Orchestra Newsletter Argentina tour edition

Page 1

Whole Note Argentina



Reflecting on

Argentina Maté and Mahler





Whole Note Executive Board 2016-2017 Jae Baek President

Emilie Camera Vice President

Mary Nattakom Treasurer

Meghan Powers Secretary

Grace Hwang Fundraising Chair

Eunu Song Alumni Relations

Sara Jenab Outreach Chair

Kristi Lin Publicity Chair

Zeyu Hu Newsletter

Andrea Jin Poster Design

Sarah McDonald Historian

Derek Masseloff Social Chair

Katie Stawiasz and Jeremy Gersh Social Media Chairs Lauren Blacker, Mitch Dominguez and Paul Huang Tour Planning Committee Chairs

Cornell Orchestras 101 Lincoln Hall

About the Orchestras The Cornell Symphony Orchestra is one of the highest caliber musical groups on the Cornell campus. The group's members are drawn from all circles of Cornell life, including undergraduate students, graduate students, and members of the Ithaca community. Under the direction of Chris Younghoon Kim, the Cornell Symphony Orchestra continually strives to present the best works of contemporary composers as well as compositions by established musical figures. The Cornell Chamber Orchestra is a string orchestra of approximately 30 musicians, comprising students from all colleges on campus. Acceptance into the orchestra is by audition only. The Chamber Orchestra performs a wide variety of works from the 18th century to present time, written expressly for the intimate setting of a smaller chamber orchestra. The Chamber Orchestra rehearses in Barnes Hall and performs many of their concerts in this venue.

Place Stamp Here



A Message from Our President-Elect: Dear Cornell Orchestras friends, family, and alumni, This spring break, the Cornell Orchestras embarked on an exciting weeklong tour to Argentina. Our collaboration with the Orquesta Sinfónica del Neuquén and Maestro Andres Tolcachir culminated in a sold-out performance of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6. Aside from rehearsal, our members were able to enjoy the sights of Argentina, take in the local culture, and load our stomachs with local specialties like empanadas and bife de chorizo. From exploring the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, to hiking and seeing the stunning panoramic views of the Andes, to playing soccer and sharing mate with Neuquén musicians by the Limay River, the shared memories of our tour have built new friendships and brought us so much closer. This newsletter recounts the experiences of just a few of our members. All of us owe a great deal of gratitude to all of our friends who supported this opportunity.

Sincerely, Paul Huang President-Elect and Tour Planning Co-Chair

Cover Picture: Neuquén, Argentina



Reflecting on Eric Shen Violin, ‘20


Coming back from Argentina, I was depressed when faced with an OChem set due the following morning, exam that week, and departure from the abundance of adorable cats and wonderful food. Going to Argentina, I was nervous and excited. It was my first time exploring this part of the world, first time performing with CSO and a professional orchestra, and first time meeting so many people. Along the way, I grew fond of the people and country, feeling welcomed by the locals and orchestra while welcoming all the new adventures in store. Every day was another venture farther out into Patagonia that I was able to share with the orchestra. This journey was one that pushed me to go beyond my comfort zone and explore a new country with open eyes. From steak to empanadas to every flavored ice cream, we experienced the full extent of food and drink.

From the top of Cerro Campanario to the streets of La Boca, nature and architecture filled the day with a spectrum of color. Every moment was filled with new sights, smells, and tastes that had to have me and everyone enjoy every second or risk missing a once in a lifetime experience. As a whole, this adventure can be summarized by three things: music, cats, and food. When we were not learning and rehearsing Mahler, everyone was busily admiring the color and vibrancy that filled Argentina. Meanwhile, I spent a little too much time chasing down the felines of Buenos Aires and Neuquén whether they be in a graveyard or on the roof of a medical clinic. It was a truly delightful experience to create beautiful music as well as embrace my inner instincts and follow feral cats, observing their every movement and losing myself in their cuteness (except for Paul).

