“I’ve watched and enjoyed some of your Friday Webinars at Wharton Arts–such a wonderful range of topics to inspire students, professionals, and general audiences. Thank you for curating and presenting these talks.” ~ Garrett Fischbach, MET Orchestra
An Interview with New Jersey Youth Symphony Assistant Manager of Orchestras Alyssa Horne
Friday Webinars at Wharton Arts is an hour-long weekly program where artists of different disciplines make authentic connections between art and life through sharing their stories, expertise, and creations. Curated and hosted by Artistic Director Helen H. Cha-Pyo, we sat down with Assistant Manager of Orchestras Alyssa Horne to discuss the new series.
Q: What was the inspiration for this webinar series?
A: Wharton’s 2020-21 season has definitely required creativity! In light of the pandemic, it was our hope that we could offer as many robust musical and educational experiences for our students as possible. Here are some thoughts from Artistic Director Helen H. Cha-Pyo on the inspiration for curating this webinar series:
“When the reality of life under COVID-19 inevitably set in, I began working on creating a hybrid scenario for our programs. The most difficult aspect of engaging students online in a meaningful way is the inability to facilitate large ensemble rehearsals and concerts, which is the main focus of the New Jersey Youth Symphony. This devastating disruption for in-person music-making developed into an opportunity for us to engage with our young musicians in a new and unique way. I wanted to maximize this opportunity and introduce our Wharton Arts students to a wide range of disciplines in the field of music, as well as professional musicians who are currently thriving in their fields—musicians who are role models to our students.
I believe life is art, and art is life. If what we do as musicians and artists has no genuine connection to the life we live, it is meaningless. By the same token, we as musicians should be compelled to find that connection each and every day. With this thought, I wanted to curate a series of webinars that would feature artists of different disciplines making authentic connections between art and life through the sharing of their stories, expertise, and creations.”
“Although I have never studied or played jazz, Julius Tolentino’s 5 steps to learning a tune gave me some ideas on how I might approach solo Bach differently.” ~ Garrett Fischbach, MET Orchestra
Q: How were the guest artists chosen?
A: Maestro Cha-Pyo reached out to various artists to create a unique and meaningful webinar series for our community. Her thoughts on selecting the artists:
“The silver lining throughout this entire situation is the fact that I can invite artists to present a webinar no matter where they are in the world. Our guest artists hail from more than ten states across the U.S., from Hawaii to Massachusetts! Normally, we could not dream of having these artists travel to New Jersey to be with us in-person. As stated before, my hope for this series was to introduce role models to our students, not only from an artistic standpoint but from a human perspective as well. I have been blessed to work with so many fantastic artists who are incredible human beings, and when this opportunity arose, I was thrilled to reach out to many of these colleagues who were happy and enthusiastic to share their expertise and experiences with our students.
Since many of our young people may not fully understand the variety of professions within the world of performing arts and music education, I called on a wide array of professionals in the music world, including performers, composers, educators, conductors, entrepreneurs, performance psychologists, choreographers, opera directors, librettists, arts administrators, and more.”
“It will be interesting to see how your collaboration with Nokia Bell Labs audience–interactive technology unfolds. His Life Lessons To My Younger Self seem valuable for someone at any age.” ~ Webinar Audience Member
Q: How do the webinars fit into the New Jersey Youth Symphony’s curriculum this year? I understand that NJYS students receive credit for attending?
A: The Friday Webinars at Wharton Arts are a part of our online course offerings for the fall semester. NJYS students can receive 1-2 credits for each webinar, depending on the length of the event. In addition to the webinars, we offer master classes and musicianship courses including sight-reading, ear training, music theory, rhythm workshops, and technique classes. All of these courses were designed this season to supplement virtual rehearsals and give our students as many engaging musical opportunities as possible, albeit online.
“When did you both become interested in the type of instruments you’re playing? Why did the director make the specific decision to place the percussion into a small studio instead of, for example, behind the stage or in a bigger room? Also, doesn’t it feel cramped to be in such a small room?” ~ Questions from Dr. Mesia Austin and Grant Braddocks’ webinar on the Broadway show Caroline, or Change
Q: So far, which webinar did you enjoy the most or left a lasting impact?
A: I have enjoyed all of the webinars! Each has been unique and engaging in its own right, and as a lifelong learner myself, I’ve enjoyed all of the various informative talks and presentations from the guest artists. I will say I felt a particular connection to Dr. Mesia Austin and Grant Braddock’s talk about Caroline, or Change, as they discussed the perspectives of a pit musician and percussionist for a Broadway musical. As a performer (pre-pandemic), I often freelance as a keyboard player for theater pit orchestras so I definitely related to the topic, although I don’t have to use as much equipment!
I also have to mention how much I enjoyed This Little Light of Mine: The Story of Fannie Lou Hamer from the Santa Fe Opera Project–this is such a profound artistic piece! It was a wonderful opportunity to learn more about Ms. Hamer’s story, and I am so glad to have experienced this incredibly enlightening talk as well as the inspiring performance of the opera!
“People say engineers “lose” their creativity by being so strictly logical. Do you agree with this? Personally, I enjoy music and handicrafts but also really want to be an engineer. How can people who plan on studying/going into STEM keep this human-centered part and artistic creativity throughout their work and not be so pigeon-holed like you mentioned? In the way that you mentioned that technology has pushed humans further from ‘what makes them human,’ has technology had any negative effects on art by pushing it farther from its roots?” ~ Questions from Domnhaill Hernon’s webinar (Hernon is Director of Experiments in Arts and Technology, Nokia Bell Labs)
Friday Webinars at Wharton Arts take place weekly from 7:00-8:00 p.m. EST through December 11. Viewing for this online series is free at WhartonArts.tv. For more information, call (908) 771-5544 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.