The afternoon performance of Verdi’s Requiem, with more than 120 voices joining the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, was alternately stunning, ethereal, and emotionally moving. So it was amusing to learn, talking to members of the brass section after the performance, that they nearly “lost it” midway through the performance when a cell phone went off at a critical moment, with a ringtone that was perfectly in key.
That casual, companions-in-music camaraderie, set a great tone for the opening day of the BSO Academy. As music director Marin Alsop told the assembled musicians (mostly midlifers like me), “it’s about the passion we all share for music.” The BSO Academy, now in its second year, is a very different experience for the musicians, too, she says.
“We are here to help,” she told us. “It’s not about pressure. Any pressure you feel, you are putting on yourself. We just want to help you improve your skill set and music making, so you can reach new goals.”
At the same time, Alsop warned that she would not go easy on the BSO Academy musicians, just because we are amateurs. “I can’t help it,” she said. “I work with every orchestra as if it is a major orchestra.” But she also promised that the experience would “take you where you are and move you ten levels up.”
There are a lot of people here who do other things for a living: a doctor, a nuclear physicist, a retired marketing executive, and so on, with home addresses that include Maryland, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Massachusetts, and California.
As the schedules were passed out over dinner, it’s clear it will be a challenging week. I have my first private lesson at 8:30 a.m. on Monday morning, followed by classes on preventing injury, Alexander Technique, sectional rehearsal, chamber music rehearsal, and — after dinner — another class on sight reading.
Good thing I got my crab cake fix at lunch today!