Renowned Orchestra Members Offer Perspective

New York Philharmonic members talk careers, professional musicianship with students in MSU College of Music.

NY Philharmonic member Joe Alessi, trombone, offered more that 60 MSU College of Music students his perspective about life as a professional musician during a special Q&A discussion.
Violinists Anna Rabinova and Yulia Ziskel of the NY Phil Harmonic conducted a mock audition master class with the College of Music’s violin studio.
The MSU Trombone Studio poses with Joe Alessi, left to right: Associate Professor of Trombone, Ava Ordman, NY Philharmonic member Joe Alessi; and students Sean Biehn, Nathaniel Geiger, Philip Mitchell, Aaron Wright, and Paul Rivera.
Violinists Anna Rabinova and Yulia Ziskel also held open career discussions with College of Music students during their two day visit.
Joe Alessi works with College of Music student Aaron Wright during a master class with the MSU Trombone Studio.

Two violinists and a trombonist from the New York Philharmonic visited the MSU College of Music in early October to mentor students in performance, auditioning and career development through special workshops and master classes.

New York Philharmonic violinists Anna Rabinova and Yulia Ziskel held a master class followed by an informal question and answer session through a two-day visit sponsored by the College’s Running Start program. About 35 string musicians attended the class that focused on playing standard orchestral excerpts required for job auditions, with many receiving one-on-one feedback from the Russian-born musicians. On day two, Rabinova and Ziskel provided insights on the audition process, drawing from their professional experience as search committee members and audition judges for the Philharmonic.

“It was wonderful to see how students responded to Anna and Yulia,” says Associate Professor of Violin Dmitri Berlinsky. “They took turns demonstrating and making comments, and addressed very specific details about orchestral playing that only an experienced orchestral player can do.”

Berlinsky was instrumental in bringing the two violinists to campus. He knew both Rabinova and Ziskel through shared heritage and study, as well as from joint performances and tours. When he heard the New York Philharmonic was in Ann Arbor, he sensed a great opportunity to have the two come to MSU to work with students.

“They were exceptionally accommodating with their schedules, and were extremely impressed with the level our students," says Berlinsky. “Bringing artists like Anna and Yulia here is also a great way to spread the word about our students and faculty since they go back and talk about the diversity and talent we have here at MSU.”

Associate Professor of Trombone Ava Ordman also leveraged the strength of her professional network to invite New York Philharmonic principal trombonist Joseph Alessi to campus.  

Ordman has invited Alessi to visit MSU twice before for master classes during her time at MSU. The two originally met in the late '70s as finalists for the second trombone position in the Philadelphia Orchestra. After that, their paths often crossed and they became good friends over the years.

During his recent visit, Alessi conducted a master class, followed by an hour long question and answer session with members of the MSU Wind Symphony and Symphony Orchestra.

“During the master class, Joe remarked how great it was that he didn’t need to talk about the technical aspects of playing with our students since they play so well, and that instead, he could talk about music,” Ordman says. “That’s always the goal. He was very impressed with what he heard.”

Christine Beamer, director of Career Services and Music Entrepreneurship at the College of Music, says that the recent visits reflect the strength of the professional networks held by College of Music faculty members.

“I believe very strongly in faculty collaboration and in faculty opening the doors for students to pursue particular careers or opportunities for musical and artistic development,” says Beamer, who also coordinates the College’s Running Start Program. “It reflects on our commitment to help students imagine what musical careers are like—from entrepreneurial to traditional—and to help them make those professional connections.”

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