Students Exercise Stage Skills and Battle Nerves at Weekly Performance Forum

The Kova Quartet takes the stage at Performance Forum in January, 2018.

If you can play at Performance Forum, you can play anywhere. Fabiola Kim

Nerve-wracking, valuable, scary, unique, and encouraging are a few of the adjectives Conservatory students use to describe the weekly ritual of Performance Forum. Every Thursday at 11:30, selected students step onto the Thayer Hall stage in their gowns and suits to perform for their colleagues, teachers, and other members of the Colburn community.

The idea of a weekly Conservatory-wide recital was conceived by violin professor Robert Lipsett, a longtime professor and original Conservatory faculty member. He felt that students training to be performing artists should have regular opportunities to practice their craft. In 2017, Colburn began livestreaming Performance Forum on Facebook, allowing a wider audience to tune in, like family and friends from around the world.

According to piano professor Fabio Bidini, Performance Forum offers students a taste of real life that they wouldn’t otherwise get. In fact, he is known to schedule performers with only a day’s or even an hour’s notice, reflecting the flexibility required of a professional artist. “If you have the luck to have a career as a pianist, you might have a concert every week and you are always forced to be learning new repertoire. You have to be able to do it, and do it well.”

For Vitor, a first year Artist Diploma clarinetist, a recent performance in front of his peers served as a valuable learning opportunity when he played Bug by Bruno Mantovani, a solo clarinet piece he greatly enjoys playing. “Some things came out the way I wanted to and others didn’t,” he said. “Every performance is a learning opportunity. In subjecting us to that stress and pressure, we have to learn how to deal with it and we only get better the more we do it.”

Many students have busy performing schedules, and Performance Forum offers a valuable opportunity to bring repertoire in front of a discerning audience. “You never have to play in front of a hundred musicians anywhere else,” said violinist Fabiola Kim, who has an active career already, appearing with orchestras and in recitals, and is currently preparing for a solo recital at on March 11. “If you can play at Performance Forum, you can play anywhere.”

Violinist Felicity James, a member of the Kova Quartet, recalled how Performance Forum and Chamber Forum gave her group valuable practice ahead of an important concert. “We played on Performance Forum on a Thursday, then on Monday another piece on Chamber Forum, then the next Thursday another piece on Performance Forum,” she said. “It was a great way to prepare for the recital once we had those important performances under our belt.”

Despite the nerves, students find incredible support from their peers and the faculty, and that same audience of musicians are inspired by those on stage. “Each week I am so impressed by what the performers are doing on stage,” said Fabiola. “It’s one of the most encouraging environments, because everyone is cheering for you.”

Professor Bidini feels immense joy hearing students from across the Conservatory, not just in his piano studio. “It shows the unbelievably high level that our students have reached. These people are born to be on a stage, and the school and the teachers just help them to develop these qualities. It’s simply great.”

Hear Conservatory students in action during Performance Forum, every Thursday of the academic year at 11:30 in Thayer Hall, or tune in to the livestream on Colburn’s Facebook page.