A decades-long partnership between the Charlotte Symphony and Northwest School of the Arts continues to inspire the musicians of tomorrow.
After a quick tune, the musicians of Northwest School of the Arts Orchestra split into sectionals the cellos follow Charlotte Symphony cellist Denielle Wilson to work on the opening bars of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition while the first violins work on fingerings and technique with Kathleen Jarrell, assistant principal second violin for the Charlotte Symphony. These coaching sessions are part of a decades-long partnership between the Charlotte Symphony and Northwest School of the Arts, a CMS Magnet School that provides specialized arts instruction for students in grades 6-12.
The CSO's Northwest Residency Program is an immersive music education program in which NWSA students work intensively with professional Symphony musicians through individual, sectional, and ensemble settings.
"The students look forward to seeing the coaches come in," said NWSA Orchestra Director Erica Hefner. "I see students taking more ownership over their role in the ensemble, whether it's by being a leader, or by identifying their strengths and challenges."
Denielle Wilson, who recently joined the CSO, worked with NWSA cello students for the first time last month. "The students were very responsive and flexible. On the first day I was trying to get an idea of their playing levels and what they were comfortable with, and I found that they were all good at figuring out how to make music with their instruments independently, and that makes me excited as a coach!"
Kathleen Jarrell, on the other hand, has been coaching violin at NWSA for more than ten years. "It's been exciting to see the orchestra program's growth. I love helping kids feel more successful at violin, and helping them enjoy being a part of an orchestra. Performing is one of the great joys of my life, and helpings students find that joy and excitement is fulfilling."
Outside of regular coaching sessions, NWSA students attend CSO concerts and rehearsals and work with the Symphony's talented conducting staff. They can also enroll in Recital Seminar, a class unique to the region which focuses entirely on chamber music. CSO musicians serve as both coaches and mentors, focusing on the communication between players, music analysis, and expressive playing.
Erica has seen first-hand how this partnership has impacted the lives of her students both musically and personally. "Having someone who is a professional on your specific instrument tell you how, when, and why can be incredibly validating to a teenager. In a world where they are constantly questioning their choices and finding themselves, having a professional say 'Yes, that's it!' is motivating."
For Kathleen, it's about creating an experience that is enlightening and inspiring. "I hope the students come away from a coaching session with increased skills and with new confidence and a sense of accomplishment."
"Most of our students do not take private lessons, so having coaches work with them on solo audition material, as well as college audition material, is not only valuable it can be life changing!" ~Erica Hefner, NWSA Orchestra Director