Basie conservatory students participate in New Jersey Symphony Orchestra masterclass


Students at the Count Basie Center Academy’s Monmouth Conservatory of Music were treated to a professional, virtual masterclass on Friday courtesy of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra.

NJSO Associate Concertmaster Brennan Sweet and Assistant Principal Violinist Izia Weyman spent more than two hours with the Basie’s conservatory students, who took in an invaluable amount of professional performance tips, suggestions for improvements, and insight from the lives of professional musicians.

NJSO - Masterclass
NJSO Associate Concertmaster Brennan Sweet provided tips, suggestions and encouragement to the Basie’s conservatory students.

“Our students were excited and eager to perform and learn from top professionals,” said Dr. Lucy Chen, Director of the Basie Center Academy’s School of Music.  “The NJSO’s musicians were encouraging and inspiring, giving students practical technique and instructions that will benefit their future performances.”

Held virtually, the masterclass gave students not only an opportunity to hear the musicians speak, but also perform. In turn, student also performed for the professionals – both individually and in ensemble.

“Connecting with communities and students across the state is at the core of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra’s mission, and continuing to do so virtually is absolutely vital during this time of social distancing,” said NJSO President & CEO Gabriel van Aalst. Music can bring joy and comfort in hard times, and finding creative ways to serve our communities and to continue collaborating with our partners across the state has been incredibly meaningful.”

After a group performance of Jacques Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld – known popularly as the “Can Can” song, the professionals offered tips on bowing and fingering to help accentuate the movement’s character and dynamics.

Like our own instructors, members of the NJSO hold a deep affinity for teaching the next generation of musicians.

“Our musicians are wonderful teachers who are deeply committed to music education,” said NJSO CEO van Aalst. “Their involvement as coaches is one of the hallmarks of the NJSO Youth Orchestras, and many of them teach privately and at other institutions.”

Basie students also offered individual performances; during her performance of Folia (from Sonata in D minor, Op. 5 No. 12) by Arcangelo Corelli, Lily Costa, 13, was offered tips on how to achieve the most sound from her violin.

“I think it’s so refreshing to take a step back and analyze the songs I play,” Costa said, “and the members of the NJSO were a big help! I learned new things about my bow technique that I never even noticed.”

“It’s so important that musicians learn to accept criticism at a young age, and grow from it,” she continued. “This was a wonderful opportunity for me and my peers, and I hope we can participate in something like this again in the future.”

In fact, the Basie students will get two more chances to participate in NJSO masterclasses this spring, and it’s an opportunity Dr. Chen says they’ll relish.

“We’re grateful to NJSO for providing world-class music instruction to our students – and for doing so in a manner that made it easy for us to broadcast to our classrooms. These are opportunities that will truly benefit our music community, and the students can’t wait for their next session!”