Twenty-one violin bows moved at a frantic pace inside Harper Hall as Joseph Scheer listened to a group of Furman music students. As his new pupils reached the dramatic conclusion of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, the concertmaster for the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra brought the group to an abrupt stop.
“This is where the audience always applauds when we play in Boston,” Scheer said.
“Us too,” joked Clayton Hoener, the principal second violinist for the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra. “We’re just so happy we made it.”
Their new students could relate.
For Furman’s music students, the visit from the Boston Pops offered a unique opportunity to work with some of the world’s most renowned artists. Eleven members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra visited Furman Feb. 26 to lead a master class and perform with the students.
Collaboration between Furman and the Boston Pops is nothing new. That’s because one of Furman’s alumni, Keith Lockhart ‘81, is the conductor of the Boston Pops. Since taking the lead of the prominent orchestra, Lockhart has given master classes, performances, and lectures at his alma mater.
However, this was different. Unlike previous trips, Lockhart brought his colleagues with him to lead a series of master classes and participate in a panel discussion. The Furman Symphony Orchestra was also invited to join the Pops at Greenville’s Peace Center for Performing Arts to perform Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture and Sibelius’ Finlandia.
“This was a unique opportunity, not just to rub elbows with a world-class conductor, but to sit beside professional musicians on stage,” said Thomas Joiner, a Furman music professor and the conductor of the Furman Symphony Orchestra. “The word apprentice comes to mind. For them to have the opportunity to sit beside the members of the orchestra as students, they’ll learn a lot of tricks that you can’t find in a textbook.”
For the students, it was surprising how easy it was to interact with these professionals. For example, in the violin rehearsal led by Scheer and Hoener, the aspiring musicians could have easily felt intimidated because of their lack of experience. But like the other performers from the Boston Pops, Scheer and Hoener went to great lengths to ensure their pupils were at ease.
That created an environment where the students could think about the music rather than who they were performing with.
“I was anticipating they’d be very serious and impersonable,” said Adam Collins ‘13 (Aberdeen, N.C.), the principal cellist in the Furman Symphony Orchestra. “But they were warm and personable. They asked us our names, our hometowns, and how long we’ve played.”
Moments like that were happening in every rehearsal room and it’s something that made a big impact on the students. Especially those like Anne Kucharski ‘13, who are interested in teaching.
“The ease that they put us at and how they approached working with us is something I’d want to instill in my teaching,” said Kucharski (Aiken, S.C.), an oboe player in the Furman Symphony Orchestra. “That and the details they brought. It was neat to see how professional musicians look at the music. They took what we were doing 10 steps further.”
The students showed what they learned when they joined the Boston Pops at the Peace Center. The level of professionalism the Boston Pops taught the students could be heard when they played Sibelius’ Finlandia and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, earning an ovation from the audience.
Although Lockhart and the other musicians had spent the day training the students for this performance, they had a larger goal in mind.
“I’m hoping the students will find some connection with at least one of us who has a life story similar to theirs,” Lockhart said. “Somebody who had the same doubts that they have. Somebody who maybe has tried something that they thought about doing and give them the benefit of experiential knowledge.”
Every member of the Boston Pops, after all, has been there.
When Renee Krimsier was studying the flute, she applied for several performance opportunities. It was actually easy for her to keep track of exactly how many because she posted every rejection letter on her dorm room door. For Krimsier, it was a way to make light of the situation.
“Don’t take rejections too seriously,” said Krimsier, who now plays the flute for the Boston Pops. “They’re part of the process and they’re a great experience.”
It’s one of the many lessons that Furman’s students took away from the visit.
“You can tell each one of them enjoys playing after 30 or 40 years,” said Meghan Jackson’ 13 (Moncks Corner, S.C.) the concertmaster for the Furman Symphony Orchestra . “It was really encouraging because you see so many people who get tired of their jobs. You can see these people still love what they do. Even during the performance, their concertmaster was smiling.”