Posts Tagged ‘Sequoia’

Sequoia Chamber Music Workshop

I spent the last two weeks teach­ing at the Sequoia Cham­ber Music Fes­ti­val at Hum­boldt State Uni­ver­si­ty. This was the Workshop’s for­ti­eth year, but only my first. It was an exhil­a­rat­ing, inspir­ing — and thor­ough­ly exhaust­ing — expe­ri­ence.

In a typ­i­cal day at Sequoia, stu­dents (ages 12–20) are assigned to new cham­ber groups in the morn­ing, read and select music, spend the day rehears­ing and prac­tic­ing, and give a pub­lic per­for­mance of the cho­sen piece in the evening. With four con­certs (plus a Fri­day Forum which the stu­dents pro­gram entire­ly them­selves) in five and a half days, the play­ers make their way through quite a bit of reper­toire in each ses­sion. The coach­es also work hard to ensure that every­one gets expe­ri­ence in a vari­ety of ensem­bles: large, small, winds/strings only, mixed instru­men­ta­tion, with piano, etc. The assign­ments are also designed to have stu­dents work­ing with as many dif­fer­ent col­leagues and coach­es as pos­si­ble through­out the week.

I coached a total of eight groups/pieces dur­ing Sequoia, rang­ing from Gwyneth Walk­er’s Con­cer­to for Bas­soon and Strings to Rimsky-Korsakov’s Quin­tet in B-flat Major for piano and winds to the Grand Nonet­to by Louis Spohr. Every day I had the great plea­sure of watch­ing my already tal­ent­ed young play­ers grow, becom­ing bet­ter at their instru­ments, more sen­si­tive as ensem­ble mem­bers, and just gen­er­al­ly more expe­ri­enced musi­cians. Some com­bi­na­tions of play­ers and pieces took longer to gel, but I was proud of each and every per­for­mance by my groups.

This fast-paced sched­ule cer­tain­ly has its pure­ly musi­cal ben­e­fits, but I saw oth­er pos­i­tive effects on the stu­dents. For one, play­ing with dif­fer­ent peo­ple every day (and rotat­ing between parts) seems to cre­ate a tru­ly col­le­gial and inclu­sive atmos­phere. This group of stu­dents was far less cliquey than at oth­er sum­mer music pro­grams I’ve expe­ri­enced. Also, between this sup­port­ive atmos­phere and the dai­ly musi­cal improve­ment, I saw stu­dents’ con­fi­dence lev­els grow through the week. At the begin­ning of a ses­sion, I could often tell who’d been to Sequoia before — return­ing stu­dents were more like­ly to want to rip into hard reper­toire. But by the end of each ses­sion, most every­one was game for a real chal­lenge.

Besides get­ting to work with so many enthu­si­as­tic young musi­cians, Sequoia offered me the oppor­tu­ni­ty to work, hang out, and per­form with the sev­en­teen oth­er great coach­es. In the course of the two fac­ul­ty con­certs, I played wood­wind quin­tets by Jean Françaix and Elliott Carter; Carl Nielsen’s Ser­e­na­ta in Vano for clar­inet, horn, bas­soon, cel­lo, and bass; and Albert Roussel’s Duo for bas­soon and bass. The Nielsen was the only one I’d actu­al­ly per­formed before, so it was nice to be able to add some things to my own cham­ber reper­toire.

I could go on and on about how great my Sequoia expe­ri­ence was — my won­der­ful host fam­i­ly, the silli­ness of the Fri­day Forums, the var­i­ous birth­day cel­e­bra­tions, etc., etc. — but I think I’ll just leave you with some pho­tos. There are a few pic­tures in the gallery below that don’t seem to fit with the oth­ers. Between the two ses­sions, a few of us coach­es had a real­ly fun gig: play­ing the nation­al anthem at a Hum­boldt Crabs minor league base­ball game! Charles DeR­a­mus, who loves both bass and base­ball, set that up for us.

Pho­tos tak­en by Sequoia Asso­ciate Direc­tor Ethan Fil­ner, Sequoia Counselor/Theory Teacher Dar­ryl Tol­liv­er, and Hum­boldt Crabs Pho­tog­ra­ph­er Erik Fras­er.