A Studio of Entrepreneurs

By: Edna Landau

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

I have often wondered whether violists are more entrepreneurial than other groups of musicians. I have written about Nadia Sirota and have had Jessica Meyer as a guest on this blog, to name just two whom I admire greatly. This idea was reinforced when I had occasion to meet Fitz Gary, a violist in Juilliard’s Master’s program, who together with a very entrepreneurial cellist (!), Avery Waite, mounted a concert last June called Music Feeds Us in their home town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Inspired by Music for Food Boston, founded by the esteemed violist Kim Kashkashian, they raised $6,483 and 482 pounds of food for the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, which is equivalent to 26,333 meals. A Google search for further information about Fitz Gary led me to the website of The American Viola Society, and a most fascinating blog emanating from the Juilliard studio of Heidi Castleman, Misha Amory, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Steven Tenenbom, a.k.a the “ACHT” Viola Studio. (Robert Vernon, Principal Viola of the Cleveland Orchestra, also works with many of the students.) Hosted by the American Viola Society, it is called the AVS Pedagogy Blog, or From the Studio. Each day of the week, the studio’s students, teachers, teaching assistants, as well as alumni, post columns on the blog which break down into five categories: Outreach and Resources, Pedagogy, Repertoire and Interpretation, Technique, and The Cast. The Cast typically introduces students in the studio in an interview format, hence a column entitled Introducing Fitz Gary!, in which he reveals that when he was in fifth grade and had to choose an instrument, he chose the viola because the line to try it was the shortest.

Over coffee with Heidi Castleman, I learned that it was Edward Klorman, a violist and teaching assistant in the “ACHT” Studio and chair of the Music Theory and Analysis Department at Juilliard (who also sits on the board of the American Viola Society) who first told her of the Society’s desire to start a pedagogy blog. He conceived of it being a project of the “ACHT” Studio and the American Viola Society enthusiastically endorsed the idea. The studio signed on for the blog’s inaugural season. Prof. Castleman plays a central role in the project, along with the blog’s co-directors, Molly Carr and Gabriel Taubman. The beauty of this blog is that it gets students thinking and learning from one another and contains a wealth of information that should prove valuable to more than just violists. Jessica Chang’s wonderful article Starting Chamber Music by the Bay contains useful tips and inspirational ideas about music education that will undoubtedly help pave the way for like-minded musical entrepreneurs. I encourage everyone who can spare 5-10 minutes to read The Healing Power of Music: The Performer’s Gift, by Daniel Adams, and Hannah Ross’s Outreach in Tanzania, both of which touched me greatly. Clearly, this blog reflects the nature of the “ACHT” studio, which fosters the idea that students can be truly successful if they impact and relate to the world around them. Prof. Castleman surmises that violists, who play on an instrument that so often represents an “inner voice”, may particularly thrive on efforts to link to everything around them and share responsibility for the whole. Her holistic outlook for the students infuses the studio with optimism, the courage to pursue new initiatives, and a feeling of excitement about the endless possibilities for sharing their love of music with others.

Although there are other blogs with similar content, I believe that the “ACHT” studio blog is unique, in that all of the contributors are directly affiliated with the studio. It has an impressive number of readers from as far away as Singapore, Malaysia and New Zealand. I think it serves as an excellent model for other music studios and there is no doubt that all of the contributors have benefited greatly from sharing both music and life’s lessons and joys.

To ask a question, please write Ask Edna.

© Edna Landau 2012

Comments are closed.