Orchestra’s musicians: ready to play
BRECKENRIDGE – They play hard, and now they’re coming to Breckenridge to play even harder. They’re not athletes per se, but their dedication and training competes with that of any athlete around. They are the young musicians of the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO).
Maestro Carl Topilow chose 82 of the best young musicians out of 610 that auditioned for the NRO. The musicians not only learn, rehearse and perform new programs every three days, but also attend master classes and seminars to prepare for careers in symphony orchestras.
like an athlete
“It’s an exercise in learning to learn music very fast, which is pertinent to the business,” said violinist Daniel Stachyra, of Oak Park, Ill. He learned a wide repertoire of music last year when he performed with the NRO, but still found time to enjoy the mountains.
“Every chance I got I’d go climb up Peak 8 or Peak 10,” he said. “It was pretty jam packed with climbing up the mountains and performing.”
His intensity has led to problems with tendinitis from the repetitive motion of playing violin.
“You have to learn what the body needs in terms of warming up and rest, similar to what an athlete does,” he said. “We don’t usually approach a musical instrument as an athletic endeavor with respect to the fact that there’s a limit to what we can do.” He practices four to five hours a day during his busy season of performing.
Stachyra began violin lessons at age 6 and began to consider a career in music when his high school teacher encouraged him.
“He just had a skill for it,” his father, Frank Stachyra, said. “He always was at the top of whatever group he was in.”
Daniel Strachyra studied music at the Oberlin Conservatory and earned a double major in music and biology. He took a break from his tough schedule and lived in Brazil for six months, where he came to appreciate music even more.
“I saw the similarities – that music is a really fundamental part of being a human being,” he said. “I realized I missed the music school, and it was much more satisfying to me than doing research in biology.”
He played violin in a rock band in Chicago, enjoying the more immediate connection with audiences that danced to his acoustic-based music, but in the end, he chose classical music.
“Playing in an orchestra, you get feelings that are very intense,” he said.
Stewart sings praises
Amanda Stewart, 20, wanted to play the “horn” at age 4, but she had to wait until she was 6.
“It must have been God, because no one in my family plays an instrument,” Stewart said. “At the time, the trombone was about 3-4 inches taller than me.” Even at age 7, she could reach only four out of seven positions, but she adapted – at a Christmas recital, she simply stopped the song, dropped the slide on the floor where she could reach sixth position, play the note, then continue.
“Even as a young child, her interest was classical,” her mother, Patsy Stewart, said. “She didn’t have any other CDs. She never listened to anything else.”
Amanda Stewart’s enthusiasm for the trombone dwindled in second grade, when she had to miss recess to play with the more advanced fourth- and fifth-graders.
“I tried to make elephant noises to insist that I wasn’t enjoying practice,” she said. However, in seventh grade, she joined an adult band that gave her the challenge she needed to regain interest.
In eighth grade, she visited a prestigious trombone teacher at West Virginia University. After listening to her play, he accepted her as a student.
“He got down on one knee in front of my parents and said, “can I keep her?'” Stewart said, laughing.
Living in Oakland, Md., presented challenges because teachers and orchestras were hours away. Fortunately, she’s an only child, and her parents didn’t mind the sacrifice of driving.
Her dream is to play in a symphony orchestra and to be part of a music ministry within a church.
“I sing and play for God, and that’s the greatest enjoyment,” she said. “In hard times when it’s not quite as enjoyable, I just remember why I’m playing – for God.”
Soldiviero caught up with classical
Jared Soldiviero, 22, started his classical training late in life, but quickly caught up to his peers. He began playing the drum set in third grade and pounded the drums for 10 years before mellowing his beat.
“I didn’t feel like I was going to make it playing drum set,” Soldiviero said. “I didn’t feel it was for me. I was never like a rock ‘n’ roll kid. When I started playing orchestral music, I started realizing that it was just more satisfying.”
His interest in orchestral music increased when his family moved to New Jersey from New York, and he became the star musician at the smaller high school. When he heard the “1812 Overture,” he was hooked and began exploring more classical music. Then he met Kim Burja, who prepared him for acceptance into the Juilliard School of Music.
“I started late with my classical training,” he said. “I didn’t have the experience and didn’t know what to expect.” His peers had been to summer programs when he didn’t even know they existed. He also had to learn the discipline of practicing in a room without distractions for three hours straight.
