Watch Now: Chamber Music Festival Brings Student Musicians to Bloomington | Music

BLOOMINGTON – Chamber music gives performers something they are unlikely to find in larger groups, participants of the Illinois Chamber Music Festival say.

“It’s so much more intimate, like jazz, for example, if you’re sitting there in a jazz trio or a quartet or a quintet or something, and you’re improvising, it’s a conversation and it’s is the same for chamber music,” said Laura Hoesly. , a cellist from Kansas City, Missouri.

Viola player Lydia Langston watches her classmates play cues while practicing during the Illinois Chamber Music Festival at Illinois Wesleyan University on Tuesday, July 19.

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The festival started on July 11 and will continue until July 31 at Illinois Wesleyan University. It gives students a chance to play their instruments in a different setting and learn from IWU teachers, as well as visiting teachers from across the country.

It’s the festival’s 20th anniversary, said IWU executive director and professor Lisa Nelson. This year, there are approximately 40 students between the ages of 13 and 22, coming to Bloomington from seven US states, Mexico and Canada.

“For those two and a half weeks or so, they’re just immersed in learning the music,” Nelson said.

Students audition to attend and there is a tuition fee, listed on the website at $770, plus room and board, which varies depending on whether students stay on campus. Grants and other funding help the program provide financial assistance, Nelson said.


From left, Mariah Williams, violinist from Longmont, Colorado, Yuwen Jin, violinist from Normal, Sophia Boyer, violinist from Bloomington, Renata Soares Caceras, teacher, and Joy Rattan, cellist from Normal, rehearse on stage at Presser Hall during the ‘Illinois Chamber Music Festival Tuesday July 19th.

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Chamber music includes smaller groups than the bands and orchestras students would more commonly find in their secondary schools. There is also only one person per part and no conductor. Instead, players should read each other’s breaths and body language to get started and stay together, Nelson said. They also need to understand what the other players are doing musically.

“They basically have a conversation with their music,” she said.

The students who come tend to be serious about music, although not all end up studying it in college or pursuing a professional music career, Nelson said. Some do not even have the opportunity to play in a school orchestra.

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Lydia Langston, a violist from Washington, Tazewell County, is one of those students whose school doesn’t have an orchestra. She’s been coming to the Illinois Chamber Music Festival for four years now.

“You just breathe the music, along with all the other musicians,” she said.

She enjoys learning wider repertoire through the program, including Joseph Haydn’s ‘String Quartet in D Major’, which she performed in her first year at the festival and which was probably the most advanced piece of music she has played until then, she said. .


Clockwise from left, Audrie Schuller, violin, Emma Wright, violin, Lydia Langston, viola, and Laura Hoesly, cello, rehearse at Presser Hall at Illinois Wesleyan University on Tuesday, July 19 , during the Illinois Chamber Music Festival.

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In addition to rehearsals and practice of their pieces, students have the opportunity in the evenings to participate in group events and take lessons in music theory, music history and handbells. It’s important to keep students away from their instruments to avoid injuries that can result from overplay, Nelson said.

Hoesly, the cellist from Kansas City, said the way the festival is organized ensures that the students do more than perform, and that’s one of her favorite parts about it.

“We’re here as musicians, but in the evening we can be friends and be people first,” she said.


A trio of Bloomington clarinetist Elijah Noll, Champaign pianist Shinjian Song, and Normal cellist Joy Rattan practice at Presser Hall during the Illinois Chamber Music Festival on Tuesday, July 19.

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There are four faculty concerts and four student concerts throughout the festival. All concerts are free and open to the public in the Westbrook Auditorium on the IWU campus. Upcoming events include a student concert at 3 p.m. Saturday which will be followed by an alumni reception and a faculty concert at 3 p.m. Sunday.

To prepare students for the performance, each day bands will perform for the entire faculty on stage. Other rehearsals bring students together in their groups with a faculty member to work on their pieces.


A quintet of Ashley Kim, violin, from Edwardsville, Yingtong Wang, viola, an IWU student from Beijing, China, Daniel Rivera, cello, from Richmond, Virginia, Diego Martinez, double bass, from Normal, and Tycho Gormley (at piano, not pictured) of Bethesda, Maryland, rehearses under the watchful eyes of former music teachers in Presser Hall during the Illinois Chamber Music Festival on Tuesday, July 19.

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Most students come with their parts already learned, allowing them to focus on learning to play together and having that musical conversation that sets chamber music apart, Nelson said.

Hoesly and Langston said that in addition to being a fun time, the festival makes them better musicians.

“When you leave, you’re on a whole new level,” Langston said.

Contact Connor Wood at (309) 820-3240. Follow Connor on Twitter: @connorkwood