Left: Colorful Streets of La Boca, Buenos Aires

Right: Exploring the Streets of Buenos Aires



The One Universal Language Jaclyn Lunger Violin, ‘17

That first day in Buenos Aires I discovered the biggest regret of my life thus far: I took Latin in high school instead of Spanish. Here I was, farther than I’ve ever been from home, only capable of communicating with a vocabulary of 50 words at best. It turns out it’s harder than you would think to accomplish anything in a language you barely know. I first discovered this in a coffee shop, where I learned that repeating over and over again “un boca de cafe por favor” (boca is actually mouth rather than cup as I had hoped) is met with much confusion. What surprised me even more than my incompetence at communicating, however, was how quickly I forgot my inability when we began rehearsing with the Neuquén Orchestra. It turns out “music is the universal language” is not just a cliché, but is actually also a truth. During the first rehearsal I was struck by the fact that we were playing Mahler’s 6th Symphony, almost an hour and a half of solid intensity. If someone had told me before I came to Cornell that I’d have the honor of playing this symphony with the CSO I’d have told them not to be crazy, it simply can’t be done by an orchestra of mainly non-music majors. Somehow we were going to put together this concert in a little under a week. To put this into perspective, consider that the CSO usually has over a month to prepare for every concert. And we always use every. Single. Minute. Here we were, two completely different orchestras, who started out with two different interpretations, and two different languages to boot. Yet, funny enough, it was actually much harder for me to ask for a cup of coffee in a coffee shop than for both orchestras to decide just how every second of the symphony should sound.

Neither Andre nor Chris needed to use both languages to describe what they wanted (as it turns out, Chris’s waving and various impressions just don’t require translating). Even without the ability to chat freely with the members of the Neuquén Orchestra, I think we all felt that there was suddenly so much meaning in a smile and nod of understanding. I might not have learned Spanish in high school, but I did learn a language that has been completely invaluable. I learned how to read music.



Chloe Amsterdam Violin, ’20

Maté and Mahler

I spent my entire Cornell career (thus far) listening to the Mahler. It was part of my introduction to Cornell, my introduction to the community that is the orchestra. Even though I joined CCO, I continued to listen to Mahler while I studied or on my way to class. Needless to say I had Mahler at least in the back of my mind for the better part of the year. That said, tour was a lot like the Mahler for me. Going to Argentina was like my introduction to CSO, to playing in a larger group at Cornell. My favorite part of tour was our concert night. Knowing so many people were enthusiastic about coming to the concert made it all the more exciting. Seeing the progress that occurred in just four rehearsals was incredible. I’ve always thought of music as a sort of language, but playing with the Neuquén orchestra made me realize the universality of music. Without the luxury of communicating in long sentences for many stands who faced a spoken language barrier, I saw people singing and pointing at their parts, or air bowing passages, or tapping out the rhythm of a tricky spot to their stand partner. Earlier that afternoon, the second violins had the privilege of going to the waterfront and sharing maté with one another. That willingness of the Neuquén orchestra to reach out and spend time with us outside rehearsal made our time in rehearsal that much more enjoyable. Without the energy that these newfound friendships brought, I don’t think the Mahler would’ve come together as well as it did. It required immense focus and communication to play through the entire piece. Apparently, as my dad tells me, my first exposure to Mahler didn’t go quite as smoothly. I

was about eight, and we went to see the Columbus Symphony play Mahler 6. I complained the entire time, and the only part of that evening I remember is going to get dessert afterwards. Now, having played through the piece and living with it for a year, I associate it with so much more than a tasty treat. It reminds me of the first time I realized I had a community at Cornell, and even in Argentina. Tour taught me about how transcendent the power of music can be, and how it can bring a whole community together like we saw in Neuquén. I also got to see how passionate everyone is about music in general, despite our other studies and future career paths. Hearing people burst into singing their Mahler parts randomly, or humming it to themselves as we walked the streets of Argentina, showed me how invested everyone was in playing. I look forward to a future filled with more Mahler, and a continued bond with the musicians of Neuquén, and the musicians of Cornell.



