Stars and stringsAugust 27, 2009
"We read about the local basketball player making it big at Michigan State,” said David Reimer, Calvin professor of music, “but we aren’t likely to read about the kid who’s made it at the Cleveland Institute of Music. That’s like playing football at USC or Michigan; it just isn’t celebrated.”
Reimer is hoping to create a place where that kind of achievement is celebrated. As head of the strings program at Calvin, Reimer has instituted the Calvin String Summit. Currently in its second year, the summit is a place where string instrument “stars” can get together for a week, play advanced music, work with top-level musicians and hopefully recognize the success of alumni players from local youth and high school orchestras.
Investing in musicians
"There is a real niche for this,” said Reimer, head of the string program at Calvin. “We need to invest in the really quality students and have the older students mentor the kids behind them.”
There are 30 attendees this year at the summit, which is formatted much like a summer music camp; private lessons, master classes, quartet and full orchestra rehearsals dominate the daily schedule.
"I came because I’ve never played in a quartet before that’s been good enough to play an advanced repertoire,” said Katelyn Geleynse, an incoming first-year student at Calvin.
Bethany Doorlag, also an incoming first-year student, is a second-year attendee at the summit. “I wanted to get more experience working things out in a quartet,” she said.
Each attendee is assigned to a quartet, which is a key component of the summit. Quartets work together in rehearsal for a performance at the end of the week.
"It’s great to be able to be able to play with advanced players,” said Anna Plantinga, an incoming first-year student. “This camp is for anyone who takes music seriously.”
Nationally recognized faculty
Another major draw is the nationally recognized faculty. “I’ve been able to draw some really outstanding faculty from around the country because these musicians are eager to invest in the next generation,” said Reimer. “They are eager for the arts to remain viable in the future, and these are not only the future musicians, but the future audience for orchestras.”
Members of the Grand Rapids Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony as well as faculty members from a variety of colleges and universities serve as instructors.
"There were definitely some names on the list [of faculty] that I recognized,” said Sam Leidel, a home school student from Grand Haven. “I’ve already gotten lots of good advice.”
One-on-one lessons along with master classes by the faculty, in which one student plays a piece and is tutored while others listen and gain from the session, provide high-level training for the musicians.
"It’s fun to watch the master classes,” said Plantinga, "especially when it’s not you up there.”
Reimer is hopeful that word of the summit will spread and encourage more attendees in the future.
"There are a lot of high school kids not going to summer camps because of time and money,” he said. “This is a local option for West Michigan kids and the price ($250) is well below the cost of other music camps of this caliber.”
Reimer has a personal interest as well. “I would like to send a message about the reputation of the Calvin music department,” he said. “I want to see a real jump in quality in Calvin’s string program. I want this summit to suggest that there is a level of excellence going on here that really brings in talented kids. Whether or not they plan to go on as professional musicians doesn’t matter. There are reasons to really develop musical gifts as far as you can—for personal satisfaction or to be used in your church or alumni orchestra or wherever.
"The camp is one of my most significant efforts to change the local perception, to push the program forward qualitatively and see where it takes us.”
The summit orchestra and quartets will perform a free concert on Friday at noon in the college chapel.
~by Lynn Rosendale, communications and marketing