We sat down with Associate Professor Harvey Felder, the Director of Orchestral Studies and Conductor of the UConn Chamber Orchestra, as he discussed the recently initiated UConn Ensemble in Residence (EIR) Program. With the upcoming Ensemble in Residence performance on March 8th at 7pm in the Ferguson Library in Stamford, CT, the string orchestra is excited to share their work with the community and expose the musical talents of their fellow peers to the regional campuses.
Q: What are the goals and initiatives behind the Ensemble in Residence Program?
The Ensemble in Residence Program is an initiative that came to fruition through the efforts of Anne D’Alleva, UConn School of Fine Arts Dean. She’s very interested in making sure students at our regional campuses have some exposure to the Arts. Some of the arts programs have been closed at those campuses, so the Dean wants to bring the music ensembles we have here on the Storrs campus to the regional campuses. Last semester, the UConn Symphony performed at the Palace Theater in Stamford for the UConn Stamford campus, but this semester we’re performing at the Ferguson Library. It’s a smaller, more intimate venue because we’re taking a chamber orchestra. The idea is to bring our music making to the students in Stamford so they get a chance to hear live music by their peers. The choruses, the jazz band, the orchestra, and one of our concert bands are all involved. We are going all over the state of Connecticut – the Avery Point, West Hartford, Waterbury, and Stamford campuses for now and perhaps more in the future. It’s the first year and we’ll see how it goes. We’ll evaluate it after each performance and hopefully we will have made a difference in the lives of students who don’t get to see UConn music.
Q: What sort of audiences do you hope to see at these performances? What do you hope will be achieved by reaching out to the UConn regional campuses?
It takes years to build the momentum and audiences in new venues. People don’t know about us right now, so it’s going to take a while before we get people coming out to hear our concerts consistently. We are depending a lot on the regional campuses. We hope they will do a lot of advertising for the concerts and greatly encourage their students to attend. We’ll see, hopefully it’ll grow bigger every year.
Q: What can you tell us about the music pieces that the audience can expect to hear?
We decided to take just the string family this semester. There are three or four centuries worth of music written for the string orchestra. They’ll be playing music that represents the last 200 years of writing for this genre, so we’re excited to take our string orchestra and several of our music faculty. The program is rather eclectic. The first piece is all the strings playing Symphony no. 15 by Wolfgang Amadeus.Then three of our department of music faculty will perform Café Music of Violin, Violincello, and Piano by Paul Schoenfield. Then the full orchestra returns for Suite Strings by John Rutter and Little Suite for Strings op. 1 by Carl Nielsen. Our fifth piece involves the full orchestra playing with Dr. Solomiya Ivakhiv, violin, and Dr. Angelina Gadeliya, piano performing the Concerto for Violin and Piano by Franz Joseph Haydn. Lastly, we have Serenade for Strings by Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky. There are six different selections, and it looks like a lot music but this is a short concert. The music was selected because it offers a great variety of emotion and colors. Some are happy and cheerful, and others are more reflective and somber. Having the faculty join us for this concert adds so much to the experience for our students and for the audience. We are really happy to have this opportunity to perform with such world-class musicians.
Q: Do you feel as though the music department gets enough support from the UConn student body?
We play a lot of concerts – from student recitals, faculty recitals, to larger ensemble performances. We probably do forty to fifty performances a semester or so, and we always have an audience so that’s a lot of support. We could always use more support – we would love to have every concert packed with sell-out crowds. We don’t get that, but we always have audiences at our concerts. We’re getting student support but we’d love to see more. There’s always room to squeeze in another three or four dozen at our concerts. We’re a small department, but we do the best we can.
Q: What do you enjoy most about conducting the UConn Orchestra?
There are so many steps to getting the ensemble on stage. The audience sees us on stage and hear our great performances..they applaud, they’re happy, and they leave. There are so many steps leading up to that as you might imagine. Some of the steps involve the full ensemble preparing for that, some of the steps are just me doing my preparation, some of the steps are the individuals of the orchestra doing their preparation. I love the way everyone takes responsibility for their piece of the puzzle, we put it together, and then we move in a direction that leads us to that performance. I love the process of my personal preparation, the musicians’ preparation, and then as a group how we prepare. I love the planning and carefully leading the group towards a successful outcome.
Please join us for the free Ensemble in Residence performance by the UConn Chamber Orchestra!
Conducted by Harvey Felder and joined by violin soloist Solomiya Ivakhiv.
The Ferguson Library: Stamford, CT
The Ensemble in Residence Program was established by UConn’s School of Fine Arts and Department of Music with an Academic Plan grant from the Office of the Provost. This program brings to UConn’s regional campuses, and the communities to which they belong, opportunities to experience the artistry and creativity of outstanding student musicians, who engage with a diverse range of musical traditions in fourteen different ensembles offered by the Music Department at Storrs.
Harvey Felder brings to the podium a refreshing combination of talents. He is known for his deeply moving performances of the great “Classical” repertoire as well as his entertaining performances on “Pops” stages across this country. Mr. Felder has distinguished himself as a leader among his generation of conductors. He has been characterized as having an affable and magnetic podium demeanor which helps audiences feel immediately welcomed, comfortable, and connected to his performances.