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Inside Blair: Chamber Music

Shing Ann Yeh
Next up on this series called “Inside Blair”, where we unravel the mysteries of the music school, is the chamber music program.  If you want to understand how the ensembles are determined, who the coaches are, what kind of music we play, and more, continue reading to your heart’s content!

For one special occasion, we even had a chamber group with the faculty!

Let’s start at the very beginning.  As mentioned in the previous post, there are auditions which occur in the first week of classes, but these determine not only your seat in orchestra, but also your future chamber group.  Now, most of what I am going to talk about is pertinent to all groups, but will be with string-related examples, as I am a cellist.
After your first semester, you’ll have an opportunity to continue with your original quartet or if you so choose, you can form your own chamber group with other friends. For instance, this year, I’m going to be in piano trio.  The people that you make a group with don’t even necessarily have to be in the same class.  Last semester, I played the Dvorak Piano Quintet with freshman and sophomore violinists, a pianist in his junior year, and a violist who was a senior.  Those were great times.  But I stayed with my original quartet in freshman year and that summer, we went to France.  So I am not at all discounting the first chamber group in which you are placed.

The freshman quartet who went to Aix-en-Provence!

You also do not have to be in solely one group.  You can actually choose to enroll in an extra chamber music class, MUSE 221, and receive an extra credit for it!  For instance, this semester, I’m going to be in a piano trio as well as a quartet of piano, clarinet, violin, and cello.  If you can guess the piece by the ensemble, you get a pat on the back?  No guesses?  Messaien’s “Quartet for the End of Time.”
For coaches, most string quartet groups are put with Professor John Kochanowski, who is the violist of the resident Blair String Quartet.  Every week, you and your quartet will play for him, and coachings are held in his studio.  One part about forming your own group is that you have the opportunity to ask different professors to coach you.  For instance, Professors Melissa Rose and Amy Dorfman are two people you could ask if you had a pianist involved.

Our awesome piano quintet. We bonded.

In terms of repertoire, most groups stick with the canon, going to the fabulous music library to browse around and find a good piece that no one in the group has played before.  Our freshman quartet performed the Debussy Quartet and started on a Beethoven.  On occasion, some groups will be asked by composers to premiere a new work!
Well, when do you get the chance to perform?  That will be next up in the “Inside Blair” series!

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