by Joel Weszka (IMIF Chamber Music Faculty Coach)
Reflecting on IMIF 2013, it is still a challenge to summarize just how much I experienced in the timeframe of my service, and how valuable all of it was and is.
I noticed in particular that IMIF is this unusual microcosm where age does not matter: so many different students - ranging in age from 8 through 22 - came together to make great music, and yet their shared energy, and in particular, their openness in learning, is remarkable.
It was a privilege and inspiration granted to me to be one of the people helping to shape and guide these students. They challenged me to deepen my own understanding of some very specific music and to communicate it, and to adapt and expand my pedagogical tools. I invested my knowledge and energy, and their receptivity, their sheer uniqueness among one another, and their sort of rawness as young musicians, all rewarded me with renewed purpose in all of my musical work.
In the short term, IMIF remains the highlight of my summer. In the long term, I know I will draw from this experience as a teacher, and a lifelong student, for many years to come.
IMIF students were invited to input their thoughts and experiences directly onto this blog. Here are their reflections on IMIF 2013
"We jumped into everything and got to know each other personally and musically right from the beginning of the very first day." -Sara B.
"I really feel at home here, it's like we're one big musical family! There are many great musicians that I have learned so much from, and we start and end the day together." -Julia S.
"I can't imagine a faculty more dedicated to their students than the instructors at IMIF. Every day they put an incredible amount of time and effort towards helping us progress as musicians which makes IMIF a truly unique and special place." -Isabel B.
"IMIF opened doors to many musical opportunities that I would not otherwise have been exposed to." Alyssa H.
"I love that this festival is so intimate. Great things come in small packages!" -Sydney B.
"IMIF focuses on the emotional and spiritual side of the musician just as much as the technical side." -Sara B.
"Through this festival I have had the opportunity to work with many fantastic musicians and I have learned so much about technique and sound." -Jacob M.
"It's really fun to play in a chamber group and have excellent instruction from great teachers." -Mahesh D.
"It was wonderful to play in a chamber... Haha." -Alyssa H.
"I thought the "holistic" aspects of the experience might be exaggerated, but they weren't and were so fun and memorable! The workshops, masterclasses, and concerts were amazing." -Audrey R.
"Everyone supports each other!" -Stephanie H.
"IMIF is a community of incredibly dedicated musicians, always there for support when you need it." -Abigail L.
"A very vital musical experience without the competitive atmosphere." -Ben F.
"Generally, I'm a quiet person, and shy. But IMIF has helped me come out musically. I've grown so much!" -Sydney B.
"So, Brian Ganz announces that he is going to be playing Chopin's 4th Ballade and Jacob just about exploded with excitement." -Kara I.
by Elyssa Smith (IMIF's "Mental Toughness" Coach)
Which dog will win the fight? The one you feed.
This was the theme of my two days at IMIF. The moments were full of positive messages and enthusiastic engagement from all the students. I am truly changed and so grateful.
The main emphasis of IMIF is a holistic approach to making music and we worked our minds, bodies, and spirits together at every opportunity. We began Thursday morning by doing some stretching and movement together. We talked about the importance of exercising our bodies and moving them in ways that are different from when we play our instruments so that we can remain healthy and flexible.
After exercises, I presented some ideas to the students and faculty about our positive and negative thoughts, and how to overcome performance anxiety and perfectionism. I told them about the two dogs that are constantly fighting within us. Dog #1 is fear, false pride, anger, self-pity, and anything else negative that comes up when we are under pressure. Dog #2 is peace, joy, love, acceptance, gentleness and gratitude. We talked about how to help Dog 2 win the fight: to know ourselves (as our lovely youngest student said, “It’s good to know what makes us happy!”), to allow the moments come to us (rather than constantly striving), and to not care whether we win or lose. That is, realizing that we have nothing to lose unless we do not release our gift or tell the story we came to tell.
Then, legendary pianist, Brian Ganz, gave us the privilege of participating in a master class. The kindness he exuded as he gently coached each of the students warmed our hearts and inspired us all.
That evening, Professor Ganz graced us with a Chopin performance that evoked tears and passion, and brought a presence of supernatural love like I have never experienced in a concert setting. Though it is unheard of for a master musician to allow his audience to choose his program, he asked the students to request their favorite Chopin preludes for him to share with them. In the Q&A session he allowed the students to pick his brain on everything from practicing techniques (Hands Alone Then Together), to what he thinks about during a performance (fighting the pressure he feels about the person in the audience he wants to impress, and focusing on prayers that he might give the gift he came to bring). Though he did not use the analogy of the two dogs, he spoke the same message we had been focusing on all day – a coincidence? I think not.
