ASQ at Juilliard for the Lower String Seminar

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Fifth Floor Juilliard View over Broadway
Fifth Floor Juilliard View over Broadway
Just off-stage from an invigorating and wild reception to our Brahms Piano Quintet with Joyce Yang in the Engleman Recital Hall, the ASQ made a dash from CUNY-Baruch last Thursday to forge our way north to Juilliard in a rather wet rush-hour for Toby Appel’s Lower String Seminar (LSS). Happily we picked up a recently vacated limo right across the street since many of you know that getting an unreserved cab ride in Manhattan between 4-5 pm on any weekday can be an agonizing exercise in frustration. We arrived by way of a swift detour on the West Side Highway in pretty good time for what was the last LSS of the semester. Attendance was pretty much capacity since Juilliard student violists, cellists and bassists know that their final grades depend in part on the regularity of their attendance as well as engagement in the syllabus.

This was perhaps our 6th visit over as many years to Professor Toby Appel’s unique course in which very practical aspects of the professional musician’s working career are discussed with successful practitioners to the fore.

Topics of classes may include:

  • The Bach Suites, with Yehuda Hanani
  • String design and function, with Fan Tao
  • Instrument adjustment, with Guy Rabut
  • Interview/discussion, Cynthia Phelps (principal violist of the NY Philharmonic)
  • Bass restoration and set up, with David Gage
  • How to make a career in music, with Charles Wadsworth
  • Children’s concerts and alternative careers in music, with Bruce Adolphe
  • Finding a university teaching position, with Jesus Castro Balbi
  • How does one survive more than 25 years in a string quartet? With the Alexander String Quartet.

Typically Toby will bring in guests to speak on topics not usually available to Juilliard students. How to speak to your violin maker about sound. What is a sound?

For the ASQ, our presentation focused on everything from developing residencies with or without academic affiliations, and preparing for exhausting comprehensive cycles – including the Bartok cycle which we just completed in Manhattan. We also discussed developing repertoire identity, personnel changes, supportive and cooperative interpersonal relationships, and balancing the necessary maintenance “chores” that sustain the ongoing enterprise.

In a two hour span, there’s plenty of time to get to a wide variety of topics and even leave enough time to perform a few random movements of Bartok along the way. It was a credit to Toby and to his class of 2011-12 that the questions were substantial and challenging. These are curious and gifted students who didn;t waste the opportunity to get at some gnarly issues and hear some candid responses from “people in the know.”

Well done Toby – and thanks for inviting us back again!

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