By Juan Duran Chang
I was able to attend the oldest music festival in North America, Ravinia in Chicago, Illinois. It is an internationally renowned festival featuring performances from a full range of classical, jazz, and popular music, as well as allowing highly talented young performers to study with great masters and perform on concert stages. They have been working to develop more diverse audiences for classical music through educational and community engagement programs and affordable ticket prices.
Pictured below is a master class, (an informal concert teacher offers suggestions to the musicians), I attended with Robert Levin including works by Faure, Beethoven and Schumann. Levin encouraged the musicians performing to ask themselves why they are making a particular choice about dynamics or phrasing.
Here were my top 3 takeaways from the Ravinia Festival:
The need to learn how to use practice time efficiently is so critical: if you study 8 hours unproductively, you might as well not do it. One of the most important coaches who was from Spain said, “We cannot do exactly the same as the others but we can achieve the same result.” If we know the outcome we want, we can use the time we have more wisely toward that goal.
Each one of us has different strengths and different ways of learning so we must understand how to use those strengths to achieve the goals before us. As musicians we must be self-aware and always be open to new ideas and ways of learning.
Last but not least, we need to remember what music is. It is a way of expressing real or imaginary ideas and emotions using sounds that generate some kind of transcendence. Therefore, we can use music (or art in general) as a means of educational-social development to transform the person into a better version of him or herself.
Pictured here are some of the friends I reconnected with and met along the way.
Jose Viera, Winner of the Second Frank Preuss International Violin Competition, Founder of the Chicago Cosmopolitan Orchestra originally from Venezuela. Left
Maria Paula Bernal, Concertmaster of the Orchestra of the Chicago Opera Summer 2023. At the young age of 24 she already has a Master's degree in Violin Performance from Roosevelt University and she is preparing to apply for a doctorate in music. She is originally from Columbia and I was inspired by her to always keep reaching for your music education and don’t allow people to set limits for you. She showed me that she set her own expectations and in doing so has exceeded the norm.
Edebit Fonseca, Venezuelan violinist, Resident Soloist Winner and Second Chair Violinist for the Piura Orchestra (Peru), the youngest to win both positions. Right
Rafael Gargate Santamaria, is a violist originally from Peru. He graduated from Duquesne University with a Masters Degree and has won a position in the viola section of 3 different orchestras by competition and has also won 4 fellowships in different places in the USA. Not pictured