A Home Away from Home As a member of the Cornell Symphony Orchestra for almost two years now, I never really felt like a member of the orchestra. As a tuba player, my seat in the back of Lincoln B20 doesn’t really lend itself to communicating with many people, especially the string players. Thus, I went into the Argentina Tour with low expectations and a creeping anxiety of all of the work I would have to catch up on once we returned. I can safely say that the tour blew my expectations out of the water. From the moment we arrived in Buenos Aires, I was overwhelmed by the kindness of these people that I had never spoken to. I made so many new friends on this tour that I would never have interacted with otherwise. I am thus extremely grateful for the tour planning committee for putting in so much work to give me this experience, and I cannot thank them enough. While in Argentina, I found myself fascinated by the people and their culture. One thing I noticed right off the bat was that the people there were always kind despite knowing that we were tourists. In other countries I’ve been to, it’s quite difficult to navigate your way around if you don’t know the language and the locals aren’t willing to help you. Not once was I met with a look of annoyance when the person I was talking to found out I couldn’t speak Spanish; every person made an effort to help me despite the language barrier, which was awesome to see. Argentinian culture reflects this as well, as seen in their signature drink of mate, which is always meant to be shared. Their prioritization of health and happiness is evident in their promotion of afternoon siestas to promote a well rested and productive population. The sights themselves were too beautiful for words. The sprawling streets of Buenos Aires filled with protestors marching for a shorter

Francis Ledesma Tuba, ’19

workday was a sight to behold. The world famous mountains of Patagonia in Bariloche took my breath away, both literally and figuratively. The sight of a full concert hall and even more people watching our concert outside gave me a feeling of satisfaction that I haven’t felt in years. Most importantly, the sheer amount of dogs wandering the streets brought me such joy. As someone who was never allowed a pet due to the allergies of my brother, Argentina was basically paradise. There is one experience, however, that I will keep with me for the rest of my life. The trombone player of La Orquesta Sinfónica del Neuquén, a middle-age man named Sebastian, invited the low brass section to his house for dinner the night before the concert. Grateful, we accepted his offer with little idea as to what he had in store for us. That night, he picked us up from our hotel with his four-year- old daughter Clementina in tow. He drove us to a local deli where we bought enough meat to feed an entire family while only paying about $7 each between the 4 of us. On the way to his house, which was miles from the city center, he told us about his life and we shared our experiences with him. This was the first time I realized that this man has lived his entire life with the same vivid memories, emotions, and experiences that we all have as humans, yet the way he sees the world is completely different than the way I do. As we passed the fracking rigs of the open plains, I began to realize exactly how meaningful this exchange of culture was. By sharing these stories, we began to bridge the gap between our countries and formed a real connection by exposing each other to our ways



Above: Post-Soccer Picture with Neuquén Orchestra Members

of life. When we arrived at his house, his two dogs ran to greet us a little too excitedly. A third dog stood to the side and watched us, which was weird enough that we asked if that was also his dog. All he said was “more or less” which I found a little too funny. The idea of a dog that is more or less yours in the United States is unheard of. He brought us into his house, a small complex with a large backyard and a brick oven, where he prepared the best meat I have ever had in my life. I may sound like I’m exaggerating, but the combination of good meat, simple preparation (he only added salt), and masterful grilling created the most tender and flavorful meat that I will ever have. In that moment, I realized that he could, and probably does, eat this well every day of his life, which blew my mind. We proceeded to share more about life in the United States with him and answered his many questions about

just how weird our culture really is. We talked for hours until he realized that we needed to get back to the city to make it to rehearsal the next morning. Despite it being so late and his daughter being tired, he never hesitated to offer us a ride back to the city out of the kindness of his heart. I realized that his hospitality and genuine heart reflects the Argentinian way of life, which makes me want to go back even more. I will never forget that night at Sebastian’s house, both for the glimpse into Argentinian culture it provided and the sheer happiness it brought me. It almost made me not want to come back home. Now that I am back, I have made it a point to treat others the way Sebastian treated us: with respect, hospitality, and a genuine interest to understand who we are and our story.


