Summer Programs Roundup

Each year, PCM offers a wide range of opportunities for students of all ages and skill levels to pursue individual instruction, enjoy ensemble programs, and experience diverse musical genres during the summer months. This year, summer programs included the Chamber Music Intensive, Jazz Workshop, Adult String Ensemble, Young Musicians Jazz Kittens, Clarinet Camp, and more. Below are just a handful of highlights from the summer

A man conducts a chamber music rehearsal

Chamber Music Intensive

In June, PCM’s Chamber Music Intensive (CMI), led by Aimée Kreston, returned for the second year following a three-year pandemic-related hiatus. During the week-long camp, intermediate to advanced string students rehearsed and performed standard chamber music repertoire; including the Brahms String Sextet No. 2 and Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” String Quartet No. 7.

Typically, chamber music students learn and perform an entire chamber music work over the course of one or two semesters. CMI students, on the other hand, achieve this after just six days of rehearsing. Through daily coachings from PCM’s chamber music faculty, masterclasses from guest artists, and music history classes, students gain a comprehensive understanding of their repertoire and the preparation required for a successful performance.

“The Intensive introduced many new musical aspects such as the styles of different composers, the history/context that inspired it, and finding ways to incorporate those colors into our music,” violinist Ashlee Sung said. “I was also exposed to the art of musically communicating with the other chamber players, such as listening, moving, and breathing together.”

As a large ensemble, students learned the third movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. The movement – entitled Scherzo: Pizzicato ostinato – is performed by the strings section of the orchestra, entirely by plucking their instruments. To hone their string-plucking skills, students participated in a workshop dedicated to pizzicato.

“String players are rarely taught the intricacies of pizzicato. I asked Bryan Fasola, guitar faculty at PCM, to give the students a class in pizzicato so that they could learn a more nuanced technique,” Kreston said. “I was very impressed with all of the students, from the youngest (8 years old!) to the ones headed off to conservatory. I really enjoyed the different perspectives that the students brought to the program, as well as their energy, their enthusiasm, and their professionalism.”

A man conducts a group of jazz musicians

Jazz Workshop

Young jazz musicians gathered for the Summer Jazz Workshop, where they developed a strong foundation in jazz performance, history, and theory over the two week-long program. Organized by Dr. Ray Briggs, the students enjoyed daily masterclasses and lectures, culminating in an end-of-program performance.

The program aims to provide young jazz musicians with a deep and enriched understanding of jazz music as a whole. Students develop ensemble performance skills, learn jazz theory/improvisation, and explore jazz history. The Summer Jazz Workshop culminates in a free public performance.

“My hope was that all participants would leave the workshop with a greater sense of the richness of jazz music, the culture that produced it, and a commitment to pursue excellence on their chosen instrument,” Dr. Briggs said. “The highlight of every year is to witness the incredible transformation of a group of students who were strangers on day one, yet over the course of two-weeks develop musically and socially in ways that are quite palpable by the culmination performance.”

String musicians practice on stage

String Ensemble Intensive

In this summer’s String Ensemble Intensive – a Suzuki program organized by Brandon Encinas and Natalie Brejcha – young string players experienced the joy of collaboration and playing in an ensemble in a week-long camp. While the Chamber Music Intensive catered to more advanced and experienced players, this program allowed younger string students to experience the world of chamber music.

During the week-long program, students were coached daily and received guidance as they learned new repertoire in a collaborative setting. They built and developed the skills necessary to perform in a high level string ensemble program, while forging new friendships over a shared love for making music with each other.

“Both myself and Brandon wanted to create the kind of musical environment for our students that we wished we had been able to access as young musicians,” Brejcha said. “For me, the friendships are the highlight of music camp and this year had lots of new connections and enthusiasm. I especially loved how they all chose their own ensemble names: EIEIM Ensemble and Celestial Strings.”

A group of young clarinetists pose for a picture

Clarinet Camp

PCM faculty members Laura Stoutenborough and Micah Wright coordinated this year’s Clarinet Camp. Originally conceived by Dr. Stoutenborough and her husband, Chris, the camp exposes young clarinet students to new approaches to foundational concepts, to exceptional guest artists, and to opportunities to engage with other musicians in a collaborative environment.

During the camp, students aged 12-19 worked on breathing, warm-ups, reedwork, articulation exercises, intonation, and playing as part of a clarinet choir. Additionally, the camp invited a number of renowned teachers to share novel concepts and help students develop performance skills and techniques. One guest artist was the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Associate Principal Clarinetist Burt Hara, who provided a masterclass.

“Burt’s masterclass was definitely a highlight because of his exceptional musicianship and humor. Burt emphasizes communicating the mood in music, and helps students remove physical obstacles in their playing so they can play expressively,” Stoutenborough said. “Over the past several years, we have had students drive from cities such as Hesperia, the border of Mexico (Calexico), and now from Texas, to attend our camp. We hope to continue to expand the camp, and continue to inspire students of all ages in the future!”