Music News
1:54 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Young Musicians Leave Nest For New Opportunities

Originally published on Sat June 30, 2012 5:48 am

The odds of making it in the classical music business are long, but for the past two years, 25-year-old viola player Nathan Schram has received a stipend, health insurance, lots of amazing performance opportunities and a real-world education teaching violin students at an inner-city elementary school in Brooklyn. Now, Schram and his colleagues have to say goodbye to The Academy.

"It's kind of like getting booted out of your parents' house," Schram says. "You kind of want to stay, you kind of want to go — there's a little bit of anxiety. But I think we're all realizing how many opportunities we have."

The Academy is a training program for young musicians, sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School. It's the brainchild of Clive Gillinson, the executive director of Carnegie, who wanted to find a way for young musicians to develop an entrepreneurial approach to their musical careers in a landscape where 15,000 music-school graduates compete for only 150 jobs in orchestras every year. He says he feels strongly that for a classical musician to make it today, it has to be about more than performing.

"One should be looking at what should the musician of the 21st century be able to contribute back to society, as well as fulfilling their own personal talent," Gillinson says.

A Tight-Knit Group

Since the first Academy fellows left the nest two years ago, they've had many opportunities. Violinist Anna Elashvili was part of that class and, through Carnegie's alumni program, has traveled the world playing and teaching.

"I did several residencies this year," Elashvili says. "I went to Germany, Mexico City — which was one of the most fun residencies I've ever had — and I went to upstate New York, also. And it's fun. I love doing that work."

Elashvili was Nathan Schram's mentor in The Academy and is also first violinist for the Bryant Park Quartet. When that group lost its viola player last year, she became Schram's bridge to a new professional opportunity.

"I told the quartet about him and I said, 'You know, I think we should reach out to him,'" she says. "He was very excited to take us up on the offer. He played for us, and it's been a happy story."

The Bryant Park Quartet embodies the ideals of The Academy. The group doesn't just play concerts: Schram says part of its mission is to be music educators.

"It's been really a spectacular kind of growth of everything I've been doing in The Academy," Schram says. "All the outreach and all the community engagement and all the playing, the chamber music — I've really gotten to do [it] on kind of an independent basis with this ensemble."

Teaching With Passion

Last March, the Bryant Park Quartet was invited by the Long Island String Festival Association to coach high-school string quartets. Its members first played games with the kids to loosen them up. Then, each quartet member went to a classroom to work in depth with the young musicians. Schram was assigned to a group from Manhasset High School. They played a fugue by Haydn.

During the session, he kept reminding them to look at each other and to play with more expression.

When Alexandra Golway, an 18-year-old senior and the group's violist, complained that her part wasn't as interesting as the others, Schram passionately defended the viola's role in a string quartet.

"What I love about chamber-music playing as a violist is the kind of subtle power you have to really change a mood. Maybe you're not playing a solo, maybe you don't have everyone's attention — [but] you know, that pure emotion that they're playing," Schram says. "By playing the accompaniment in a different way, you can really drive an ensemble."

When the quartet began again, Golway played with more spirit. Afterward, she said she took Schram's comments to heart.

"I think it's great, especially with the things that Nate told me about how a violist is supposed to kind of help drive the piece and sort of give it an extra tone or energy," she says. "I think he was very encouraging."

New Beginnings

Schram says he's encouraged by what he sees just over the horizon. The graduates of The Academy have formed a new ensemble called The Declassified, and Carnegie's alumni programs continue to expand. Schram says he and several friends from The Academy are hatching new projects in addition to the Bryant Park Quartet.

"We're all getting excited to say, 'OK, well, I've got these projects, let's get them rolling,'" he says. "It's motivation — you know you're going to be leaving the program and you're saying, 'OK, well let's do what we've been trained to do, and let's go out into the world, and let's bring music to where it's needed.'"

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

We first met Nathan Schram on this program in the fall of 2010. He was a 25-year-old viola player and he had just started out at the Academy, a training program for young musicians, sponsored by Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School. The Academy's mission is to take music school graduates and give them the skills to launch a classical music career in the 21st century. His time at the Academy is coming to an end. And Jeff Lunden caught up with Nathan Schram to find out what's next on his journey.

