O.C. violin students learn from a master
As each student made his or her way to the front of a packed Salmon Recital Hall at Chapman University to perform, one special guest in the front row paid particularly close attention.
Just a day after gracing the stage of the Musco Center for the Arts alongside members of the Berlin Philharmonic, international violin star Ray Chen was offering individual coaching to a select group of Orange County student violinists.
Presented by the Philharmonic Society in conjunction with the Orange County Youth Symphony Orchestra and Chapman University, the special two-hour master class left all four of its participants with a fresh outlook on music.
“It was a bit surreal when I first found out I was selected as one of the students for the workshop, but I can definitely say it opened my eyes to a lot of things,” said Jennifer Park, a violinist at Beckman High. “Ray was very effective at making you feel at ease up there, even though there were a couple hundred people staring directly at us.”
Each student performed a musical piece of his or her choice before being critiqued by Chen. The audience included parents, friends and members of the local community.
The process of selecting the four musicians, which included three high school and one college student, was led by Daniel Alfred Wachs of OCYSO and Chapman University.
“I thought the best thing to do would be to spread the wealth and reach out to various high schools throughout the county while also having representation from Chapman and OCYSO,” Wachs said. “That’s how we ended up with the variation of students.”
For Park, who said that playing in front of crowds remains her biggest challenge as a violinist, Chen’s words of encouragement left her with a stronger sense of confidence for the future.
“In the moment, I was kind of freaking out up there but I managed to keep it together,” Park said. “I’m actually applying to colleges right now and using this specific piece to send to different schools. Not too many people my age have the chance to get a part of their musical portfolio critiqued by a world-famous violinist.”
Christina Dubell of OCYSO said she walked away from her session with a better understanding of what makes a truly captivating performance.
“I … never realized how effective contrast is until Ray brought it up,” Dubell said. “If you’re playing a dramatic part of the piece, you have to be able to sort of tease the buildup to really grab the audience’s attention.”
In fact, a major component of Chen’s advice revolved around expressing one’s personality in the music – verbally and non-verbally. Even the way the students introduced themselves to the crowd was highlighted by Chen as a significant aspect of becoming a great performer. It’s an idea that Sean Lee, a junior from the Orange County School of the Arts, had never taken into consideration.
“It sounds so simple but I just hadn’t thought about the value in bridging that gap between you and the audience,” Lee said. “You have to be able to walk in and get a feel for the room. Watching the way he engaged the crowd with his humor and passion was so cool to see.”
Said Wachs: “Events like these can be life-altering in many respects, and to give these students a chance to gain feedback from such a high-level artist is priceless.”