One year after embarking on a year-long residency partnership, The Baldwin Wallace Conservatory of Music is once again preparing to play host to The Cleveland Orchestra.
The orchestra, considered among the country’s finest orchestral ensembles, will perform a concert led by Assistant Conductor Vinay Parameswaran on Oct. 25 inside BW’s Gamble Auditorium.
This will be far from The Cleveland Orchestra’s first performance on campus; their first BW performance was in 1920, just two years after the ensemble’s founding.
As recently as last academic year, TCO members performed on the Gamble stage as part of a year-long residency.
But this year’s concert will be very different from what was presented in January 2019, according to Susan Van Vorst, dean of the Conservatory of Music.
“The concert that we featured in January was almost a chamber orchestra,” Van Vorst said. “We really had the opportunity to hear very specifically and very finely from the wind section of the orchestra, for example, and from the strings. This year, what we’re going to experience is a very robust, full-fledged big program— romantic repertoire that will involve the full forces of the orchestra.”
The concert is another continuation of the long-standing relationship the BW Conservatory shares with the orchestra, said Van Vorst.
“From the very beginning of the conservatory, we’ve had members of The Cleveland Orchestra on our faculty,” Van Vorst said. “That is certainly the case today. We have eight members of The Cleveland Orchestra currently on the faculty.”
According to Van Vorst, while these faculty members teach weekly lessons to instrumental students, coach chamber ensembles, and otherwise influence applied musical training at the Conservatory, they are not the only way students can interact with members of the professional orchestra.
“Orchestra members who are not our faculty are also here from time to time giving master classes, teaching orchestra repertoire classes for some of our instrumental students,” said Van Vorst. “I think students have lots of points of engagement they take advantage of it that are beyond just going to a weekly lesson with a member of The Cleveland Orchestra, for example.”
According to Professor Jack Sutte, lecturer in trumpet and member of TCO, the relationship between the two is becoming stronger, not only in music performance but in all aspects.
“These last two years, having the orchestra play on campus in a variety of different types of concerts is awesome,” said Sutte. “Having the relationships in not just the music end of it, but the management side of it… I think it’s growing.”
While Gamble Auditorium is a much smaller and more intimate setting than T.C.O.’s usual home of Severance Hall in downtown Cleveland, Sutte has no concerns as to how the orchestra will sound.
“I think Gamble is an awesome space,” said Sutte. “I think it’s going to sound glorious.”
Van Vorst is hoping for a high turnout from Conservatory students at the Orchestra’s performance. While last year’s performance was played to a full house, Van Vorst admitted that she found the number of students in the audience “disappointing.”
Concert attendance has been a topic of discussion among Conservatory students and faculty recently, resulting in changes made to the Conservatory concert attendance policy. As opposed to a prior requirement that students attend at least ten performances on or off campus per semester, students this year are instead required to attend seven Convocation Recitals which are given by students and faculty and held on campus in Gamble Auditorium.
Van Vorst expressed surprise at this issue being discussed.
“I think that being professional artist demands that you’re aware and demands that you are active in the community of the cultural arts and are actively seeking out ways to diversify yourself and deepen your own language of the arts. And that can’t happen if you’re not constantly listening,” Van Vorst said. “So it’s always baffling to me. When I was a music student, I was going to concerts all the time. Because you’re never going to have another time in your life when you can access unbelievable art so affordably and so conveniently. It’s right in your lap. So I think the whole topic of concert attendance and the attendance policy, to me, it’s just really strange that it’s an issue because if you want to be a professional musician, you should be hearing as much as you possibly can.”
During the 2018-2019 Academic year, BW’s relationship with the orchestra manifested in the form of a year-long residency during which the orchestra co-hosted several events for Conservatory of Music students.
Events held included masterclasses, performances, workshops and roundtable discussions regarding the state of classical music and a professional orchestra’s role in its community. Another instance of collaboration between the organizations came this past summer, when members of the BW Conservatory’s music theatre program performed a concert production of Rogers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” with the orchestra at their summer home of Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.
For Van Vorst, that performance confirmed that The Cleveland Orchestra values B.W. as a partner and collaborator.
“A moment like that where you have a major orchestra who reaches out and wants to collaborate just because of the quality of the program and the reputation it has,” Van Vorst said, “That’s pretty extraordinary.”