Students, professors team up for musical performance

GVSU Chamber Orchestra features faculty soloists

By Daniel Goubert | 3/28/16 7:05pm

Though it stimulates the ears rather than the tastebuds, music can nevertheless feel like a feast. Conductor Henry Duitman described the three pieces played during the latest performance by Grand Valley State University's Chamber Orchestra and GVSU faculty artists as an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. For the students involved in the performance, the most satisfying part of this meal was that their experienced faculty helped them make it.

Music department Chair Danny Phipps said the March 22 concert's main purpose was student benefit. Phipps performed alongside the Chamber Orchestra and clarinet professor Arthur Campbell for the night's final "dessert" performance of Franz Danzi's "Duo for Clarinet and Bassoon."

Phipps said the music department takes advantage of staff talent to help students grow as musicians.

"The important thing is that that concert was an opportunity for our students to hear artist faculty perform," Phipps said. "It’s not just a nice thing. It’s not just a fun thing. It’s critical to study that students who own instruments hear people who have a achieved a certain level of proficiency and ability.

"Live performance gives you an opportunity to hear a great deal. You can hear expression. You can hear how things are supposed to be interpreted. You can hear tempi. You can hear sound production of a particular artist you’d like to mimic."

Sookkyung Cho, who played Franz Schubert’s “Trout Quintet” on the piano alongside four of her colleagues on strings to open the night with an anachronistic main course, said the idea of learning through imitation is important for music.

"A lot of (learning) comes from imitating," she said. "We have to find our own voice as we grow, but we also have to experiment with a lot of different possibilities and I think imitating is an important way of learning. Babies imitate how adults act, and speak and learning music is like learning a new language, too."

Following Schubert’s piece, the Chamber Orchestra whet audience appetites with Béla Bartók's "Divertimento for Strings, third movement” before collaborating with Phipps and Campbell at the night’s end. Cellist Jake Will said collaborating with faculty authenticated his experience.

“There’s more of a higher grade performance feeling (alongside faculty),” Will said. “Especially with (Phipps): he’s always trying to push us to get to the next level. It’s always beneficial, being able to have a professional setting and getting that drive to know your part inside and out before the soloists even get there.

“It’s great to see the collaboration that has to be put in between all these different groups: between soloists, between the ensemble, between the director.

Flutist Hannah Petersen said performing with faculty helped solidify her future musical goals.

“Our professors are the people we really look up to, we’re striving towards the things they have achieved and we want to learn from them as much as possible,” Petersen said. “I love being able to play with my professors and feeling like I’m a part of what they’re doing.”

Campbell said that this idea of inspiration is important in both playing and listening to music. He said that though they can seem intimidating, the diverse assortment of pieces played in shows like this and the diversity of skills necessary to play them give music strength as an artistic medium.

"There’s a lot of raw emotion in each of (these) pieces," said Campbell. "The arts carry so much weight, we can (often) think, 'oh that’s too heavy, or oh that’s too serious,' but it should never be too heavy or too serious. It should be something that can inspire us, and carry us further in our thought processes, whether it’s the mechanics, the poetry, or the athleticism."

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