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String Teacher Workshops

Wentong Zhang Goes to Washington

SAW violinist Wentong Zhang writes of his experiences as a member of the 2012 Summer Music Institute of the National Symphony Orchestra.  One of 70 students ( ages 15-20) chosen from throughout the U.S., he spent four weeks in Washington, D.C. Currently, Wentong is junior at Whitefish Bay High School. He has been a student at the String Academy for eight years, studying with Darcy Drexler and is a member of the Violin Virtuosi.  Enjoy reading Wentong’s diary:

“I had one of the most inspirational and fun experiences of my life this past July attending the Summer Music Institute of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.  For four weeks, I played wonderful music, met wonderful musicians, and had some of the most fun I’ve ever had.

Wentong Zang at the SMI (2nd from right)

The music aspect of the festival was truly fantastic. There were all sorts of musical opportunities around you; orchestra and chamber music, along with a 90 min. private lesson every week. After two weeks of rehearsal our first concert repertoire included Jean Sibelius’s Symphony No. 1 and Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnole.  Other performances included Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4, first movement of the Dvorak Cello Concerto and Matinees Musicales by Benjamin Britten. The orchestra was fantastic; I have never played in such a strong orchestra before.

While the orchestra experience was incredible, the chamber music portion was one of my favorite parts of camp. My string quartet studied Schubert’s Death and the Maiden Quartet.  We received several coaching sessions from a National Symphony Orchestra  member which culminated in a performance at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage.  Finally, my private lessons were incredibly insightful, providing a different perspective on the violin and my solo repertoire.  Although these were the core components of the schedule, more activities were available, such as conducting and other enrichment classes.  I participated in the conducting and cadenza writing classes, and although more fun than informative, I will remember them fondly.

Not only was the music great, the people there definitely played a huge role in making this summer so memorable. They were all so accomplished in their own ways, and came together to make music.   It’s not the easiest summer camp to be invited to, as the application excerpts were hard and the competition was quite fierce.  Once there, we inspired each other, rehearsed and performed together, and egged each other on. The professionals of the NSO were just as helpful.  Participating in two side-by-side rehearsals with the orchestra, I was astounded by how much they knew about the music and how they could articulate that knowledge to you. There was always someone there to lend you a hand when needed (minus the practicing, that you had to do by yourself), and this camaraderie built many friendships.

Wentong and friends ready for the big concert

It was not all work.  From sight reading string quartets and exploring the Kennedy Center, we also had the opportunity to see D.C.  Housing was located in Foggy Bottom area, in the center of the city.  The Metro took us to visit the monuments and many museums.  Another highlight included seeing the fireworks and going on bike rides throughout the city.  A trip to Wolf Trap to hear the NSO play Beethoven’s Ninth, visiting the White House, and staying up too late on the last night because no one wanted to leave are lasting memories.

It was an awe-inspiring summer:  playing great music, working with musicians, and especially making friends.  Though the music majors may have intimidated me a little, I am definitely looking forward to a lifetime filled with music; my experience at the Summer Music Institute reinforced that for me.  And maybe someday, I’ll go back to D.C. and listen to the NSO again, bringing back memories of this golden summer of 2012.”

-Wentong Zhang

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