This article by a student who’s entering his fifth year in Pre-College is part of a series about what Juilliard students have been up to this summer
I had hoped to return to the Aspen Music Festival this summer, but COVID prevented that. Thankfully, my oboe teacher, Elaine Douvas, sprang into action and created a new woodwind chamber music summer festival. The faculty consisted of world-class professional woodwind musicians who are soloists and principal players from the country’s premier orchestras, and my fellow participants were students from the country’s top music conservatories as well as professional musicians. The Hidden Valley Music Seminars in beautiful Carmel Valley, California, served as our home for 10 days in July for the inaugural season of the Festival of Winds. I was elated to be invited to participate.
Upon arriving in Carmel, we hit the ground running. The schedule consisted of twice-daily rehearsals (for three hours each) as well as private lessons with the faculty, master classes, and, for the double reed players, lots of time in the reed room. During the rare moments when we weren’t rehearsing and playing in classes, we explored the Monterey Bay coastline and the Carmel culinary scene.
Every few days, we played an evening concert in the beautiful Hidden Valley Theatre. The room was packed and since the setting was intimate, I could hear the audience discussing that night’s program before each performance. It was clear that the audiences were as excited to hear us play as we were to perform for them. Over the course of four concerts, I played Mozart’s Quintet in E-flat Major for piano and winds (K. 452) and Serenade No. 11 in E-flat Major (K. 375) for woodwind octet, selections from von Weber’s Der Freischutz for woodwind octet and flute, and Dvořák’s Serenade for Wind Instruments, Cello, and Bass in D Minor (Op. 44). The thrill of rehearsing and performing so many pieces in such a short period of time was matched by the fact that in doing so, I sat next to, and learned tremendously from, world-class professionals and other enthusiastic and incredibly talented musicians.
My experience this summer provided me with new insight into many different aspects of musicianship: effective ways to rehearse, audition preparation, new techniques for reed making, and even instrument repair. Not only did I make new friendships (with participants and faculty), the opportunity to come together and perform for a live audience during this time of separation and isolation was extremely fulfilling. I am forever grateful to have had this experience.
Spencer Rubin, a Pre-College oboist, is a rising senior at Syosset High School