JEFF LUNDEN, BYLINE: The odds of making it in the classical music business are long, but for the past two years, Nathan Schram has gotten a stipend, health insurance, lots of amazing performance opportunities, and a real-world education, teaching violin students in an inner city elementary school in Brooklyn. Now, Schram and his colleagues have to say goodbye to the Academy.

NATHAN SCHRAM: And it's kind of like getting booted out of your parents' house; you know, you kind of want to stay, you kind of want to go. There's a little bit of anxiety. But I think we're all realizing how many opportunities we have.

LUNDEN: The Academy is the brainchild of Clive Gillinson, the executive director of Carnegie Hall, who wanted to find a way for young musicians to develop an entrepreneurial approach to their musical careers in a landscape where 15,000 music school graduates compete for only 150 jobs in orchestras every year. He feels strongly that, for a classical musician to make it today, it has to be about more than performing.

CLIVE GILLINSON: One should be looking at what should the musician of the 21st Century be able to contribute back to society, as well as fulfilling their own personal talent.

LUNDEN: Since the first group of Academy fellows left the nest two years ago, they've had a myriad of opportunities. Violinist Anna Elashvili was part of that class and, through Carnegie's alumni program, she's traveled the world, playing and teaching.

ANNA ELASHVILI: I did several residencies this year. I went to Germany, Mexico City, which was one of the most fun residencies I've ever had, and I went to upstate New York, also. And it's fun. I love doing that work.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUNDEN: Elashvili was Nathan Schram's mentor in the Academy and she's also first violinist for the Bryant Park Quartet. When they lost their viola player last year, she became Schram's bridge to a new professional opportunity.

ELASHVILI: I told the quartet about him and I said, you know, I think we should reach out to him. And we did and he was very excited to take us up on the offer and he played for us and it's been a happy story.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUNDEN: The Bryant Park Quartet embodies the ideals of the Academy. They don't just play concerts; Schram says part of their mission is to be music educators.

SCHRAM: And it's been really a spectacular kind of growth of everything I've been doing in the Academy; all the outreach and all the community engagement and all the playing, the chamber music. I've really gotten to do on kind of an independent basis with this ensemble.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSICIANS CONVERSING)

LUNDEN: Last March, the Bryant Park Quartet was invited by the Long Island String Festival Association to coach high school string quartets. They played games with the kids to loosen them up.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Peanut butter. Peanut butter.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: OK, great.

LUNDEN: Then, each quartet member went to a classroom to work in depth with the young musicians. Schram was assigned to a group from Manhasset High School. They played a fugue by Haydn.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUNDEN: During the session, he kept on reminding them to look at each other and to play out with more expression.

SCHRAM: More, more, more. More, more, more. You can play more.

LUNDEN: When Alexandra Golway, an 18 year old senior and the group's violist, complained that her part wasn't as interesting as the others, Schram passionately defended the viola's role in a string quartet.

SCHRAM: But what I love about chamber music playing as a violist is the kind of subtle power you have to really change a mood. So maybe you're not playing a solo, maybe you don't have everyone's attention of, you know, that pure emotion that they're playing. But you can, by playing the accompaniment in a different way, you can really drive an ensemble.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

LUNDEN: And when the quartet began again, Alexandra played with more spirit. Afterwards, she said she took Schram's comments to heart.

ALEXANDRA GOLWAY: I think it's great, especially with the things that Nate told me about how a violist is supposed to kind of help drive the piece and sort of give it an extra tone or energy to it. So, I think he was very encouraging.

LUNDEN: Schram says what he finds encouraging is what he sees just over the horizon. The graduates of the Academy have formed a new ensemble, called The Declassified, and Carnegie's alumni programs continue to expand. In addition to the Bryant Park Quartet, Schram says he and several friends from the Academy are hatching some new projects.

SCHRAM: We're all getting excited to say, OK, well I've got these projects, let's get 'em rolling. And it's motivation. You know you're going to be leaving the program and you're saying, OK, well, let's do what we've been trained to do and let's go out into the world and let's bring music to where it's needed.

LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIMON: And to follow Nathan Schram's two-year journey with the Academy, you can go to nprmusic.org. This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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