Lang Lang Scholars at MYA This Week

Five Lang Lang Scholars arrived in Chicago on Sunday.  They are rehearsing chamber music with our students during the day and preparing movements from piano concertos with Symphony Orchestra in the evening.  Pictured is Clayton Bo Stephenson from New York City.  Also here are Sherri Lun and Matthew Chan from Hong Kong, Elliot Wuu from California, and Avery Gangliano from Washington, D.C.  They and their family members are being hosted by MYA families.  Lang Lang personally selected these talented young pianists with the goal of inspiring and educating the next generation of classical music lovers and performers.  With the music in the halls this week,  we can't help but be inspired.  What a wonderful way to start up our season!

On Friday, the Scholars and Symphony Orchestra will be presented at a Ravinia KidsConcert.  If you didn't reserve seats for the Pavilion, it is a full house.  But, please come listen to these talented young pianists on a Saturday recital at the MYA Center at 4 pm.    

Amazing Will to Create

Our Board President, Tom Sharp, sent me a link this morning to the story of an amazing young man, a professional musician born without arms, who uses his feet to play.

When you think you have it hard, be inspired by Felix Klieser.  When asked why he dislikes talking about living with no arms, he says:

Because my life is very easy. I am a musician and I want to play concerts; the rest is private for me. When you go on stage, you are in public, with a lot of people looking at you. I hate public life. I am what I am and I do what I do but I don't want to become famous, I just want to be a normal person. I want to give people a nice time and touch them with music. Music is not a technical thing for me, it is emotional.

2014 Gold Medal at Fischoff

Happy faces?  They should be! They just won the coveted gold medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition that is held over Mother's Day weekend in South Bend, Indiana, at the beautiful DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on the Notre Dame campus.  Kudos to Rachel Stenzel and Aidan Perreault, violins, Christopher Gao, cello, and David Berghoff, viola!  

What does this mean?

  • They worked very hard!  They were selected by a screening committee to be one of 24 groups out of 61 entries nation-wide to compete in the quarter finals on Friday, an honor shared by three other MYA chamber music ensembles.
  • Their performance on Friday convinced the Junior Judging panel of 8 that they should be one of 12 groups to move to the semi-finals on Saturday (along with another MYA group: Masha Lakisova, violin, Haddan Kay, cello, and Derek Chung, piano).
  • They impressed a panel of 12 Junior and Senior Jurors that they should advance to the final three to compete for medals on Sunday (along with groups from the Colburn School and Music Institute of Chicago).  
  • Experience (they have been in MYA a combined total of 33 years! and have entered and performed at this competition before), a winning program (Brahms, Beethoven and Bartok!) and a performance which captivated the audience and led 8 Senior Jurors to select their Quartet Fuoco as this year's Gold Medalists!
  • MYA now has nurtured 17 medalist winners since 1994.
  • We are very proud and humbled to have the privilege of working with these young people and watching them grow and develop over their years at MYA.  Chris and Aiden will be back for one more year.  Rachel will be attending Cleveland Institute of Music as a violin major in the fall.  David will be studying music and computer science at Rice University in Houston.  

MYA's Own Super Star: Ethan Bensdorf

Ethan Bensdorf (MYA '03 Alum) will solo with Symphony Orchestra in two concerts at Bennett Gordon Hall on Sunday, April 27.  Tickets are available at the door or can be purchased on-line.

We recently communicated with Ethan.  You might find his answers interesting.

What is your favorite aspect of working for the New York Philharmonic?

I remember listening to recordings of the New York Philharmonic, and thinking of the players in the orchestra as celebrities. Never in a million years did I ever imagine I could actually be a part of this great institution. Now, all of a sudden, I am physically sitting next to, and making music with these seemingly fictional characters who I have idolized since I was a kid. I literally have to pinch myself every once in a while to make sure it's real. 

Tell us about what you did to get to the New York Philharmonic?

There is obviously a lot of hard work that goes into audition preparation, but it isn't just about the amount of work, it is about the efficiency of the work. Especially for us brass players, we can only physically  put in a certain amount of time on the horn before our chops start to give out. In order to maximize practice efficiency, I make sure that I am always an active listener. I try to really hear what comes out the other end of the bell, not just what I think I am doing internally. I keep asking myself if what I am trying to do actually translates through the instrument and out the other end for the audience to hear as well. In addition to the physical practicing, I remember doing a lot of mental preparation for the audition as well. I made sure I listened to recordings so that I really knew each piece I was working on, and not just the excerpts listed.
There is no way to play a perfect audition, and I never strived for that. So many players come out of auditions proudly because they didn't miss any notes. For me, it is always about the music. I would go in there and try to play my best; good sound, good rhythm, good articulation, good intonation, etc. If I really believe in what I am playing from a musical stand point, then the audience would have a better chance in believing in me too. 

What advice would you give to students who might want to follow your career path?

