralizes and codifies the organization’s community engagement work, positioning Colburn to have a deep and lasting impact on Los Angeles and the performing arts community. Looking forward, the Center is well positioned to provide relevant equity, diversity and inclusion experiences that train the next generation of performing artists to contribute to a thriving community and to help existing organizations and successful artists effectively plan for a sustainable future.
As the Nichols Chair for the Center for Innovation and Community Impact, I am thrilled to support this important work at the Colburn School, and I look forward to seeing you at a Center sponsored event in the near future.
Nathaniel Zeisler, DMA
Dean for Community Initiatives