The Chamber Music Intensive has been one of the most loved events at PCM since it was developed by Artist-Teacher Aimée Kreston eight years ago. At the start of every summer, students and faculty alike look forward to getting together to learn beautiful chamber music pieces and present them in a final recital at the end of the week-long intensive. Now that most pandemic restrictions have been lifted, students were finally able to return to campus this summer to participate in the intensive for the first time in three years.
This year, we had five groups of students each learning a different piece. The groups played Mozart, Borodin, Dvorak, and Brahms. Each group was carefully matched based on the playing level of the students, then assigned a piece that would both play to their strengths and allow them to learn and progress their playing. The students only had five days to learn multiple movements of extremely challenging pieces, but they even exceeded the coaches’ expectations – the youngest group even had to be assigned a Haydn piece along with their Mozart because they were able to learn it so quickly!
As explained by Artist-Teacher Andrew Cook, head of PCM’s Strings department, students receive training during this program that, even after going on to prestigious music conservatories, many say they never get again. The amount of personalized attention that PCM coaches are able to provide students is an amazing opportunity for these young musicians. Young high school students don’t always get the chance to learn chamber music in depth before they go to college, and chamber music at PCM offers these students that opportunity.
Additionally, this year, Aimée Kreston had students pick their favorite piece of art from the various pieces on loan to PCM, mounted in our halls. Students were clearly inspired by the art they found, writing about how they loved the details of the paintings they chose, what the paintings reminded them of and, for many, how they related to the themes in the art. As musicians, the students were reminded of how visual art and music both uniquely convey emotion to their audience, and were able to channel their inspiration into their musical endeavors.
In addition to rehearsals and coaching sessions, students participated in two masterclasses with members of Sunset Chamberfest, who PCM partnered with during the intensive. Sunset ChamberFest is an organization that brings together some of the finest chamber musicians from many different prestigious groups such as the LA Opera Orchestra and the Argus and Calder Quartets, and puts on inspiring performances of both traditional and contemporary music. On top of the master classes, Sunset ChamberFest put on a performance on Friday evening for the students to attend where they played chamber pieces by Schumann, Lascurain, and Brahms.
We asked teachers and students about their experience this year and why this program is so special.
“My favorite part is making new friends” – Anna
“I also like how we are allowed to engage with other teachers so we have multiple perspectives about our music” – Stella
“There are lots of different classes every day so you learn lots of new things. The coaches are also super nice.” – Julia
“I like how the majority of it is playing so it still sticks to music” – Meredith
“I like the events and socializing with other groups” – Lev
“The relationships that they develop within their groups helps them work as teams in all aspects of life, and by the end of the week they are very bonded, both as musicians and as people.” – Andrew Cook
“One of my students, when he went to Cleveland Institute of Music, said that he was five times as prepared as his peers when it came to chamber music because of this program and what we do here.” – Aimee Kreston
“I have a list of things that I didn’t know when I got to Curtis, and a list of things that I still didn’t know when I graduated from Curtis. I look at those lists, and I say: How can I help young people not be overwhelmed when they get to conservatory?” – Aimee Kreston
“When I was young I learned a lot of chamber music, but it was totally self-motivated by me and my friends. We just got together all the time, from when I was thirteen all the way up to college, and we would play string quartets once or twice a week. It wasn’t organized by teachers, and there was no coaching. That’s why we are putting something like this together for kids, so that they have what I had, and what many people didn’t have. That’s the best thing about this type of festival for me.” – Andrew Picken