Music: Elemental Music is bringing students back for live rehearsals starting in the Fall. Courtesy photo

Kailyn Forbes, Special to the Daily Press

Elemental Music, the non-profit organization that offers after-school music programs for elementary and middle school students, intends to resume in-person rehearsals this fall with their newly developed Chamber Music Institute for intermediate and advanced musicians who are interested in playing in small ensembles.

Designed for instrumentalists in grades 6–12, the Chamber Music Institute is an audition-based program for strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, and guitar. Private lessons are encouraged, though students without a private teacher may be accepted on a case-by-case basis.

“It just seemed like the right time now to be starting a new program because it’s been a few years since we’ve had a new program,” said Emily Call, director of the Chamber Music Institute. “We’re hoping that it’s going to allow us to deepen our impact with the students in the community.”

Participation in the Chamber Music Institute will provide advanced musicians with the chance to play in smaller ensembles such as duos, trios, quartets, and quintets. There will also be opportunities for instrument-specific ensembles for younger students, such as flute choir, double bass ensemble, and cello choir.

“Chamber music is different from our other ensembles because those ensembles are much larger. Chamber music is meant for small groups that originally started as it sounds, you know, a group of a small group of musicians playing music like in a living room, way back when,” said Call.

“Much smaller groupings actually require, in some ways, a lot more responsibility and motivation, on the part of the musician to take ownership over what they’re playing, and how they’re contributing and the group.”

Students will be matched according to age and ability. There will be weekly coaching with professional musicians and educators throughout the season, as well as two masterclasses and a recital.

“The thing about chamber music that’s really great is that it’s a very friendly program for this kind of post, but not quite post COVID era because there are so few students in a group,” said Call. “So you’re able to have smaller groups and kids who are distanced and not as many people in a room.”

In May of 2020, Elemental Music transitioned to an online format, with all of their rehearsals, lessons, and ensembles meeting virtually. 80 percent of ensemble students continued participation after moving to virtual rehearsals, learning new skills and staying connected with their peers.

“So students in our ensemble programs would log on to zoom once a week, and everyone did virtual concerts, which in some ways was really exciting,” said Call. “I mean we had for the first time, because of the internet, all of these videos together. We had every single one of our ensembles perform a piece, all at the same time for our last virtual concert. In person, we’ve never been able to do that just because of space capacity issues.”

And while the students showed a positive response to the virtual changes during COVID, there has been somewhat of a demand from the young musicians to resume in-person rehearsals.

“Everyone misses making music in person, including the teachers,” said Call. “So, we will be really thrilled when we’re able to do that and we’re really hoping that COVID is going to stay under control because while it is amazing that so many programs were able to transition online, there’s nothing quite like the sound when you’re all in the room together.”

According to Elemental Music, the friendships fostered in their orchestra, band, choir, and guitar programs often last into high school and beyond.

“One of the most exciting things about chamber music is developing your voice as an ensemble,” said Call. “And so I’m hoping that we are successful in making good matches during our auditions as students who will really enjoy playing with one another and learn a lot from their peers. When you do work consistently with the same small group of musicians, you start to develop your own language together, and that would be really incredible to see.”

Elemental Music has received positive feedback so far not only from students, but also from many teachers in the area.

“I think it’s one of the most beloved forms of music, and the repertoire is so great,” said Call regarding chamber music. “It’s very exciting to see already so much community support for it and I think it’s going to be really exciting.”

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