“I had to learn how to rehearse, how to practice by myself, how to have a goal in mind and stick to it,” he said. “It brought my level of playing up way high. It’s been a steady rise ever since.”
“He’s a sponge,” his father, Ray Soldiviero said. “He hears it, he knows it. At Juilliard he did some pieces that just blew my mind.”
Jared Soldiviero hopes to perform in an orchestra or land a freelancing job in New York City. He counteracts any cynicism about the future by being sure of who he is and what he likes to do, he said. In the meantime, he’s going to enjoy his training in Breckenridge.
“I’m going to be playing the timpani the whole time,” he said. “It’s like a dream.”
Hosts see Breckenridge anew
BRECKENRIDGE – Seeing Summit County with fresh eyes and hearing inside stories of the National Repertory Orchestra (NRO) are just two reasons residents host young musicians for eight weeks.
Families and individuals volunteer to prepare a home-cooked meal and lead tours and outdoor adventures, such as hikes, bike rides and trips to Vail, Boulder or Leadville on Mondays, when the musicians enjoy a day free from an intense schedule of rehearsals and performances.
“Probably the single biggest thing is a home-cooked meal,” Breckenridge summer resident Barbara Wurth said. “It’s fun for me because they like my cooking.”
Wurth and her husband, George Lott, have hosted musicians for three years. They usually request one male and one female musician for variety, then meet with them at a pizza party and get to know their interests.
“We say to them, “You tell us what you really want to do,'” Lott said.
One young lady, educated in India, was determined to hike to the top of a mountain, even though she had severe difficulty with the elevation.
“She was so proud of herself when she made it,” Wurth said. She continued to update them as she overcame more severe obstacles, such as performing in war-torn Yugoslavia and healing from her grandfather’s death.
Another musician had immigrated from Russia, so they sat around listening to stories of his early childhood.
“The backgrounds of these kids are incredibly diverse,” Lott said. “It’s amazing how well you get to know these kids in a short amount of time.”
Lott and Wurth enjoy being around the younger generation, since they are retired.
“It’s very interesting when one is our age,” Wurth said. “It’s great to be around young people who have a lot to do and see. It’s energizing. We learn a lot from these young people’s perspective.”
“Its also fun to hear the inside story behind the NRO, the little romances,” Lott said.
“The thing I enjoy most is getting to know a couple of these musicians personally instead of just seeing them perform in the orchestra,” he said.
Like Lott and Wurth, Bruce and Judy Spinney began hosting musicians to become more involved in the community.
“It has enriched our lives,” Judy Spinney said. “It gives us a connection with the community and enhances our appreciation for the program. They’re very kind and extremely appreciative. Their personalities and connections with the world have enhanced us the most.”
They keep in touch with their guest musicians, such as a woman from Taiwan, who is now married with a family and performing in China.
“Every year it’s a new experience, and the musicians have different needs you’re trying to meet,” Bruce Spinney said. For example, one year a musician became ill, so the Spinneys invited him into their home.
“Their families are always just real grateful, even though you give so little,” Judy Spinney said.
Sometimes the musicians sign up for a host family but then explore the area with their peers instead.
“We try to be of service, not impose ourselves,” Bruce Spinney said.
“The difficult thing is fitting their schedule to yours,” Judy Spinney said. “But it doesn’t have to be a big long day. It can be small things.”
“As beautiful as Summit County is and with so much to enjoy, it’s more exciting when you see it from a new person’s eyes,” Bruce Spinney said.
NRO boardmember and host Ernie Blake agreed.
“My favorite part is spending the time with young people who see the world through different eyes than I do,” Blake said.
He likes to take the musicians to Leadville and Beaver Creek in the same day, for culture shock, he said. He especially enjoys their reactions to Boom Days in Leadville. He usually begins with two musicians and winds up with about six who tag along on his tours.
About 40 hosts are needed for the 82 musicians, who are in their early- to mid-20s. Individuals or families may volunteer to spend time, usually Mondays, with the musicians, and the activities chosen are up to the hosts and the guests.
“Some people take them to church, other people take them to drink beer,” Blake said.
To volunteer call Pat or Steve Larson at (970) 547-5362.
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