NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday with Scott Simon had an interesting piece this past weekend about the Baltimore Symphony’s Academy Week, which was held June 21 to 27th. Amateur musicians spend a week rehearsing with BSO players, and attending sectionals and private lessons. The week culminates in a public performance of the participants and BSO musicians at Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.
The repertoire is significant:
Wagner: Overture to Rienzi
Mahler: Third Movement from Symphony No. 1, “Titan”
Stravinsky: The Firebird Suite (1919)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
Mahler: First Movement from Symphony No. 5
Tchaikovsky: Fourth Movement from Symphony No. 2
The NPR piece was particularly interesting because it focused on one violinist, Tanesha Mitchell, who had studied as a child only because her teacher lent her a violin.
Mitchell sat next to Principal Second Violin Qing Li during a rehearsal with the full orchestra. Alsop gave a bowing direction that was different than the one she’d practiced, and took her by surprise.
“Whoa, my goodness, my brain went crazy,” Mitchell remembers. “I’m like, OK — I can’t get that really well. Qing just whispered to me, ‘Just get to your frog,’ the very, very bottom part of your bow. You get more bite down there. I did it at my frog, and boom, boom, boom, I did it. It was fine.'”
Mitchell gives music lessons in her home in West Baltimore. She speaks of the BSO’s Academy as a “life-changing” experience; she keeps in touch with friends she’s made at the Academy, and is now taking private lessons from a BSO violinist.
The piece is well worth a listen