Bring Communal Music through the Carthage Young Artists Chamber Music Program
By William Dowell ’22
For many young students this past year, music education has been through a screen. While teachers have been trying to replicate the joys of rehearsing and performing as youth ensembles, the pandemic has made it difficult for students to safely play with each other. Luckily through the Racine Community Foundation’s Smolenski Fund, students have been able to develop their love for communal music making in the Carthage Young Artists Chamber Program. Students of all ages and skill levels came together and rehearsed for three weeks before performing for their families. From violin duets to mini chamber orchestras, these young artists worked together to create wonderful music. Headed by Darlene Rivest and Dr. Ed Kawakami, students were able to learn from highly-skilled Carthage faculty and student instructors. These young artists not only improved their musical foundations, but also learned the intricacies involved with playing chamber music.
Those intricacies deviate from the students’ experiences with school orchestras. While school orchestras rely on the teacher to both instruct and conduct the orchestra, chamber music places more responsibility on the students to prepare their music. Throughout the program, many young artists learned how to perform as independent musicians, learning how to begin and end pieces without a conductor. Advanced students also learned various practice techniques and how to implement them in their rehearsals. The instructors for each ensemble not only helped them improve the students’ individual abilities, but showed them how to work and perform together.
There is a sense of closeness that makes chamber music a joy to perform. Victor Vargas, a violist in the program, said, “It has been a very personal experience because we are playing in a very small group.” Victor performed in a violin and viola duet coached by Sarah Jenkins ’21. For many of these ensembles, the kids did not know each other, but over a few weeks, they became good friends. Older kids acted as role models for the younger ones, helping them adjust to the challenges that come with performing a new type of music. Students developed not only musical skills, but leadership skills as well, such as nonverbal communication strategies and problem solving. They learned how to become better people through music.
All of this growth would have been impossible without the hard work of everyone involved in the program. Dr. Kawakami served as the head of the program and acted as the liaison between the program and Carthage College. Darlene Rivest ran the program, creating the ensembles and providing repertoire suitable for the young artists. Sarah Jenkins ’21 provided essential administrative support, ensuring that the students could rehearse safely. Adjunct Faculty of Music Michael Potter-Schneider created accommodations that allowed students to learn and perform, regardless of their ability to read sheet music. Azniv Khaligian ’22, Ruth Gray ’20, and William Dowell ’22 all served as instructors for the ensembles, providing technical and musical guidance as the students quickly learned their music. In addition to all of these people, there were numerous contributions from the Carthage College faculty and staff that made this program a success. Most importantly, this event would not have been possible without the contributions of the Racine Community Foundation’s Smolenski Fund. It takes a community to develop young artists, but luckily Carthage College and the Racine Community Foundation were able to create a community that nurtures a love for music.