New Class of Ensemble Connect Fellows Shares First Virtual Performance

Mike Lawson • December 2020News • December 23, 2020

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Ensemble Connect has embarked on its 14th season with a new group of young professional classical musicians joining the two-year fellowship program designed to further prepare them for careers that combine musical excellence with teaching, community engagement and advocacy.

With the COVID-19 pandemic requiring them to start their fellowship experience working together in the digital space, nine new Ensemble Connect musicians—hailing from the United States, Australia, Switzerland, and Venezuela—came together earlier this fall to plan performance projects, take part in professional development sessions, and to begin partnerships online with New York City public schools.

Launching their first performance season together, the musicians recently debuted Up Close: United Through Separation, Ensemble Connect’s first-ever virtual performance. Planned collaboratively with artistic partner Reena Esmail and director Nathaniel Stevens, the immersive program—with music by Bartók, Valerie Coleman, Reena Esmail, Poulenc, and Alec Wilder—featured these accomplished instrumentalists each performing remotely from their own spaces. It is currently available for free  on Carnegie Hall’s YouTube channel.

Continuing Ensemble Connect’s ongoing partnership with New York City public schools, the nine Ensemble Connect fellows and six program alumni have each been paired with a New York City public school instrumental music teacher. Over the next two years, Ensemble Connect fellows and alumni will bring their expert musicianship, a professional performer’s perspective, and creative approaches to musical skill building to band, keyboard, and string programs in 15 schools across four New York City boroughs. Due to COVID-19, the fellows are currently supporting classroom teachers through remote learning. As part of their work, the musicians have created a Digital Resource Library accessible to all of Ensemble Connect’s partner schools, which includes mini-instrumental lessons, videos focusing on musical concepts, and interactive musical listening challenges.

In October, Ensemble Connect also continued its biannual residency at Skidmore College by connecting with the students and Saratoga Springs community online. During this online residency, the fellows engaged with Skidmore College students as well as students in local elementary schools, offering master classes, lessons, class demonstrations, and interactive performances. Composer Reena Esmail joined the fellows as artistic partner for “Up Close: United Through Separation,” which was co-presented by Carnegie Hall and Skidmore College and included performances of three Esmail works. Ensemble Connect will return to Skidmore College for a second online residency this season from February 22 to 26.

With Carnegie Hall’s three concert halls currently closed through at least April 5, 2021 due to COVID-19, Ensemble Connect is developing plans to produce several additional virtual performances for release later this season. The musicians look forward to returning to live performances at Carnegie Hall, following the venue’s reopening.

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