As I wrote above, don't strive for perfection. I know that sounds silly, but in reality, there is no such thing as perfection. We all got this far because we love music. It is important never to stray from the roots of why we started playing, and why we have continued for so many years. Obviously it takes a lot of hard work to make it to "the big leagues", but that is the same in any field. What makes our situation unique is our creative souls. We get to tell stories every day with our instruments. Because of that, it is always important to play from the heart, play with conviction, and follow your dreams. Anything is possible, except perfection.

What do you think about the piece you are playing with MYA?  Have you ever played it before?

The last time I played the Arutunian concerto was on my last orchestra concert at ETHS. I was terrified. I had never stood in front of an orchestra before, and I remember quite literally shaking in my boots. I remember telling myself to immerse myself in the music in order to calm my nerves. And there is plenty of great, passionate music in the piece. That is the only thing that got me through it. It didn't seem like it at the time, but playing that concerto was one of the best things I could have done for my trumpet playing. As with most things, the more you do something, the easier it gets. It is important to consistently push yourself. That is how we grow. My job is a constant reminder of that. Every week brings a new challenge, which I am forced to meet, and I have grown tremendously over the years because of that. I am definitely looking forward to the challenge of playing this piece again!

Extraordinary Careers: Addendum to Blog on Yo Yo Ma

There was an interesting report in Musical America Worldwide in my Inbox this morning. Good read with interviews and stories of musicians who developed successful careers, including Carl Tanner who went from bounty hunter to have a career as a tenor opera singer.  There are several stories of successful arts administrators.  Enjoy!

SAVE THE DATE!  Wednesday, May 21, 2014  MYA's Gala honoring Yo-Yo Ma


Crescendo of Ambition Gala: Honoring Yo-Yo Ma

What makes a super star in the classical music world?  Is it prodigious talent?  Yo-Yo Ma is one of a handful of classical musicians who falls in this category.  With the changes in the recording world where record companies used to make stars, Yo Yo Ma falls into the category of being one of the few classical artists who as Welz Kauffman, CEO of  Ravinia, says can sell out a show.

There are many child prodigies, and conservatories are filled with extremely talented musicians.  I think the answer to what makes a super star lies in the less tangible qualities that Yo Yo Ma and few others have.  They are great communicators, not just musically, but they have the ability to connect with people, and take the time to do so.

Here's my Yo Yo Ma story that illustrates this belief.  Years ago I took my 12 year old daughter to hear Yo Yo perform at Symphony Center.  After the concert, we joined the long line of people outside the green room who wanted to get his autograph or talk to him.  I had a Polaroid camera and young cellists we knew kept asking me to take their photo with Yo Yo which I was happy to do.  When it was our turn, I snapped the photo, and much to my daughter's dismay, the photo was lousy. Going to the car, her tears were flowing, so I decided to go back and ask if we could take another photo.  He put his arm around my daughter whose face was all puffy and red from being upset, and said, "Now, get it right now, Mom!"  He then let her play on his cello, so I left with a bright faced, happy girl.

A super star is someone with talent, but also charisma, compassion and a giving heart who builds their career by being interested in other people and other ideas.  No better a person to exemplify than Yo-Yo Ma with his creative forays into not only classical music, but American bluegrass music, traditional Chinese melodies, and Argentinian tangos.

Do you have a Yo-Yo Ma story to share?

A Parent's Perspective: Why YOU should attend Taste of Midwest Young Artists

Dear friends of MYA,

My name is Sarah Alter, and I am the proud parent of an MYA student and member of the Board of Directors.

If you haven’t bought your tickets yet… don’t miss out on an amazing new concert and fund raising event : the Taste of Midwest Young Artists on March 4th!

As all in our family know, our Gala has been the cornerstone of our fundraising activities over the years and will continue to be so thanks to the successful leadership of Cathy Popp and many other parents. Now we need to explore ways to supplement our fundraising activities so that we can scale the magic and musical mission of MYA!

This great new opportunity is thanks to the partnership of Mesirow Financial and is truly unique in that 100% of the proceeds will go to MYA…again thanks to their generosity.

Details are as follows:

Date- March 4th
Time- 5:30 – 8:00 p.m.
Location- Mesirow Financial Headquarters: 353 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL
Entertainment- This is a sampling of all our great groups-vocal,orchestral, jazz and will even include specially composed music by grammy award winning composer Gary Fry in honor of this great new event and Chicago’s Big Birthday!
Tickets- only $100 each

How can you help?

Invite new families or potential supporters to join you. If you work downtown, use this as a great way to entertain team members, co-workers, or clients. We would love to expose new families and new business partners to the magic of MYA in hopes that they too want to help support our vision to grow.

For more details and to purchase tickets, please follow THIS LINK today; seats are limited!

Look forward to seeing you there!



Music at the Fort Kicks Off with Avalon String Quartet

MYA is kicking off our Music at the Fort Recital series next weekend with the Avalon String Quartet, a professional quartet in residence at Northern Illinois University.  We are thankful for sponsorship of this series this year by Baytree Bank in Lake Forest and the Highland Park Community Foundation.

These are fun, informal recitals with wine/juice & cheese receptions.  Don't miss this one or others in the series this semester: