A Musical Reunion: PCM’s Alums Perform a Private Concert in Barrett Hall

5 young adults posing for a picture in the courtyard

The Chamber Music Intensive has been a cornerstone of PCM summer programming for the past 8 years. According to the camp’s founder and director, Aimee Kreston, the CMI focuses on providing highly dedicated chamber music students “a taste of what they’ll be doing in college and beyond.” Recent CMI’s have included the return of a handful of accomplished PCM graduates as apprentice coaches.

Unfortunately, due to the ongoing pandemic, this summer’s Chamber Music Intensive was cancelled; however, a few of the PCM’s alums who were in town for the camp decided to participate in a private concert for friends and family. The concert, by Tomsen Su, Cameron Alan-Lee, Katelyn Vahala, Sofia Kim and Ben Penzner, included Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio in C minor, Op. 66 and Schumann’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major. Op. 44.

Before the performance, we caught up with the alums and asked about their experience being back on campus and practicing together for the concert.

Image of chamber musicians in barrett hall

Katelyn Vahala, a Doctoral student in Piano Performance at USC, described it as a perfect collaboration and reunion, stating that “nothing can ever truly replace the magic of sitting down to play a chamber work for the first time with a group of friends.”

During her time as a music student, Katelyn has developed a passion for connecting music with nature, and has since created a new concert series titled Insert Music Here. The series is a “dream for a world in which music acts as a bridge between audiences and nature.” With a mission to “present high-caliber Classical music performances in scenic, natural settings: to inspire, educate, and bring joy to diverse audiences across California and beyond.”

Image of chamber musicians in barrett hall

Inspired by the pandemic, Sofia Kim is currently exploring how the classical music sector responded to the 1918 influenza pandemic. Her project seeks to analyze “musicians, composers, and repertoire that were popular during that time.” Kim also reflected on the importance of making music in person at PCM and cites chamber music as her “favorite form of music making,” due to its conversational and collaborative qualities.

Tomsen Su is pursuing a Master of Music at Juilliard. He also used the pandemic to explore other music genres, outside of classical. Su has been learning how to utilize synthesizers and patching. “I think that there is an untapped avenue of music making that utilizes the skill set of a string player and the range of sound manipulation of a synthesizer.”

Two violinists playing in barrett hall

Cameron Alan-Lee is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree at the New England Conservatory and actively performs. Alan-Lee expressed his desire to make more communicative art and his excitement for the return of in-person performances. When asked about his thoughts about collaborating with old friends at PCM, he shared that “getting the opportunity to collaborate with close friends makes it even more joyous for me personally.”

Image of chamber musicians in barrett hall

Ben Penzner, graduate of University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, discussed the importance of the private concert, as it allowed him to reconnect with friends from PCM. “I am so thankful to have a community of amazing musicians to return to when I’m back in town. They make me feel so lucky to be a musician and I cannot thank them enough.”