It will be a busy weekend for the Bangor Symphony Orchestra, with Saturday night’s annual fundraising Symphony Soiree and Sunday’s concert, set for 3 p.m. at the Collins Center for the Arts in Orono. But in between the evening gowns and champagne and rehearsing Liszt and Tchaikovsky, there are five young musicians in the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra who will get a rare chance to work with a master of the craft.
For the third time since 2010, the BSO will offer a master class on Friday evening with one of its soloists as part of the Dr. Maurice P. King Endowment Fund. In 2010 it was cellist and MacArthur fellow Alisa Weilerstein, and last year it was violinist Martina Filjak. In 2012, it’s Israeli violist Gilad Karni, a former member of the New York Philharmonic who currently performs with the Tonhalle Orchestra in Zurich, Switzerland, who will perform Rosza’s “Violin Concerto” on Sunday with the BSO. For violinists Rachael Szwec and Helena Tatgenhorst, violists James Van Kirk and Caleb Halvorson and cellist Katie Buerger, all Bangor-area teenagers and BSYO members, the tips and technique they’ll learn from Karni will stay with them for a long time.
Halvorson and Van Kirk study privately with BSO principal violist Laura Gallucci, a Winterport resident, who said master classes are among the most valuable experiences a young musician can have.
“Just the opportunity to play for a world-renowned musician has motivated both of my students to work very hard, and to test their technique to its limit. [They] had a common goal of mastering all the basics both technically and musically on their pieces so that they could get [Karni] to give them as advanced a level of musical commentary as possible,” Gallucci said. “I am hoping to learn some things as well.”
Gallucci played a recording of Karni playing the Rosza concerto during lessons as a motivator for her students, and the reactions she got from one student was one she said she’ll remember for a long time.
“It was like he had never thought the viola could sound like that, could speak like that, could be that varied in color and expression,” Gallucci said. “After I turned off the recording and we resumed his lesson on his piece, all this music just poured out of him. It was a great experience and we haven’t even had the class yet.”
BSO executive director David Whitehill believes the master classes are an extremely effective investment in young Maine musicians — especially those who perform with the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra, an arm of the BSO that has experienced rapid growth in the past few years.
“When you observe a master class, you can see on the faces of the young musicians the ‘a-ha’ moments they have while working with a master artist,” Whitehill said. “Sometimes the master will give the student strategies for approaching a particularly difficult phrase. Some masters will work on body position, which can greatly affect sound. They also give the students tools and tips to help them continue their work at home. It’s really a rare opportunity for young musicians to work one-on-one with musicians working at the very highest level in their instrument.”
The BSYO, led by Gina Provenzano, has gone from a group tenuously associated with the BSO to one that has already had several concerts this season alone, at Husson’s Gracie Theatre and during Downtown Bangor’s annual New Year’s Eve Countdown. They’ve bolstered their ranks with high-school-aged students from throughout the state and they’ve received several grants, including a $4,500 grant from the Maine Charity Foundation Fund of the Maine Community Foundation in December. At 2 p.m. Sunday, March 11, at the Collins Center for the Arts, the Bangor Symphony Youth Orchestra will perform a selection of works, including Franz Von Suppe’s “Light Calvary Overture” and Tchaikovsky’s “March Slave,” in a concert free to those attending the full BSO concert at 3 p.m.
This story was amended to correct the title of Dr. Maurice P. King and a reference to Zurich, Switzerland.