Here is a message from Carol, Sumner Quartet violinist and newest violin teacher at the Chittick!
The Sumner Quartet was formed in the fall of last year, which was the final year of my master’s degree at Boston Conservatory. Although I was with the quartet from the beginning, due to my school schedule I did not begin teaching with musiConnects until this year. Two things I really like about being a musician are playing chamber music and teaching, so I am very excited to be a part of musiConnects.
When playing in a chamber ensemble, the more you get to know each other as people and players the more easily you can make music together. I appreciate the fact that rehearsing regularly as an ensemble allows us to work towards making music in a refined and unified way. This is particularly important in small chamber groups as they have no conductor, so listening to each other and reading visual cues becomes very important. While this is partly just learning to be a good chamber musician, the more you play with someone, the more easily you can anticipate musical choices or read each others body language, which makes it possible to create music in the moment as an ensemble. While I have played in many chamber ensembles, this is the longest and most consistently that I have worked with a quartet. I am grateful for the positive and respectful atmosphere of our rehearsals because I think it allows our ensemble to grow and develop in a healthy way. We work hard and accomplish good work, but we also have plenty of laughs!
I love the fact that not only do the students in the musiConnects program play chamber music, they are also encouraged to improvise and compose! Playing chamber music can be a great way to learn to work with others in a thoughtful and productive way. Learning to listen to each other, express yourself, and to find a compromise when everyone does not agree are important skills not only for music but also for daily life. Playing in a small chamber ensemble is an opportunity that is often not available in school music programs, but that I think is a very valuable experience to have. Each voice is important and the music would not be the same if one person dropped out.
Having an outlet to express oneself that is not in words is an experience that I think should be available to everyone, and creating music with others can be a way to connect in a very unique way. I have particularly enjoyed hearing the creative ideas the students bring to class, for example the rhythmic and musical patterns they come up with for the “rhythm machine,” and having a student come to her lesson and show me a short piece that she wrote during the week for fun.
Including improvisation and composition in classical music programs is surprisingly uncommon. As a student I wish that I had been encouraged to improvise more. Opening up that kind of creative outlet alongside learning to read music and playing music by “famous” composers is a great idea. I have very much enjoyed meeting and getting to know the students at the Chittick. The fact that the students have a music appreciation class and work in ensembles in addition to their individual studies forms a nice community and a strong foundation for building musical knowledge and developing a love of music.
I feel very lucky to be a part of the Sumner Quartet and musiConnects community!