“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist, and that there are as few of them as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human spirit and spirit.. “John Steinbeck
Violinist Stefan Jackiw.
There is a beautiful moment at the end of Stefan Jackiw’s captivating interpretation of Max Bruch’s “Scottish Fantasy” with the Orquesta SinfÃ³nica de Galicia. In the European tradition, Stefan is presented with a bouquet of flowers during the concert ovation. Without missing a beat, he hands the bouquet to the harpist, his ally in Bruch’s musical tour de force. This innocent gesture is in keeping with the obvious generosity and collaborative spirit of this young artist – a man who says his most rewarding orchestral experiences are when he feels like the first violinist of a quartet, rather than like a soloist in front of a symphony. .
I spoke with Stefan for less than an hour, and yet, during that short period of time, the phrases that came up over and over were collaborations with friends, listen to each other, work together, learn from mentors, give back. It is from this organic and natural desire to share his ideas that Stefan’s latest idea was born: Stefan’s Sessions – his brand new online academy – which will be offered for free via Zoom.
Not your father’s masterclass
Stefan’s Sessions will definitely not be your father’s masterclass. In fact, I looked through the promotional material and I can’t find the word “masterclass” anywhere. The “sessions” are, in reality, musical explorations. They are designed for those who want to delve into the masterpieces of the violin repertoire, as well as for those who simply want a better understanding of how to study a score and prepare a piece. As Stefan said, “All the ingredients are in the score. The composers leave us a breadcrumb trail. It’s up to us to follow the clues. This is how we marry our musical research with our own personalities. unique musicals. “
Rather than jumping from composer to composer through the musical timeline, in each monthly episode Stefan will take participants on “a deep dive into a masterpiece of the violin repertoire”. The first three episodes will be devoted to concertos by Tchaikovsky, Sibelius and Mendelssohn. A different violinist will perform each movement. “My hope,” Stefan said, “is that a student who learns these pieces will come away with a starter kit on how to approach the job, both musically and technically.”
Violinists who want to apply as a performer and people who want to watch through Zoom (and ask questions during Q&A) will find application and registration information here. There is no charge for performers or members of the public. The first session, August 8, will focus on Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. (Registered participants will receive a specific start time and login information.)
It all starts with music
Stefan’s approach to working with students probably won’t include phrases like “do it like this” or “crescendo on C sharp”. He is not interested in a “note or phrase specific” teaching style while losing the entire room, he said. He sees technique as “a tool for expressing whatever you are trying to express musically”. He compares his approach to the old proverb: Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat his whole life. He is much more interested in the musical equivalent of teaching violinists to fish.
Looking at Stefan, you’d think he should be a student in his own class. But don’t confuse her youthful appearance with inexperience. He has performed as a soloist with orchestras in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, among others. (He was scheduled to make his LA Phil debut at the Hollywood Bowl this summer playing Beethoven’s Violin Concerto.) He recorded the Ives Sonatas with pianist Jeremy Denk. And he performs regularly with pianist Conrad Tao and cellist Jay Campbell as part of the Junction Trio. (He said some of his best musical experiences stem from his involvement in chamber music, a repertoire he says lends itself to âreally listening.â)
Stefan said chamber music is also a forum where you often play with people you love and admire. I can only assume he is referring to his new wife, clarinetist Yoonah Kim. (The courageous couple tied the knot last month at a wedding in Central Park, where they were joined in person by masked friends and virtually by family members via Zoom.) A seemingly magical moment for the couple were, and rightly so, a representation of Charles for Valentine’s Day. “Largo for violin, clarinet and piano” by Ives, with hearts on the piano, red ribbons in Mrs. Kim’s hair and a red bow around the roll of Stefan’s Guadagnini 1750 Go.
Stefan takes the familiar musical route … Harvard
If it doesn’t seem right for you for Stefan to teach, look no further than his parents. Both acclaimed physicists, Stefan’s German-born * father is Professor Emeritus at MIT, while his Korean-born mother is a professor at Boston University. They placed great importance on Stefan’s academic studies and also started playing the violin at the age of 4. Like many violinists, Stefan’s early musical education mainly took the form of private lessons, including studies that began during his final year of high school with renowned violinist Donald Weilerstein. .
When it came time for college, Stefan toyed with the idea of ââa conservatory. But, the academic route was more to his liking. As he said, “It was like a familiar path.” So he chose a location in Boston between his parents’ two workplaces: Harvard University.
Stefan has managed to get the best of both academic and conservatory worlds. While earning a musicology degree from Harvard, he continued his studies with Weilerstein at the New England Conservatory (NEC), simultaneously receiving an Artist’s Diploma from NEC. (The joint degree currently offered between these institutions did not exist in Stefan’s time.)
Stefan’s musical outlook changed dramatically at Harvard, he said, when he had the opportunity to take a chamber music class with brilliant pianist and musical thinker Robert Levin. âI went from focusing only on the repertoire I was studying, to delving into pieces that I didn’t know,â Stefan said. “Students have had the opportunity to take Levin’s course on several occasions, and I think I took it six out of eight semesters.”
Perhaps Levin’s class was an inspiration for Stefan’s sessions, as it was also a deep dive into the repertoire. Stefan said that years later he realized he had a âroad mapâ of how to think through various things. As his career developed, it became a personal mission to provide a similar opportunity to other violinists.
An “altruistically musical” performer
A lot of praise has been heaped on Stefan by critics, and rightly so. But the phrase which I think could make him the most proud was uttered by The Financial Times, who wrote that Stefan is “selflessly musical”. If those words mean Stefan is putting his stage ego on the back burner to the musical demands of a given piece, then I’m saying that’s the highest praise an artist can receive.
Going back to Stefan’s performance of ‘Scottish Fantasy’, as I watched the almost ballistic dance between Stefan and the winds in the Andante Sostenuto (below), I realized that real listening is truly contagious. No one is leading, no one is following, they are just together – that glorious “thing” that happens when the breath, stop, start, slow down is felt as one. You can see that Stefan is really listening and the orchestra is responding in the same way.
Stefan is ready to retain his sonorous tone and deliver a real pianissimo. He is ready to come up with isolated phrases which are not “beautiful” in the obvious sense of the term, but which apparently correspond exactly to what the composer wanted. He is ready not only to give a phrase to an orchestral musician, but to gracefully play a secondary role. He is not there to show us what he can do, but what the composer (and the music) offers us. It sounds quite simple. And yet, I believe, incredibly rare. Selfless performance.
There are a myriad of virtues that music must accomplish and Stefan is more than willing to explore them all. And in doing so, I dare say that in addition to finding beauty (a virtue he possesses in abundance), he helps his audience discover something so touching and bewitching. If he brings even a fraction of that perspective to his sessions, they will be worth more than the time spent.
*Stefan Jackiw’s father was born in an area that was then considered Germany, now considered Poland. He is of Ukrainian origin, hence the surname, which is pronounced Jacques-eev.
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