Ajarn Santi visits New York

Over the April break, I went to New York and New Jersey as part of my field trip project.
I spent half of my 18-day trip being a tourist and the other half of it exploring some world-class music events and observing 3 schools. I heard the well-known virtuoso pianist Andras Schiff at the Carnegie Hall playing the Mendelssohn Fantasia in F# Minor, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No.24, Brahms’s Klavierstucke Op.76, Brahms’s Seven Fantasies Op.116 and Bach’s English Suite No.6. I also saw the young child prodigy pianist Benjamin Grovenor performing Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 3. I attended a concert at the Lincoln Center given by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra with the famous conductor and composer Esa-Pekka Salonen in a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony and the world premiere of ‘Metacosmos’ by Anna Throvaldsdottir. I went to an excellent production of Puccini’s ‘Turandot’ by the Metropolitan Opera where the scenery, staging sets and the costumes were very beautiful. The singing was very fine. Another evening with the Jazz legend Chick Chorea was also memorable. He played music by his idol, Thelonious Monk. There were a few more events including the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ musical on Broadway.

The first school I visited was Greenwich House Music School in New York. The school is some 100 years old and is where Jascha Heifetz and 2 students of Claudio Arrau used to teach. Unfortunately, it was during the Easter break so there were no lessons to observe. However, the conversation with the Director was informative.
The second school that I visited was the West Windsor -Plainsboro High School North in New Jersey where I was able to observe the rehearsal of the Youth Orchestra of Central New Jersey (YOCJ) with players from 4 local schools. Their repertoire was quite difficult and included the Rachmaninoff Symphony No.2. Music is a high priority in this school’s programme.

The third school that I visited was The New School for Music Study which also has more than 100 years of tradition. Here I visited many classes whether individuals, groups, beginners, or advanced students with different teachers who all eagerly shared with me their pedagogical practices. Their passion for music-making and teaching was very evident.
Overall, the atmosphere in the schools was warm, intimate and ideal for learning. The rapport between students and teachers was very good. The teaching and learning were very productive and I could not detect any stress in any of the students. The joy of music was everywhere.

It was one of my best trips where I was able to take a break yet experience and learn more. While I have gained more confidence in my teaching, I have also some changes to make to my practice as a result of what I learnt. Hopefully, my students will now benefit from a wiser me.

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