The Ambassadors’ Exchange: April 2021
This month’s Ambassador updates are a vibrant mix of song, sound, and reflection. First, learn about how the Pizzicato Effect program in Australia has been ramping up motivation for the new musical year, and then watch Ugandan musicians from Architects of Music perform a local song. Afterward, read about an exciting initiative to strengthen connections between alumni and current students of the Harmony Project in Los Angeles, and then marvel at excellent performances by students from the Music for Peace Foundation in Turkey. Finally, contemplate along with Canadian Ambassador Helen Faucher as she examines a critical conversation she had with her violin teacher.
“A Fresh Start to the New Year at Pizzicato Effect” by Han Diep
“A Song from Northwestern Uganda” by Mary Nakacwa
“Harmony Project Community Warm-Up Rooms” by Pedro Ramos
“Full of Recordings at Music for Peace” by Melis Erselçan
“The Power of Listening” by Helen Faucher
A Fresh Start to the New Year at Pizzicato Effect
Han Diep (Pizzicato Effect, Australia)
Australia’s number of COVID-19 cases has been relatively low, especially in Victoria, where there have been zero new locally acquired cases within the past 20 or so days. Because of this, the Pizzicato Effect was able to start the new year by getting back to onsite learning after spending most of last year on Zoom. However, there are still some safety rules that both teaching artists and students have to follow, such as wearing a mask when unable to social distance, following a hands-off policy, sanitizing our hands, and more.
To kick things off, we welcomed the newcomers (both teaching artists and students) and greeted old friends. Each group was introduced to a new repertoire, and everyone was excited to get to work and showcase their playing for family. There was a small hurdle in mid-February, when Melbourne reached 13 U.K.-variant cases and we went back to learning remotely as a result of a five-day, stage-four quarantine, but students’ enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge did not waiver.
Pizzicato Effect is reaching the end of Term One, and as of this writing we are preparing for a mini- concert happening on March 24, where students will perform and share progress with their families.
A Song from Northwestern Uganda
Mary Nakacwa (Architects of Music, Uganda)
In this video, we are singing “Olonge” while playing instruments such as the bow harp, drums, Agwara horns, shakers, and xylophone. This song comes from Northwestern Uganda and is often sung by the Alur tribe. It expresses that if you don’t do what you’re meant to do in time, time may leave you. Enjoy the video!
Harmony Project Community Warm-Up Rooms
Pedro Ramos (Harmony Project, USA)
One year into the pandemic, the Harmony Project students and staff have adapted well to their online routines. One result of the online scheduling included the new community warm-up rooms taught by alumni on Zoom.
These community warm-up rooms were originally designed to prepare students for their regular Zoom hour with their instructors. However, the warm-up rooms came to include a wide variety of activities, including yoga, meditation, music appreciation, ear training, and improvisation, to name a few. Besides saving more time for music-making, the different instructors have applauded the alumni for focusing on ear training during the community warm-up rooms. This has been an excellent opportunity for alumni studying music education, giving them hands-on teaching experience. And while in-person classes might resume next semester, community warm-up rooms are the Harmony Project’s first step in connecting alumni with new students, further expanding our community.
Full of Recordings at Music for Peace
Melis Erselçan (Music for Peace Foundation, Turkey)
We have had a wonderful beginning to 2021. This wonderful beginning’s name is Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf” symphonic tale!
We first recorded “Peter and the Wolf” last year with voice acting by actress Şebnem Bozoklu. It was a serious and important experience for me, but still an exhausting process for all involved. Still, we did a good job! It was broadcast on YouTube in January and has been watched by approximately 13,000 people so far. The video has English subtitles so you can watch and understand it easily.
The female students of Barış İçin Müzik (Music for Peace) also took part in the Women of the World Festival (WOW) in cooperation with the British Council. The festival, focusing on women and girls, took place online this year, with music panels, dance performances, and conversations. We made many kinds of recordings, such as interviews, solo and string quintet performances with a percussion section, and choir. We recorded at Tekfur Palace, which had the most beautiful ambiance. It was a great opportunity to raise our voice as young women; I know we can do whatever we want in any condition.
Here is the full version of the festival day in which we participated. If you want to skip ahead to our part in the festival, it begins at 3:56:40. In addition, here is our behind-the-scenes video from the festival, taken by our cameraman Ozan Şahin.
The Power of Listening
Helen Faucher (Moncton Youth Orchestra, Canada)
The lesson I learned this month is filling me with such great positivity that I must share! There I was, having my usual weekly violin lesson. It was quite daunting, as I was to present the whole movement of a concerto I have been working on. Filled with anxiety, I began to play, listening only to the rather unsupportive thoughts in my head.
“Helen—” my teacher stopped me. I froze, afraid to hear his feedback so early into the piece. But what he said next still lingers in my mind.
“You need to stop thinking and start listening.”
A moment of realization washed over me. All this time, I had misjudged the two to be the same thing. I thought about all the time I must have wasted while practicing, listening to my thoughts and not to the music I was creating. We musicians tend to say mean things to ourselves when we are under stress, even if we don’t realize it. Learning our triggers and trying to incorporate more encouraging dialogue should be prioritized for our own happiness!
This is a lesson I hope never to forget—not just when I am practicing, but whenever I get too “in my head” in everyday life.
I looked toward my teacher and smiled, grateful for the wonderful lessons I learn through music. Once again, I began to play. This time, I was truly listening. This time, all went well.