A Lifetime High
A Lifetime High: Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Offers Luxury Music Camp To Amateur Adult Musicians
No, this is not a picture of a high school or college reunion, but it is a picture of nearly fifty people who have shared a new, purposeful pleasure: being part of The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's inaugural music "camp" for adults, all of whom wanted to take their musical abilities to a deeper level. These people came from all different areas of life, shared a great love of music, but for one reason or another, were not able to pursue their musical dreams as extensively as they wanted.
To that end, each paid up to $1650.00 for a week of intense rehearsals and interactions to play and learn from the professional musicians and the Maestra of the BSO, Marin Alsop. (She is fifth from the left in a light blue shirt, in the picture above.) The amateur musicians practiced and played in the Meyerhoff Symphony Hall, in Baltimore. According to the Academy Coordinator of the program, this is the first program of its kind in this country.
I recently interviewed Nancy Bridges, one of the BSO amateur participants. I asked her about her impressions of the experience – what she wrote is an unique, moving testament to the importance and need for such an experience for those who love music, but whose lives have taken them elsewhere. Here it is:
About me: I'm a 56 year old physician who worked in academia as a pediatric cardiologist for many years, now a branch chief at the NIH. As an undergraduate I majored in music and taught at a small neighborhood conservatory in New York City. I played classical guitar at that time, but always wanted to play an orchestral instrument. I started playing the cello two and a half years ago, and play in a community orchestra.
1. The Maestra: I have always admired Alsop's conducting from the audience, but sitting in front of her behind my cello was another experience entirely. One can see that there is an enormous amount going on in her mind as she conducts: her concept of the music; the music as it is being played by the orchestra; the difference between the two, and the contributions of the individual members and sections of the orchestra to the total sound are all being processed and analyzed by her, note-by-note in real time, as she simultaneously gives direction. She is fiercely intelligent, musical, and committed. Another side of her is evident in her smile when her son runs on to the stage. I have enormous admiration and respect for her.
2. The musicians: I should not have been surprised at the difference between us (the amateurs) and them (the professionals), but it was really overwhelming. The level of ability and professionalism of the BSO members is just astonishing. My work brings me into contact with a lot of high achievers - but nothing like this! The really moving thing about bring with them was that, despite this huge ability gap, they seemed to genuinely enjoy making music with us. In the cello section, we sat with a different cellist every day. Each one had a repertoire of little gestures and remarks designed to subtly help us amateurs make it through the rehearsals and to play the music as best we could, within the constraints of our own abilities and limitations. Our chamber music coaches worked with us 2 hours each night to prepare us for a chamber music recital at the end of the week. Every interaction was supportive, instructive, and positive.
The quintet that I played with performed a piece that was really beyond my ability to play in some spots. I had a one hour lesson scheduled with Chang Woo Lee, the BSO's principal cellist, and asked her to help me with the piece - I was in a panic that I would let my colleagues down. She turned the one hour lesson into a three hour lesson and, besides helping me to get through that performance, taught me things that will influence all of the playing that I do.
3. The music: The pieces chosen - Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances and Respighi's Pines of Rome - are difficult, not the kind of things that most of us are likely to play in our community orchestras. They are big, dramatic works, and the experience of playing these along side of the BSO musicians under Maestra Alsop's direction was a definite lifetime high."
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Leadership support for the BSO Academy in 2010 through 2015 is generously provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.