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< Performance Today goes to the Aspen Music Festival | Main | Multi-talented Musicians at Aspen >

Music and life lessons at the Aspen Music Festival

Posted at 7:50 AM on August 18, 2009 by Suzanne Schaffer

Suzanne Schaffer is the features producer for Performance Today and coordinates the in-studio performances with musicians. She went to the Aspen Music Festival in July on behalf of PT and is stepping into Fred's blogging shoes this week to share some of her experiences there.

I can't imagine anything much more intimidating than having a one-on-one music lesson with someone you greatly admire. You want the teacher to be impressed with your sound, but you're bracing yourself for the constructive criticism that will, in the end, make you a better musician but in the short term may jar your confidence a bit. One of the biggest lessons taught at the Aspen Music Festival and School seems to be how to overcome fear and find confidence.


Clarinetist Adele Mayne handled the lesson with grace. She was at the Aspen Festival this summer studying with Burt Hara, principal clarinetist with the Minnesota Orchestra. I happened to sit in on her last private lesson with Hara that was scheduled just a few hours before a big audition with the New World Symphony to be on their substitute clarinet list. At one point, I think Mayne was getting a little overwhelmed with all of Hara's suggestions and realized that she could have been a lot more prepared for that afternoon's audition. Hara could see those nerves creep in and said point blank, "There's only so much you fix right now. After that you just have to go in with confidence and let them hear how you hear the music."

It was a great moment of teaching. Hara told Mayne how to be much more prepared for the next audition, but in the meantime, she needed to be confident with where she was at. And guess what? She was selected to be on call in case the New World Symphony needs another clarinetist.

Listen to Burt Hara talk about teaching and hear highlights from Adele Mayne's lesson


One lesson we didn't have time to broadcast was a piano masterclass led by pianist Orli Shaham. She worked with three students on finding the climax of a phrase, bringing on the middle voices of a chord and their posture. The last student to perform, Fan-Ya Lin, played Chopin's Ballade No. 4 in f minor. When I closed my eyes I could have easily believed that I was at a recital of a professional, touring musician. Even with a musician so mature in her expression and restraint, Shaham helped Lin put even more soul into the performance with stunning results.


Listen to my interview with pianist Orli Shaham

Listen to my interview with Fan-Ya Lin

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