November 12, 2020

Chamber Music: Art, Collaboration & Growth

Melivia Raharjo
CIM student Melivia Raharjo, member of the Kalliope Piano Trio.

By: Hosanna Carella

CIM’s Newsroom now includes a student-led blog with posts covering a variety of topics, including the CIM admissions process, student life, and interviews with faculty, students and alumni. CIM professional studies violinist Hosanna Carella, who is currently studying with Jan Sloman and Jaime Laredo, will be a regular contributor and voice on the blog. Hosanna received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees at CIM.

“All for one and one for all!” is the famous mantra of The Three Musketeers, but it is also one of the chamber music tenets. There is a special type of joy only found in creating music with friends - it heightens the meaning of music and makes one grow as a musician and person. Those qualities have always been of the essence within the CIM community, making chamber music a fundamental characteristic. Furthermore, CIM’s faculty roster includes some of the most successful chamber musicians who have an avid passion for nurturing the next generation of chamber musicians.

I had the chance to dialogue with several musicians of the next generation, including the Kalliope Piano Trio, comprised of members in the Advanced Piano Trio Program (APTP) directed by Sharon Robinson, as well as the Elless Quartet, whose members participate in the Advanced String Quartet program (ASQ) directed by Si-Yan Darren Li. They shared valuable insight into their process of chamber music making and provided a glimpse into their “world” as a chamber group. 

First, I chatted with Melivia Raharjo (piano), Hesoo Cha (violin) and Madelynn Bolin (cello), members of the Kalliope Piano Trio. 

In what ways has this pandemic increased the meaning of chamber music for you?

Melivia Raharjo (MR): After being isolated for so long without being able to create music with people, it is so refreshing to be able to do so again. 

Hesoo Cha (HC): One of the main components of APTP is almost-weekly master classes for various faculty in Mixon Hall. Since our performance opportunities are so limited now, being able to do that is helpful. 

Madelynn Bolin (MB): With the additional COVID restrictions now in place, we are not able to have orchestra for the rest of the semester. Chamber music is giving us the chance to make music with each other in a safe way and we are really grateful for that. 

How have you grown as a musician because of the pandemic? 

MB: We've had to get used to playing with masks, which has limited how we communicate with our faces, so we've had to find different ways of communicating while playing. 

HC: That also applies to how we communicate with our audience. Since they can’t really see our faces, we have been working on various ways of communicating through bodily movements while also pushing us to be more expressive in our playing.  

How do you go from being individuals to thinking as a unit when you are on stage? 

MB: We have worked a lot on visual communication and how to get out of our own parts and focus more on what the others are doing. By doing that, it really helps us to have the same articulation, which then helps us to be together. 

MR: Verbal communication plays a large role in that too, we don’t just assume that we are doing the same thing, but we talk about it to make sure we are all on the same page. 

What are your favorite things about the Advanced Piano Trio Program?

HC: I really like the seminars. Getting to hear another group play and seeing how they navigate the different aspects of their piece and how they grow as a group is really informative. Additionally, the various faculty that have led the seminars have given us great knowledge. 

MR: The fact that we have coachings every week really pushes us to be better all the time.

MB: It also helps us know the piece more in depth as we search for its deeper layers.

Marcus Stevenson
Marcus Stevenson, member of the Elless Quartet. Photograph was taken during a 2019 performance. 

Following my chat with the Kalliope Piano Trio, the Elless Quartet shared their insight on various aspects of chamber music from their point of view. Their members are JuEun Lee (violin), Megan Lin (violin), Marcus Stevenson (viola) and Cecelia Swanson (cello). 

What are the challenges you’ve had to overcome as a quartet because of the pandemic? 

Marcus Stevenson (MS): We went so long without playing together that when we finally did, we realized that we had lost some of our group sound.  

JuEun Lee (JL): I kind of forgot what it was like to have to listen to other people. I found myself struggling to hear things like intonation, sound and balance. That was something that I had to figure out how to do again.  

Megan Lin (ML): Playing with masks posed a new challenge in how we communicated through our facial expressions. So, we had to develop a new skillset to overcome that.  

Cecelia Swanson (CS): We did benefit from that challenge. Additionally, one isn’t as self-conscious about what one looks like while playing when wearing a mask, so in a way it is liberating to be able to fully express what I want. 

In what ways do you learn from each other? 

CS: Since we are all different ages and are in different stages of life, you must put ego aside and be open to many different ideas. I have been humbled by it. My companions have such great and diverse ideas that we try to find ways to implement them all and make them our own in an individual way.  

JL: The more we rehearse together, the more we understand one another. Honesty with one another is very important and we have been achieving that more and more as time goes by. We don’t have to hide anything (laughs)! 

ML: I have learned a lot about life and what it is to be an adult from Cecelia and JuEun (laughs).  

MS: I have learned to always play with passion and energy, and it has made me more confident in my abilities. 

How has playing chamber music shaped you as a person? 

CS: I have realized that giving positive feedback to others before anything else is important. It has also made me realize that I need to do that for myself and not overload myself with criticisms. The more we can do that as people, the better our society will become.  

JL: Chamber music has taught me how to listen better, not just to people’s playing, but in how they think and how it shapes their perspectives.  

ML: I have learned how to hold myself accountable to a higher level, not just for me, but for others too. The better I am, the better my colleagues can be.  

MS: I have learned how to articulate my thoughts and opinions better through chamber music, and it has helped me to express myself better in other areas of my life, too. 

What would you want prospective students to know about chamber music at CIM? 

JL: You get to work with amazing musicians and people. We have such great faculty and coaches. Additionally, CIM has a great community and that reflects through chamber music.  

CS: The coaches have really high expectations of us and that makes us work even harder. They are so insightful and such great educators. It is a diverse and positive experience to be able to learn from many wonderful musicians.  

ML: We have different coaches, which means we get many different opinions. But the coaches build upon what the other has said. We don’t ever feel like we have gone back to zero after a coaching.  

MS: It is very easy to be authentic at CIM. Everyone is so passionate about what they do. It is a blessing to be able to be part of this environment.  

Chamber music is a way of life at CIM. Not only does it make you a better musician, but it makes you a better person. There are many ways to share the joy of music, but not many come close to the joy of sharing music with friends. 

Tune In

You can watch the Elless Quartet perform in the November 13th Advanced String Quartet Program Concert (this video will be available until November 27). And, be sure to tune in November 20 to hear the Kalliope Piano Trio perform in the Advanced Piano Trio Program Concert