Summer Chamber Music Intensive

We kicked off the summer with our annual Chamber Music Intensive (CMI) led by the String Department Chair, Aimée Kreston! For one week, students are immersed in rigorous daily coachings, rehearsals, guest artists, and masterclasses. Their hard work, talent, and progress are highlighted in an end-of-week recital that showcases the pieces students learned in just 5 days. This summer’s program consisted of masterclasses with Jonathan Moerschel and Roberto Cani for the seven ensembles playing string quartets by Beethoven, Haydn, Mozart, and Mendelssohn.

A central component of CMI is its commitment to offering intermediate and advanced students from ages 10-18 a personalized opportunity to develop their current skills as well as their individual goals. This is accomplished through carefully-assembled ensembles, piece assignments, and coaching designations. That way, this variety of ambitious young minds receives an appropriately matched challenge. This summer, we had the privilege of hearing from a handful of CMI students about their experiences and what they hoped to take away from the program.

Sisters Tesla (10) and Delancey (12) Wolan have previously spent their summers playing in piano trios or taking private lessons for violin and cello respectively. This summer, they were eager to gain experience and understanding in collaborating with other string players. The CMI was the perfect opportunity to do just that.

What motivated you to sign up for the Chamber Music Intensive?

Tesla & Delancey: We have both been in piano trios over the last couple of years and we wanted to play in a quartet with other string players.

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

Delancey: I hoped to gain some technical knowledge on how the cello fits in with the other voices of the quartet and also to get hands-on experience in collaborating with other string players.
Tesla: I hoped to learn more about how the different parts played individually will come together as a whole and how to communicate effectively with the other players during the performance.

How is this experience similar or different to your experience with individual lessons?

Delancey & Tesla: This experience is different from individual lessons in that we do a score study to learn how to play our instrument as a part of a group of other instruments. When you’re in an individual lesson, you’re usually just focused on your solo piece and not concerned as much about accompaniment. It is similar to individual lessons because you do get individualized coaching within the group.

How does it compare to other experiences playing in an ensemble, like Suzuki group classes?

Delancey: Chamber music is very different from playing in an ensemble like a Suzuki group class because everyone is playing different parts and so you have to really learn your part well because there is no one to help you by playing your part.
Tesla: Rhythms are also trickier when there are so many different independent parts and if there is syncopation in the piece, that can be a challenge as well.

Anything else you would like to add?

Delancey and Tesla: Ms. Kreston is the best! She expects a lot from us but also gives so much to us to make sure that we succeed. We would not have been able to learn all four movements of the Haydn concerto in 5 days without her! Mr. Alistair and Ms. Samantha were also fantastic coaches who gave us really helpful feedback and kept us on track.

Veteran CMI-er Ashlee Sung (18) just completed her fourth and final year participating in the program. She has been a PCM student for 5 years taking individual violin lessons with Sharon Harman. She is moving on to the USC Thornton School of Music. Below she reflects on her years of growth with the CMI program and describes how it will prepare her for her next chapter at USC.

What are some highlights or favorite moments from your years participating in the Chamber Music Intensive?

I have a lot of memories from participating in the PCM Chamber Intensive, including when our quartet got to play our piece on fancy instruments made by the luthier who came to PCM as a guest speaker. I also enjoyed bonding with my fellow quartet members and people from other quartets, through rehearsal and outside of rehearsal as well. Another memory I have is from the 2022 Intensive, where our quartet attempted to sing the 4th movement of the Dvorak American Quartet in operatic style. Overall, the highlight of each Intensive is the thrill of performing together as a group and becoming immersed in the music.

How have you grown after each time you’ve participated in this intensive?

With each summer Intensive, I always learn a set of new musical aspects and that music is more complex than we think it is. I’ve become better at listening to the other players in the group, not just for knowing when to come in, but for intonation purposes as well. Group intonation is more complicated than individual intonation since each player’s intonation can be “correct”, but matching each other’s intonation is a different matter. While practicing at home, it’s easy for one to get accustomed to shutting their ears to tune into their own sound, but playing chamber music in the PCM Intensive helped me to dispel that habit, and to open up and “communicate” with my group members through the music.

How do you think it’s prepared you for your upcoming new chapter as a freshman at USC Thornton School of Music?

Thanks to the PCM Chamber Intensive, I feel more prepared for my first year of college now that I have received high-level chamber ensemble training and have experience collaborating with other musicians and overcoming difficulties together. I look forward to learning even more new concepts at USC!

Lastly, we have Mateo (12) who started at PCM taking Young Musicians classes, has studied violin with Patrick Rosalez since 2018, and, this summer, chose to participate in CMI for the first time. He discusses how he will use what he’s learned in the rest of his time at PCM.

What motivated you to sign up for the Chamber Music Intensive?

I thought it was going to be a really fun experience to be in a space where I could play in a group, but not be lost in an orchestra-type experience. My mom read about the intensive on the PCM blog and suggested I try it out, so I auditioned for it!

What do you hope to gain from this experience?

I hope to meet new people and since this was my first time, I wanted to learn what makes up chamber music and have a good time playing! I learned how to balance voices in a group, to know how to cue and listen to others, and to understand the aspects of what makes up a chamber group.

How is this experience similar or different to your experience with individual lessons?

Individual lessons for me were more technical, while the chamber music group helped me with musicality. I enjoy individual lessons because I think I can improve more as a player in general, but I do really enjoy having coaching from other teachers and learning new ways to play articulations and passages.

How does it compare to other experiences playing in an ensemble, like Suzuki group classes?

I think that chamber music is an individual orchestra, where it’s easier to focus on your tone and quality. There is more practice time overall and I think that I benefited from having a lot more practice each day opposed to only once a week, and it helped the flow of information fresh so I could remember it better.

Anything else you would like to add?
This was a really fun experience overall, with the masterclasses and coachings from different teachers, where I could see different views on music in general and expand my knowledge about it as well. I think this is great for string players who are looking to work with other musicians and learn about the music they are playing! I was really happy to have this fun experience. I look forward to doing this next year!