For our reflections that evening, we played the ABC game of gratitude. We discussed the role of thankfulness in bringing us to a place of humility in our music and preparations, feeding Dog #2. Each member of the group was assigned a letter in alphabet order and shared something he/she was grateful for that began with that letter. We heard stories of hardship and tragedy that ended in gratitude and victory, of family and friends lifting each other up, and of fulfilled hearts, grateful for the opportunities at IMIF. The students and faculty gave each other their gifts of joy, peace, love and encouragement, and I was blessed to have been a part.
My two days at IMIF have forever changed me. The students’ open hearts, engaged minds, and phenomenal musical talents have inspired me. The hard work of the faculty and their desires to pass on their offerings has set an example for me. I will go on from here to seek to give my own gifts, connect with other open hearts, and pass along the message: there are those out there who have passion, talent, heart, and courage; by connecting with one another, there is nothing we cannot do.
by Dr. Joni Chan (IMIF 2013 Faculty)
I was thrilled to be part of IMIF this year. I was impressed by the wonderful young talents who were ready to learn and quick to absorb ideas that were suggested to them in the most positive manner. IMIF is like a family where we all learn and grow together. As a teacher, it was a joy to see how they are truly excited to be there, and especially how their eyes light up as they discover new musical ideas or a new approach to playing their instrument.
The parents (2nd and 3rd from left) of IMIF 2012 participant Matthew Jossing were traveling on the East Coast this week and decided to surprise IMIF directors Elizabeth Borowsky, Cecylia Barczyk, and Charles Borowsky with a visit. They were excited to see IMIF in person and meet some of the people Matthew spent time with last summer.
By Rachel S. Karas News-Post Staff
Twenty-five young musicians arrived Sunday in Emmitsburg for the annual International Music Institute and Festival USA, an intensive summer music program for strings and piano players.
The rigorous institute held at Mount St. Mary's University draws participants from the United States and abroad for 10 days of rehearsals, lessons, workshops and public performances, Executive Director Elizabeth Borowsky said.
The program runs through July 24, followed by a performance tour of seven shows in five days.
From 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., musicians are challenged to improve not only their playing ability, but their mental and physical connection to the notes as well.
"I don't see music as a performance, as an entertainment thing," program co-founder Charles Borowsky said. "Music is a tool for a catalyzing of creative forces. ... I want to show the function of the arts in society."
The program's interdisciplinary curriculum separates it from similar institutes, Charles said. Fifteen faculty members and visiting artists lead classes including "Mind, Body, Music," "Stage Presence" and "Introduction to Singing."
Pianist Alyssa Howell, 18, of Leesburg, Va., is in her second year at the institute. The group is like a family where each professor knows your name and musicians become best friends, she said.
A unique routine connects students to one another and to their work, Howell said. Participants start each morning with 15 to 20 minutes of stretching and exercise, and end each night by listening to each other's life stories.
"It's a very holistic way of going about learning music," Howell said. "It looks at you as an entire person, not necessarily as a musician."
Among this year's students are an 8-year-old violin prodigy from Newtown, Conn., who lives across the street from Sandy Hook Elementary School; a Japanese musician in her fourth year at the institute; and a Florida native attending the program on scholarship after she won a concerto competition.
Though a few participants are foreign-born children now living in the U.S., no international students are among this year's musicians. People may be deterred by rising travel costs or prefer to let the institute come to them when it goes abroad in the coming years, Borowsky said.
Many students come to the institute apprehensive about pressure or competitiveness, faculty member Blanka Bednarz said. But the group collaborates and learns from one another, and the teachers watch the musicians transform.
"They come out with the sense they belong in a community ... that loves music," Bednarz said. "They come out inspired."
The institute began in West Virginia in 2003 but has been held at Mount St. Mary's since 2005, co-founder Cecylia Barczyk said. With facilities better suited for the institute — including on-campus dorms and pianos — the university has proved a valuable partner for the institute's growth.
The university "is more of a learning, vocational place," Barczyk said. "One cannot help but be inspired by the spiritual aspects of the Mount."
Organizers plan to bring the program to the Baltic states in 2015 and other places around the world, hoping to share their vision for musical education and learn from more students.
"This is a unique opportunity, practically a professional experience," Bednarz said. "I continue to be amazed with the talent ... and they're really good people."
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