Contemporary Chamber Quartet Entertains and Inspires

Brooklyn Rider shares excellence and artistry through a two-day residency in the MSU College of Music.

As part of the MSUFCU Showcase Series, Brooklyn Rider concluded their visit with a performance at MSU’s Fairchild Theatre, generously sponsored by the Belle and Julius Harris Visiting Artist Fund established by Lauren Julius Harris.
Members of Brooklyn Rider engage in discussions with MSU music students during an entrepreneurship workshop.
Nicholas Cord works with MSU music student Irina Banova during a viola master class.
Colin Jacobsen on violin works with MSU music students Alex Casson, Wen Yi Lo, Yi-Pei Lin and Jennifer Pittman during a chamber music master class.

A premier chamber ensemble that captures international acclaim for its genre-defying repertoire rolled in to the MSU College of Music Nov. 30-Dec. 1 to offer master classes, forums and a stunning high-energy performance for the campus and community.

The two-day residency with the Brooklyn Rider Quartet was among the slate of programs offered this fall through the College’s Running Start program. Brooklyn Rider members Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violins, Nicholas Cords, viola, and Michael Nicolas, cello, presented violin and chamber music master classes, a student composer reading class, and a career conversation session in which they discussed their entrepreneurial path. Their visit represents the College’s commitment to introducing students to high-level artists who champion new business models and entrepreneurial paths for musical careers.

“Working with artists like Brooklyn Rider can both help our students to reach new artistic heights and expand their ideas for what’s possible in their future professional paths,” says Christine Beamer, director of career services and music entrepreneurship. “It’s more than a passive experience. It is an opportunity for students to draw back the curtain and analyze how entrepreneurial success combines artistic excellence, a passion for a vision, and methodical planning and development of that vision. These events give students a lot of opportunities to interact with successful, well-known artists, artistically, personally, and professionally.”

Alex Hoelzen, a second year master’s student in flute performance, agreed. Hoelzen was among nearly 20 students who attended the conversational Q&A in Hart Recital Hall, as well as portions of the student composer readings in Cook Recital Hall. He also worked backstage at the Dec. 1 Brooklyn Rider performance at Fairchild Theatre.

“Having groups and musicians who are making their own way come in and give us a glimpse of their careers and skills is imperative for students who hope to build a career in the arts,” Hoelzen says. “Brooklyn Rider was inspiring for their love of music, and their complete willingness to interface with students and audiences without any kind of conceit despite playing at an extremely high level.”

Brooklyn Rider performed works composed by MSU music students and discussed contemporary chamber music.
Compositions students pose for a photo around Brooklyn Rider: (kneeling) Gonzalo Garrido-Lecca; (standing left to right) Christian Kolo, Ben Montgomery, Ben Kapp; (far right) Colin Payne.
Christian Kolo observes Brooklyn Rider as they perform works he composed.
Brooklyn Rider’s visit included a violin masterclass, entrepreneurial and career conversations, student composition readings, chamber music master classes, open rehearsals, and a community performance.

Sharing the mastery

Brooklyn Rider’s residency was arranged through the Running Start program and through a local connection Gandelsman has with MSU. His father, Yuri Gandelsman, is an MSU viola professor. The younger Gandelsman had also visited MSU in January 2015 to captivate audiences with a two-hour, solo violin performance of all Bach sonatas and partitas. 

Now, nearly two years later, MSU students of chamber music, violin and viola were provided the chance to work one-on-one with Gandelsman and other musical masters of the Brooklyn Rider Quartet.

Alexander Casson, a performance diploma student in violin, seized the opportunity to attend the chamber music master class.

“Brooklyn Rider’s visit was a great way to learn how a professional quartet approaches the music and the industry,” he says. “I gained a lot by having a couple days to learn from them in solo and chamber master classes, as well as to hear their perspectives about entrepreneurship and the industry.”

Student composers shared similar thoughts on having their works read by the 21st century quartet with an edgy, accessible and classically based repertoire. Christian Kolo was among 25 composition students and faculty who attended the evening workshop.

“To hear the piece I had written come to life with such beauty, passion and technical skill was stunning and a chance we composers don’t often get,” says Kolo, an undergraduate in music composition. “Too often, we are caught in our rooms with a pen and paper or computer as we create the music. Allowing our pieces to come to life like this is what makes these residencies so worthwhile.”

MSU assistant professor of composition David Biedenbender affirmed the value of students and faculty being able to hear from artists who are exploring new channels for music and entrepreneurship.

“I have seen real breakthroughs for students during these visits—moments when the hard work of the semester meets the excitement of interacting with these artists and suddenly students discover something truly important about themselves and their music,” Biedenbender said. “Personally, I am still reaping the benefits, both artistically and professionally, of connections I made with visiting artists while in graduate school. I know from experience that these residencies really can positively impact the artistic and career trajectory of students.”

Faculty and staff helping facilitate the master classes and sessions comprising the Brooklyn Rider residency through the MSU Running Start Program include Christine Beamer, director of career services and Yuri Gandelsman, professor of viola; Ricardo Lorenz, professor and chair of the Composition Area; Dmitri Berlinsky. professor of violin; I-Fu Wang, associate professor of violin; and Walter Verdehr, professor of violin. The Brooklyn Rider residency was sponsored by the Belle and Julius Harris Visiting Artist Fund established by Lauren Julius Harris, as well as the the Withrow Endowment.

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