"Collaboration is the engine of change." - Philip Glass
Have you ever had one of those months where so many things were going on at once that you feel like you need a repeat button to go back and full appreciate / absorb everything that happened? For me, that kind of month was my time as a member of the Spoleto USA Festival Orchestra this summer in Charleston, SC. Not only did we maintain a full rehearsal schedule (up to 8.5 hours a day and almost 3 performances every week), but we had the opportunity to take advantage of all the other events of the festival such as dance, theater, jazz / bluegrass, chamber music and visual art. Some days I saw three different performances in addition to my own rehearsal schedule - arts mania! With so much going on, the time flew by and the entire experience feels a bit like a whirlwind. One week since the end of the festival, I sit here in peaceful Florida reflecting on all the wonderful performances and people I experienced.
Spoleto is a very special festival and I feel so privileged to have been able to participate two years in a row. The city is absolutely beautiful - I spent hours walking around listening to 'Petrushka' and checking out the gorgeous historic homes. Though this chiefly served the purpose of exploring the city / helping me escape my somewhat sub-par dorm nook (with six other girls, things got a bit cramped), it also gave me a great appreciation for Charleston's support and love of both the Spoleto Festival and the arts. The city comes alive with excitement for the festival. We saw posters of Philip Glass in boutique shops and signs promoting Spoleto discounts everywhere! Love of the arts, amazing food (especially for a girl who lived in the south over half her life - butter anyone?) and tremendous bay breezes - few things could make this scene better.
In addition to immersing myself in a fabulous city, I had some of the most enriching musical experiences of my life - particularly my experiences with contemporary music. Among others, I played an entire concert of contemporary Japanese composers, a US premiere of a John Cage work involving stop clocks, and for the first time ever, I played Philip Glass. The festival presented Glass's US premiere of his opera 'Kepler' based on the work of mathematician and astronomer Johannes Kepler. Two and a half hours of repeated running eighth notes for the celli - a true test of stamina! The project was very exciting to be a part of and Philip Glass along with national critics made it to performances.
One of the most rewarding parts of Philip Glass's presence was a conversation he gave with resident conductor John Kennedy (who, by the way, is one of the most passionate and engaging supporters of new music I have ever seen). Though Glass said many things, this statement resonated with me the most: "Collaboration is the engine of change". His words were particularly meaningful in the atmosphere of the festival. The Spoleto USA Festival Orchestra brings musicians from all over the country. This year the main draw seemed to be fellows from the New World Symphony, freelancers / students from the NYC area and others working or studying in cities such as Cleveland, Houston and LA. For the one month, we dropped our normal lives to work and form a new unit with the potential to create something beautiful playing together. The level of musicians in the orchestra was one of the highest I have ever encountered and the artistry and talent of my colleagues was truly inspiring.
The chance to discuss arts issues with both old and new friends who brought different perspectives and experiences invigorated me and opened my eyes to aspects of the business I had not even considered before. The more I thought about Glass's statement, the more I began to think that collaboration at its core is successful communication. I can think of few places better than a festival to celebrate collaboration and the wonderful ways in which people working together can learn and grow. Though the summer has only begun, I am excited to build upon what has stimulated me already and for the collaborations that are to come.
The video posted above gives you a taste of the great diversity Spoleto USA brings as well as a flavor of what I was able to see and participate in last month. To further investigate the Spoleto USA Festival, you may visit: http://spoletousa.org/home/
For more on the US premiere of Glass's 'Kepler' you may visit: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/02/arts/music/philip-glasss-kepler-at-spoleto-festival-usa.html?_r=1