Beverly Hawkins is the symphony education manager and liaison for the Symphony Youth Guild.
One of the benefits of membership in our Youth Guild is attending, and sometimes performing in, a masterclass with Utah Symphony musicians. The first masterclass of this season was led by violinist Yuki MacQueen. Playing in a masterclass requires a student to be very well prepared with their music, but also have the confidence and flexibility to be able to try new ways of playing in front of an audience, and with a teacher you’ve never met before. Five Youth Guild musicians did just that, playing pieces by Handel, Mozart, Bruch and Saint-Saëns. Yuki had some great comments for all in attendance, and they are useful for students of any instrument. Here are some of the insights gained from the class.
Yuki began each conversation by asking the students to do some self-reflection. What about their performance would they like to improve upon?
She pointed out that both Handel and Mozart were also opera composers and that it can be helpful to imagine characters inhabiting the music we play, even if it’s not from an opera. When discussing the musical characters in one piece she pointed out some difficult passages in the music. She went on to make the point that the difficulties made apparent to the listeners should be the emotional conflict, not the notes themselves.
In one of the pieces eighth notes became a topic of discussion. Yuki pointed out that while all the eighth notes look the same, they occur in different contexts. Some thought to those different contexts can generate ideas about how to distinguish eighth notes in one passage from those in another.
All musicians spend a good deal of time practicing alone, listening only to their part in the music. Yuki suggested that students familiarize themselves with the other parts of any piece. Try to keep those sounds in mind when practicing your part. Take any chance you can get to play with a pianist. And when you do get that chance, be sure to listen to how your part and the accompaniment work together.
All of these points can be summed up in two words: Listen thoughtfully. Learning how to play, learning the scales and arpeggios, learning all technical aspects of any piece is critical. But listening to what you play, and reflecting on what you hear, will turn beautifully played notes into music.
Thanks Yuki and all the talented young musicians who played for us! To learn more about the Utah Symphony Youth Guild visit our website.
About Utah Symphony | Utah Opera Education Department
The Education Department of Utah Symphony | Utah Opera creates and oversees opportunities in music for audiences of all ages, with special emphasis on musical experiences for K-12 students and teachers. As the largest performing arts organization in Utah, USUO promotes a broad public knowledge and appreciation of music through more than 30 state-assisted community outreach programs, amounting to more than 600 performances annually. USUO Education serves more than 7,000 teachers and 155,000 students each year throughout Utah by bringing both symphony and opera programs, free of charge, to every school district in Utah over a three- to five-year rotation. For more information, visit www.usuoeducation.org or call 801.869.9091.