Rising to New Levels
Video by Kyle Walker, ECU School of Music
Four Seasons ’Next Gen’ program engages musicians at home and on the road
Musicians across the region are performing on a higher scale thanks to a new outreach initiative offered through the East Carolina University School of Music Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival.
The new Next Gen on the Road program spurs students to sharpen their performance skills through a collaboration with ECU faculty, alumni and music majors, high school students and professional performing guest artists.
“At its core, the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival exists to serve our communities and to showcase exceptional music and musicians,” said Ara Gregorian, Four Seasons artistic director. “Next Gen on the Road is an opportunity for us to not only develop leadership and professionalism with our current students at ECU, it also allows us to take these opportunities to even younger musicians, exposing them to excellence and providing them with important learning tools for their future.”
Four Seasons hosts two Next Generation residencies and concerts each year in Greenville. Through this program, ECU students work in collaboration with chamber music greats to prepare, rehearse and present public concerts.
Taking it on the road
Next Gen on the Road takes the residencies on tour throughout North Carolina and beyond. This November, Next Gen travelled to Winston-Salem and Norfolk, Va. The concerts and residencies there featured guest artist and world-renowned cellist Raman Ramakrishnan; ECU alumna Meredith Harris, viola; and ECU faculty and students.
During the two-day residency in Norfolk, the project collaborated with the Virginia Governor’s School of the Arts to have master classes, combined side-by-side rehearsals and a concert for the public. More than 100 musicians from ECU, the Governor’s School and the community worked together in intensive settings to put together an additional concert.
The second stop of the tour took Next Gen on the Road to the North Carolina Music Educators Association conference in Winston-Salem, which allowed an opportunity to present Four Seasons and the ECU School of Music to music educators from across the state.
Steeper learning curve
Mentoring is the heart of the program’s success. The ECU students work with the high school students, and all the students benefit from the mentoring provided by faculty and professionals.
“One of the cool things about Next Generation is that when we’re in Greenville, we have the opportunity to work with our teachers and guest artists,” said Micaela Fruend, ECU viola student.
“Then, when we go on the road, we get to be the mentors and help high school students,” Fruend said.
Gregorian said students learn much more from the experience of working toward a performance, particularly when professional artists are part of the team.
“The learning curve is so much steeper than just getting told what to do in a lesson or asked to practice,” he said. The students “actually have to produce on the level that the professionals are playing on.”
ECU cello student Cameron Collins agreed that performing with professional musicians raised the bar on his playing ability. “You raise your level,” he said. “It’s a good experience because you play at a level you didn’t necessary know that you had.”
A distinct advantage
Christopher Buddo, ECU interim dean of fine arts and communication, said the regular student and artist interaction offered through Next Gen on the Road is unique to ECU and gives students a distinct advantage as they enter the professional world.
ECU violin student Katherine Dennis said it was nice to work with the returning recent graduates who were close to her age and already working in the industry. “Talking with someone who is maybe only three of four years older than you is really good because they’re dealing with some of the same types of issues that you will probably deal with,” she said.
“It is rare to have such exposure to high-profile guest artists and faculty, let alone be able to perform with them,” Dennis said.
While the program provides a unique learning opportunity for ECU students, high school students and music educators in the region benefit from the collaboration. Communities benefit as well, with an opportunity to enjoy the collaborative concerts.
Gregorian said, “One of the really great things about Next Gen on the Road is we get to take of all of the work that we have done here in Greenville preparing for the concert to other places – to play in Norfolk, to play in Winston-Salem, to bring what we do to these communities … to show them what we do with our students at ECU.”
A second Next Gen on the Road tour took place in February with performances in Greensboro and Hickory. The tour ends in Greenville with a concert on Feb. 23 at the ECU School of Music.
“Next Gen on the Road is a great opportunity to share the festival with people throughout our region and beyond,” said Gregorian. “It is also a fantastic learning opportunity for our current and future students. I can think of no better way for Four Seasons to develop into the future.”
In residence at the East Carolina University School of Music, the Four Seasons Chamber Music Festival brings world-class chamber musicians to eastern North Carolina and beyond for concerts, master classes, interactive community outreach, Next Generation residencies, Next Gen on the Road tours, a children’s residency and the Four Seasons Family Night.