If you asked me one day before the tour to Argentina, I could probably match names and faces for most of the people in orchestra. But the number of people I had actually had a conversation with? Probably 10. This tour completely changed that. Before the trip, if someone would have asked me where I wanted to take my next vacation, I most likely would have rattled off a bunch of places in Europe, but Argentina would not have been on that list. So when I learned about the orchestra tour to Argentina, I was excited about the opportunity to travel to a place that I normally would not have traveled to. Although I had traveled a ton in the past, I had never been to a South American country and I was excited to see what the culture there was like. The first couple of days of the tour were hectic. After just about 24 hours of travel, we’d arrived in Buenos Aires and completely filled the hostel’s storage room with our luggage. And within half an hour of arriving at the hostel, it was time to explore. We grabbed maps and cameras and the city was ours to roam. We explored the city for the entire day, seeing La Boca, Puerto Madero, Casa Rosada, and the Teatro Colon, with a bunch of stops for medialunas and empanadas along the way. Though we took a city bus for part of our trip, we walked 11 miles on that first day. The next morning was our last in Buenos Aires, but we were able to squeeze in a quick trip to Mercado San Telmo before the taxi ride to the airport. Bariloche, our next stop, was the most picturesque mountain town. The highlight for me was hiking Cerro Campanario. I mean, how many people can say they’ve hiked a mountain in the Andes? We were rewarded for hiking by an amazing double rainbow, but we were even more surprised when we met a Cornell electrical engineering alum at the top of the mountain. It was really cool to see that Cornell really is everywhere, even at the top of a mountain in the middle of the Andes.




Aditi Athavale Violin, ‘19

From Bariloche we traveled to Neuquén, where we spent the rest of our time in Argentina. We rehearsed each morning and explored the city in the afternoons. Having more than 60 Americans in the city must have been rare, because people stopped us on the street to welcome us and express their excitement that we were there. Members of the Neuquén orchestra introduced me and others to their families and drove us back to the hotel after our soccer match against them, as if we’d known them for years, rather than days. I have never felt so welcomed in a place as I felt there. Piecing together Mahler 6 with the Neuquén orchestra was an experience in itself. Playing side by side with them, we didn’t really feel like two separate orchestras from two different parts of the world. Instead it was just one orchestra, playing together. I still remember another tour member saying that the concert would be one of the most meaningful concerts he’d been a part of to date. The fact that we were promoting the arts in another place was an amazing thought, and the concert definitely proved to be one of the most meaningful concerts that I’ve played in. I am excited to see how the partnership between the Neuquén orchestra and Cornell’s orchestras will continue in the future. The tour, for me, was an amazing way of being introduced to Argentine culture and its people. As a pretty introverted person, I probably would not have approached a lot of the people in Cornell’s orchestras to have conversations with them if it weren’t for this trip. Because of this trip, I was able to get to know many tour members and discovered a lot of things I had in common with them that I wouldn’t have known before. And needless to say, Argentina will definitely be on my list of vacation destinations from now on.



Back from the Office David Vakili Alumni

Having spent an exceptionally long New York winter cooped inside an office (I am a recent alumnus in the workforce), I thought I’d come to Argentina mostly yearning the warm weather and sweet Vitamin D absorbed by the skin. Upon arriving, I realized what I craved the most was playing Mahler. Just as much, I relished the slowpaced, tranquil lifestyle that characterized Argentina but never to be found in the hustling bustling Big Apple. Most importantly, I discovered these two things were connected. See, I've never been someone to particularly enjoy listening to Mahler (as opposed to playing it). Needing to practice and listen to his Sixth Symphony in preparation for the tour, I realized I had forgotten how to listen to music for long

stretches of time. And multi-tasking didn’t work. Not for Gustav. While a work of Mozart is geometrically designed to release dopamine note by note, Mahler's requires bouts and leaps of abstraction to connect the macro structures within and between movements. Clocking at 90 minutes, Mahler’s Third Symphony is the longest piece of classical repertoire – and at a couple minutes shorter, his Sixth is not too far behind. For this reason, I used to think that the only way I could listen to Mahler was to lie down flat on a field under the night sky with nothing to see but the shapes of his music unfolding. Visiting Argentina may have re-harnessed that ability. The Argentinian day is maté and siesta, espresso and siesta, then steak and some more siesta. It is



