Thursday, April 30, 2009
Torrington Musicians Climb a Mountain--Toward Dreams
FALLS VILLAGE-On one of the first full blown days of spring, the halls and houses of Music Mountain reverberated with the sounds of violins, violas, cellos and basses. As the venue's season has not yet begun, the symphony of scales and bits of concertos that drifted onto the central lawn Monday came from 30 of Torrington High School's aspiring musicians, who had trekked up to the music haven for a day of master classes.
"It's gives them an opportunity to learn what we could never give them in Torrington," said Wayne Splettstoeszer, the conductor of the high school's orchestra. "There are not a lot of options for string students."
Thanks to a grant provided by the Community Foundation of Northwest Connecticut, Music Mountain hired six students from the Hartt School to teach two 90-minute classes. Because many of the students do not have private instruction, the master classes were divided up by instrument to create the most individualized situations.
The purposefully low student-to-teacher ratios allowed certain tricks of the trade to emerge, such as how playing a cello's C string in a certain way mimics the theme from the "Jaws" movies, or how a mute can be helpful when practicing in hotel rooms. The Hartt School students had the added advantage of being closer in age to the Torrington students, which fostered an immediate ability for each group to relate to the other, as well as giving the younger musicians an example of what their next step could be in pursuing a musical career."We re-thought the idea of master classes," said Carol Ascher, vice president of Music Mountain, referring to the traditional model of older professionals leading other highly- skilled professionals. "My idea since I've been on the board is that we needed to connect more with underserved kids."
The students and teachers will complete journals, detailing their experience throughout the day and containing their critiques. Ms. Ascher plans to use the feedback as part of her report to the Community Foundation, as well as material for future versions of the partnership with the Torrington school district.
The NAMM Foundation recently awarded the city its ninth ranking in the annual Best 100 for Music Education, and Mr. Splettstoeszer hopes to expand the master class program to the elementary schools, where there is a significant number of string players.
Nicholas Gordon, president of Music Mountain, which his father founded in 1929, explained the benefit to the facilities' guests: "If you take a kid who plays in a high school orchestra and doesn't know what his instrument sounds like and you put him on this stage, suddenly he realizes, 'Gosh, what a wonderful thing it is to play the fiddle.'"
For more information on Music Mountain and its upcoming season, see the Web site www.musicmountain.org.