On a recent Friday evening, my musicology class went out to dinner and attended a collaborative performance by contemporary string quartet ETHEL and Native American flutist Robert Mirabal. While introducing the show, our director of arts programming mentioned that the College had enjoyed hosting ETHEL for a three-day residency preceding the concert. Hearing him say this made me smile because I gained many great things out of their time here.
Wednesday night I attended a dinner with the string quartet’s members on the theme of careers in music. At dinner Dorothy Lawson, the cellist, encouraged us to collaborate with others, and to gain as much performance experience as possible. She explained that by collaborating with other musicians and groups, we can gain audiences who come to those artists shows and expose them to our music (and vice versa). Another important point she made is that students often enjoy seeing shows organized by their friends rather than ones put on by the College, so taking advantage of students’ excitement about their peers’ work is key to building an audience right here at school. We discussed how organizations on campus like MOBROC, a student-run group whose members can play concerts and rehearse in the barn behind the student center, help us in our path to becoming established musicians by giving us the skills to organize concerts, attract new audiences, and collaborate with others.
The next day, ETHEL visited my musicology class. As an ensemble that focuses on performing new music, they led us in a discussion about current trends in classical music. We discussed how the internet makes a lot of new music easily accessible, meaning that new compositional styles, that might once have taken centuries to gain recognition, can now be adapted into mainstream culture in under a year. Kip Jones, one of the violinists, questioned whether, in the online environment we’ve cultivated, music might get to a point where nothing new can be created. A member of the class who is a dance major responded that there is a perspective in his art form that everything has been done before—an interesting counter to music and a great example of the cross-disciplinary learning that goes on at Conn.
In the evening, the orchestra, which I play clarinet in, rehearsed with ETHEL. It was a great chance to do something a little different from our normal routine, and to see how these musicians adapt to playing different types of music. I think the string players especially enjoyed getting to work with people who play their instruments. Finally, it was Friday, and time for the concert. Sitting in Evans Hall and listening to their work fuse with Robert Mirabal’s was an invigorating and moving experience, and a fitting end to their time here at the College.