Left: Right before Bariloche for Neuquén Right: Bariloche

life interluded with sedation. Shimmering meat served with numbing potatoes. So while our time there could be described as extremely energetic, filled with tons of caffeine, carbs, and cardio (we walked anywhere from five to eleven miles a day, I recorded), these bouts of energy were soothing, caressed by the ease of Argentine life and the serene Patagonian landscape. Take the first rehearsal. Nonstop we played through a gargantuan symphony. Yet it was mildly relaxing. For example, we never dragged on bowings, seatings, tempi, or other mundane logistics. When we asked how to divide the parts that went into 3 or 4 phrasings, we were calmly answered not to worry and play whatever we practiced. Lo que es más cómodo. Even our communication was laid back. Aa one of the few in my section who spoke both languages, I never felt I had to jump in and translate – we musicians were content with smiles and laughs, those most intimate of human languages. And there were our indefinitely long rehearsal breaks, something quixotic for those living in the world of Maestro Kim’s “8 and a half minute” breaks (sometimes you have a solo and you only get “3 and a half”). Yet all of this while preparing the most daunting of classical music. Juxtaposing Argentina and New York reminded

me of the English teacher who reads through their students’ essays twice – first for grammar and structure, second for phrasing and motif. For a nice moment, I felt I was reading my life –and the Mahler symphony– through the second framework. This was something New York hadn't afforded me; practicing Mahler’s Sixth on a weekday straight for the 86 minutes needed was next to impossible. Yet in Argentina those same movements flew by, and perhaps left a trace. Coming back immediately on a workday, I woke up and adjusted myself so I wouldn’t have to walk to the pace of New Yorkers. No brisking to their tempo. Nicht Eilen for me. No shameful spill-proof closed-lid Starbucks tumblers; the open maté gourds of the vast Pampas reckoned. When my workday ended with a night soccer game, I was all the more rested and ready. I'd play with the grace and coolness of the Argentinian game, not too different than the Mahler symphony, saving my energy for the leaps and stretches needed whenever was asked of my part.



From the Back of the Cello Section Colin Barber Cello, ‘17

I was grafted onto tour with only a couple months until takeoff from New York. I flash back for a minute to gray January skies and air that bites the face. Just as the dread of spending several straight weeks of traveling around the country for grad school visits and Science Olympiad tournaments was starting to set in, I got a message from Gregory Rosenthal, a cellist and friend whom I’ve known since 2005. (We went to the same middle school and high school.) He said in his usual plain, direct way that the orchestra was going to Argentina and they were looking for more cellists.

And I always trust my gut. For the first time in three years, I unpack my cello in Lincoln B20. I’m tacked on to the back of the cello section, a place where you can see most of the orchestra apart from the basses. This is people-watching on another level because you can watch how everyone interacts with the music, Mahler’s Symphony no. 6. How do they treat it? How do they react to it? How do they respond to the musicians around them? And after a while you can start to pick people out of the crowd.

