High schoolers compete for SERP scholarship

April 1, 2005

Two years ago, Brandeis University, thanks to its recognition of the importance of the Arts on campus and beyond in human life, began sponsoring a new scholarship called the Student Ensemble in Residence Program (SERP). Each year since its inception, dozens of high school students apply for the scholarship by sending an audition tape via mail to the Lydian String Quartet. The grammy-winning Lydian String Quartet invites the most competent musicians to attend a live audition (in February) for the scholarship. At the live audition, students perform two solo works (one movement from a Concerto and one movement from a Sonata) and perform a movement of a String Quartet or Trio, chosen by the Lydian Quartet and performed with them.

The winners of the special scholarship are placed into an ensemble of their peers for the duration of their stay at Brandeis. They receive weekly coaching and lessons from members of the Lydian String Quartet (in residence at Brandeis) and work towards a full concert each spring, consisting of masterworks of classical chamber music. They also perform in classes, at University functions, at noon concerts in Goldfarb Library, and occasionally at Chums.

For the winners of the scholarship, the SERP program is an opportunity to study and perform classical, ensemble music at a professional level without attending a music conservatory. The most unique characteristic of the program is each incoming freshman chamber group plays together as a group for all four years at Brandeis. This allows the trio to mature as a group and develop an intimacy rare amongst chamber ensembles. The trio works as one autonomous unit, each member supremely aware of one anothers strengths and weaknesses, likes and dislikes, styles and abilities.

The first winners of the SERP scholarship, violinist Graham Patten, cellist Sidney Coren, and pianist Joshua Klein, performed a full concert last year of music by Beethoven, Dvorak, and Aaron Copland. This spring, the trio will perform a more diverse program, ranging from early classical to romantic to jazz. Violinist Graham Patter muses on the SERP trios upcoming concert and the artistic process: Weve chosen a challenging program this year, technically and musically, and I would say that we have definitely risen to that challenge.

Having worked with Josh and Sid for almost two years now, I feel that we are getting to know each other well as players;

we know where to push each other and how to coach each other. But almost more importantly, because this is a four-year program and because we see each other so much, we are getting to know each other better as people. These guys are my good friends, now. Our closeness translates into beautiful music.

For the members of the SERP trio, ensemble music is the most magical and intimate form of artistic expression. For Josh Klein, chamber music is the perfect middle ground between solo and orchestral music. It is our opportunity to shine as individual soloists within a group dynamic. Between individual practice time and meetings with the trio, each member is devoted to more than fifteen hours of practice time per week.

Dan Stepner, principal violinist of the Lydian String Quartet, has coached the trio for nearly three semesters. His laudation of the sophomore trio is flattering: They are an unalloyed pleasure to work with because of their progressive integration as a musical unit. They have worked hard, not only learning their own parts, but also fusing as a real team. This is always a mysterious and bumpy process, and it doesnt work with all personalities, but these three have demonstrated a maturity of purpose and a musical sophistication far beyond their years. The result is a remarkably well-balanced trio that really projects a sense of being inside the mind of the composer whose works they are playing.

The SERP trio desires to create excitement within the community about classical music. Classical music may be underappreciated at Brandeis, but interest exists. Although there may not be active desire amongst the community to hear classical music, most students are open-minded and even excited to hear a classical music concert. It is the trios goal and desire to inspire interest in classical music: they hope students will identify with out range of music, from early classical to romantic to contemporary jazz. Patten speaks with excitement of the trios upcoming performance: Its beautiful and has got everything: its harrowing and soaring and gentle and triumphant and romantic all in one.

The SERP trio performs the Haydn Duet for violin and cello, Paul Schoenfields Caf Music, and the masterpiece Brahms B Major Piano Trio Sunday, April 10th, at 8:00 at Slosberg Music Hall. Admission is free and a reception follows the show.

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