Practicing Under Trees

Quartet 4My primary goal during my first week with VYOA was to meet as many students as possible and to get to know faculty, staff and parents. I shouldn’t be surprised, but the students are incredibly interesting, intelligent and polite. They are a diverse bunch, hailing from seemingly all over Vermont.

It has been great to hear how much progress both the advanced and younger players can make in one week. This is no small feat, and is largely due to the incredible faculty, conductors, and the super-friendly and organized administration, but is also due to the support of the parents and their teachers back home. However, most of all, it is the result of all of the hard work by the students themselves. It was so amazing to hear them practicing both inside and outside under the trees.

I also heard some great compositions by Eric Nielsen‘s composition class—it is incredible what they accomplished in less than a week!—as well, I sat in on VYO rehearsals led by conductor Andrew Massey and VYP rehearsals led by Anne Decker.

All week, I had a chance to meet students by hanging out in the hall or at meals, but also via two classes I taught: Advanced Tonal Theory, and Meet The Moderns, a class designed to introduce the students to modern music and the music of living composers.

More VGLFor the Meet The Moderns class, I initially thought I would only play music I chose, but since my main goal was to get to know everyone, I thought it would be great to let the students play what they like. Of course, I had no idea how this would turn out, and I did not screen the music ahead of time, but it turned out to be a lot of fun: everyone has such diverse tastes. Interestingly, many students chose to play classical music but others played everything from instrumental rock, metalcore and folk metal (I have to admit that I wasn’t even aware of these specific genres), and even a orchestral/rock piece entitled One-Winged Angel, inspired by a role-playing video game. I played some of my music, and even created an iTunes playlist that contains most of the pieces we shared. We also heard a really great bassoon solo (with multiphonics!) by VYO student composer Tim Woos entitled Assembly Line.

Finally, I was very impressed by the orchestral concert at the end of the festival. After only one week of rehearsals, both orchestras sounded quite good. The audience, packed with families, friends and musicians, gave a rousing standing ovation after hearing Mary McSweeney’s elegantly performed viola solo in Berlioz’s Harold In Italy, and at the end of the concert. Hats off to both Andrew Massey and Anne Decker for doing such a wonderful job of shaping all of the pieces.

I am really looking forward to working with the students, Andrew, Anne, the wonderful staff, and everyone else again this fall and to hearing my music played by VYO in January. It is going to be a fantastic three years!

Rob Paterson, VYOA Music Alive Composer-in-Residence

Robert Paterson is the Music Alive Composer-in-Residence with the VYOA. Music Alive is a national residency program of the League of American Orchestras and Meet The Composer.

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