GW Summer Piano & Chamber Music Institute Students Debut at Kennedy Center

Annual program pairs young hopefuls with top-flight musicians for instruction, performance and mentorship.

Chamber Music Jacob
July 14, 2014

By Brittney Dunkins

Growing up in Cary, N.C., Jacob Warwick, now a 21-year-old junior at the George Washington University, developed a love of classical music. Both of his parents are musicians.

“I knew from the moment I heard the sound of the viola that it was the instrument I wanted to play,” Mr. Warwick said.

On Thursday, nearly 10 years after Mr. Warwick picked up the viola, the stage lights went up on his debut at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Millennium Stage performance was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for an aspiring musician and the culmination of a week of intensive rehearsals at GW’s Summer Piano & Chamber Music Institute.

Mr. Warwick is one of 22 middle, high school and college students, including three students from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, participating in the institute. The two-week intensive program offers young musicians from across the nation, as well as Turkey and Spain, an opportunity to engage and perform with professional musicians and receive college-level instruction.

“For students to gain this kind of experience and interaction is extremely important,” said Douglas Boyce, chair of the GW Department of Music. “They learn by doing all of the things that are often unsaid about what it means to play chamber music and what it means to rehearse as professional musicians.”

GW senior and violist Jacob Warwick (C) performs with volinist Michael Mallory and Aeolus Quartet cellist Alan Richardson (R) on Thursday at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Millennium Stage Concert Series.

The program, housed in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, was developed following an anonymous donation of 28 pianos to the Department of Music in 2009. With instructions to put the pianos to good use, Dr. Boyce and a dedicated team of staff and faculty members set to work creating a program that would embed students with professional musicians and provide an immersive experience.

The institute, now in its third year, began as a piano-focused program but has grown to include chamber music as well. The Aeolus Quartet, graduate resident string quartet at the Juilliard School in New York— violinists Nicholas Tavani and Rachel Shapiro, violist Gregory Luce and cellist Alan Richardson—GW faculty artists, such as Area Coordinator of Keyboard Studies Malinee Peris, as well as faculty artists from other institutions, work closely with student chamber music ensembles.

“I have great memories of going to a program similar to this one at Rhodes College in Memphis when I was in high school, and it showed me what chamber music could be,” Mr. Luce said. “Working with students at this level, it becomes very clear that they have so much talent and so many opportunities to pursue music in the future.”

Students receive guided instruction from GW faculty members and artists, learning technical skills as well as the historical context and meaning behind the pieces that they perform. Each week culminates in a student recital, open to family, friends and the campus community.

The Aeolus Quartet, graduate resident string quartet at the Juilliard School in New York, offer students instruction during the Summer Piano & Chamber Music Institute.

As a first-time participant, Mr. Warwick, who also plays in the University Orchestra, said that the experience has offered a matchless opportunity for one-on-one instruction, creativity and musical growth.

“My favorite part of the program has been the opportunity to work closely with the amazing faculty, including the members of the Aeolus Quartet,” Mr. Warwick said.

“They're not afraid to ask a lot of us, incorporating multiple performances, master classes and a challenging repertoire. The task of rising to those expectations is what makes this camp so exciting and inspiring,” he added.

This year also marks the first time that students performed in the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage concert series.

“Performances like these are always learning experiences,” said Joshua Jenkins, a second-year institute participant and recent graduate of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts.

Mr. Jenkins will attend Temple University to study piano in the fall.

“Besides performing, my favorite part of the program has been the atmosphere,” he said. “I know that everyone here wants me to succeed.”

The institute will also host a master class at the Phillips Collection’s historic Music Room during the second week of the program. A faculty artist concert, featuring Ieva Jokubaviciute and the Aeolus Quartet will be held in the Music Room on July 17.

“They're not afraid to ask a lot of us. The task of rising to those expectations is what makes this camp so exciting and inspiring,” - Jacob Warwick, violist and Summer Piano & Chamber Music Institute student. 

“It’s dichotomous because the Kennedy Center is a large grand space and represents one kind of music making, and the Phillips Collection is an intimate, chamber music space,” Dr. Boyce said. “Providing this level and variety of access to students is what makes this program truly unique.”

Looking toward the future of the institute, Mr. Luce said that he is excited to work with the GW Department of Music to continue expanding the programming.

“As far as I can tell, another program like this doesn’t exist in D.C.,” Mr. Luce said. “We’ve had such huge success in the last two years and such a positive response from the community. There are so many talented young musicians in the area, and I cannot wait to see where the program is headed.”