Tuesday May 17th, 2016
by YoungArts New York participant Jeremy Laureta (2016 Winner in Music)
We’d been talking about it every day. The third day of YoungArts New York began with a two-hour block simply labeled “Instrument Specific Master Classes,” according to the schedules for Group 4, the fourteen or so musicians, composers, and dancers that were preparing a cabaret-like performance under the direction of Christian Hebel and Chanel DaSilva. Each of the previous days we’d had interdisciplinary master classes that had been more like interactive workshops than traditional master classes—classes where we’d improvised accompaniments to a violinist’s concerto, discussed the concept of masculinity vs. femininity in the creation of a handshake, and sung (probably the craziest thing of all for a room full of professed non-singers). For each of these, we’d been joined by people in other groups and other disciplines, learning new ideas and encountering novel philosophies in a way that can only happen in a large group, but the “Instrument Specific Master Classes”—well, there was only one other violist at YoungArts New York this year.
The night before, though, all we could think about was the long day of rehearsal ahead, our first day working in the Baryshnikov Arts Center. Only as talk of rehearsal planning wound down at around 9:00 PM did we begin talking about the upcoming master classes. Christian chimed in that our bassoonist, Morgan Davison, would be having a master class with William Short, principal bassoonist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and incoming faculty at the Juilliard School, the Manhattan School of Music (hers and my current school!), and Temple University. Morgan, who was packing, nearly dropped her case. On the subway home, I nearly dropped mine.
The violists would have a master class at 11 AM with Cynthia Phelps, principal violist of the New York Philharmonic and Juilliard faculty. I figured that eight hours of practice would probably be better that night than eight hours of sleep.
All jokes aside, when Sae Rheen Kim (the other violist) and I walked into our master class room, we could feel the energy shift. Here was a musician that we’d both idolized, seen on stage countless times. Perhaps seeing our nervousness, she let us introduce ourselves and then talk, something I’ve never had to do before in a traditional master class setting. But then again, the room was the size of a practice room (read: a little small) and we were sitting very close.
I cannot really explain what happened in that hour. We talked about scales, hands, points of contact, and sound—that kept coming up, the viola as a “sound” instrument. Every musical instrument makes sound, obviously, but at one point, when Mrs. Phelps said that our sounds came not from our hands, but our ears, it unlocked something in my perception that I still think about. There were no magic tricks, no shortcuts she demonstrated, and yet something changed. In the final seconds of the class, as I closed off the opening phrase of Georges Enescu’s Concertpiece, I couldn’t help smiling; I heard something new. That sound—yes, that—I would remember for the rest of my life.