Education -- whether for the young or not-so-young -- is essential to the mission of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony. Some recent educational activities are described below.
youth competition winners announced
GBS and the Hersher Family Foundation sponsored the 2016 Young Instrumentalist Strings Competition, which presented its awards on Sunday April 3, 2016. Fifteen talented students from towns as far as Riverside, Guilford, and North Haven competed, with the six finalists (above) performing in a free concert at the Littlefield Recital Hall at the University of Bridgeport. The competition was open to musicians age 11 to 19 who live in Connecticut.
Julian Shively, a sophomore at Fairchild Wheeler Magnet High School, of Trumbull, won the competition after performing Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor/ 1st movement allegro, and the Franck Cello Sonata, arranged by Delsart, 1st movement Allegretto ben moderato. Other top finishers were: Ellie Shapiro, 17, violinist, from Westport, Second Place, $250 award; and Mark Xu, 16, violinist, from Weston, Third Place, $150. Honorable Mention awards were presented to Camden Archambeau, 14, cellist from Weston; Benjamin Crosby, 17, cellist from Fairfield; and Chealim Yoon, 15, violinist from Fairfield.
Judges were professional musicians of the Greater Bridgeport Symphony.
Marianne Laska, an organizing board member, said prior to the start of the competition: “In a world where so much attention is given to sports and other extra-curriculum activities our young people are involved in, it is the privilege of the GBS to celebrate and showcase yet another amazing talented side of that population.”
This year’s competition was restricted to strings only; 2017 will be brass and wind instruments, and 2018 will focus on the piano.
Board volunteer Mark Halstead has said the competition is important to area youth for several reasons: “The future of Classical music lies with today’s youth, who are too often distracted by gaming and computer activities. Showcasing the talented young musicians of our region sends a message that Classical music is alive, and resounds with the youth of today. These kids may well be the Greater Bridgeport Symphony of tomorrow.”
This event was made possible by a generous grant from The Hersher Family Foundation, founded to support the philanthropic endeavors of the late Kurt B. Hersher within the Greater Bridgeport community
recent educational outreach
In anticipation of the grand Mahler Returns to Bridgeport concert in March 2016, GBS gave presentations at Bridge Academy in Bridgeport, introducing high school students to the music of Mahler. The results were surprising, said GBS intern Yasminne Morgan, a sophomore music major at the University of Bridgeport who made the presentation. “They came up with comments you would not expect from students who have no musical background. Most of them liked the music, related to it, and compared it to cartoon soundtracks.”
“Those students are keen observers,” said Dr. Orin Grossman, retired music professor at Fairfield University. “Many of the composers of that cartoon background music were influenced by Mahler, and came to the United States fleeing Hitler in the 1930s.”
On March 9, 2016 Eric Jacobsen visited Bridgeport’s Central High School where he and Morgan talked to the students about Mahler and his relevance to today’s music. With concertmaster Deborah Wong, Jacobsen performed two duets for two classes of about 40 students each. Central High music teacher Colleen Filush says, “We're very excited to be able to partner with GBS for such a great opportunity. Our students are rarely exposed to classical music in such an intimate way. An experience like this, where they get to see different applications of classical music, will be inspiring and eye-opening. They’ll have a different perspective on a genre that's usually considered ‘not their type’ of music. Having an extremely talented and engaging cello player make time to reach out to them through GBS is an experience our students are very fortunate to be able to take part in.”
Jacobsen enjoyed bringing classical music to these students, whose music programs have been drastically cut. Of the Mahler concert, he says, “There is nothing quite as epic as a symphony orchestra building a Mahler symphony. It’s a journey like no other!” To this end, students were given the opportunity for complimentary tickets, and two dozen attended the concert. “They were absolutely awesome,” said one Central senior, “and Eric is so cool and funny; he gets so excited when he’s talking about music. Now I want to explore a whole new genre of music; you could hear so many emotions” in the music they played.
See conductor Eric Jacobsen perform with a quartet of incredibly talented student musicians from the Greater Bridgeport Youth Orchestras, as seen CT Style on WTNH, Channel 8, on April 8. Jacobsen recently guest-conducted the Principal Orchestra of GBYO, working on Mozart's Magic Flute overture.
On January 12, 2014, GBS reunited with GBYO for a family-centered, educational concert -- Amahl & Peter - A Family Affair, conducted by Christopher Hisey, GBYO Music Director. This was the first time GBS and GBYO had performed together in 30 years. In the first act, GBYO played Amahl and the Night Visitors; then GBS performed Peter and the Wolf, followed by a rousing side-by-side encore of Bizet's L'Arlesienne. The event attracted hundreds of area families to an afternoon of musical story-telling.