The only problem is that I don’t actually know I knew that I would be sick of traveling by the these people yet, and I wouldn’t until we were all time spring break rolled around, that I would be on the road together - a ragtag band of students throwing a huge chunk of my savings at this trip, (and a law professor!) stumbling our way that I didn’t speak a word of Spanish (¿Habla through a land thousands of miles from home ingles? and Lo siento, no comprendo were my best where they speak another language that only a friends), and that I could count the number of few us could understand. people I knew in the whole orchestra on one I love the tourism in Argentina, but most of all, hand - including Chris. I’m clamoring to get to rehearsal in Neuquén. No, you’re going to Argentina! my gut told me. The energy is as tangible as the mountains

Left and Right: Rio Limay in Neuquén, Argentina



beneath our feet back in Bariloche. We are all smiles and laughter as we walk down the street to the theater in the middle of town for our first rehearsal. Some have already started talking about how amazing the concert was going to be I know this because I’m one of them. Though 8:00 AM on a weekday in Argentina might as well be the middle of the night, that isn’t preventing us from trying to contain ourselves. Why would we? The air, flowing in fresh and cool off untouched and unending Patagonian steppe, breathes life into us while the whole city sleeps. Of course we are getting some strange looks on our way to the theater. What is this flock of Americanos, honking away in English, doing in the middle of Neuquén? But in that moment of our shared isolation, alone but together in this faraway place, for the first time, this group of people is now “us.”

she is always quick to point people out to me.

Lucky for me, my spot in the Cine Teatro Español is even better than in Lincoln B20 - the cellos had been shifted to the outside of the orchestra and the winds and brass are up on risers. I can see nearly everyone from the back of the section. Let the people-watching commence!

Just as azul blends with verde to make the color of the river that flows through Neuquén, so do our orchestras blend in Mahler’s melting pot. No longer do the Argentine cellists jump when the hammer comes down. The Americans are now hooked on mate, the delicious Argentine art of making it to siesta. Posters plastered all over the city call our concert “Nueva York x Neuquén,” but that doesn’t feel right. Only in joyful unity can our orchestra play Mahler’s tragische symphony.

The first person I meet at rehearsal is my stand partner, Lucía, a bubbly yet reserved twentysomething whose love for playing music is exceeded only by her love for making friends. She is a natural at people-watching, and indeed

Rehearsals fly, as do little shards of wood with each hammer hit. The box, right behind Lucía and me, comes closer and closer to breaking each day - would it hold up for the concert? But the people-watching had never been better. Personalities are becoming more vibrant each rehearsal. Glance over toward the firsts - there’s Garrett, rocking his violin face as usual. Back to my own section. Emma’s stand partner is sneakily untying someone’s shoelace with his bow. He’s practiced this move as much as I have practiced the whole Mahler. Lucía tells me he has a habit of turning the pages on the stand behind him in the middle of a piece. Look to the brass. Barry’s on trombone for the first time in a while and he’s beaming. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone happier to be playing Mahler.



No faster than my gut had commanded me to board a plane to Argentina a couple months prior, we arrive at the concert. Here the peoplewatching was the best of all. There are the second violins, getting in a massive pre-concert selfie. Other sections are following suit. The low brass are chatting away, perhaps excited by the thundering brass choir passages to come in the fourth movement. I catch the eye of a young boy in the audience, perhaps 12 years old. He gives me a smile and a wave. I return it. Everyone is everyone else’s friend. And then we play. I cheer in my mind as the Above: Andres Conducting a Rehearsal in Argentina musicians around me nail their parts. Lucía, who always apologized for messing up (even You only need a week to alter the trajectory though I made more mistakes than she did), of thousands of lives. For our audience in brings out the contours in Mahler’s music Argentina, including the excited young boy perfectly. Derek’s horn solos are chock full of whose face I will always remember, we vivid emotion. Brett’s hammer hits are the best helped give them something that’s hard to they’ve ever been, and chills run down my come by - the motivation to play music, to spine as the brass comes crashing into focus. support the arts, and to change people in Everyone has their own stroke to add to these ways. Mahler’s painting. The fourth movement ends with a cathartic A minor chord led from the top by the winds and a short, pizzicato exhale from the strings. The tragedy is complete, but the audience explodes at the triumph we’ve created. I look back at the boy I waved to before we started playing, and he’s on his feet already. He doesn’t see Americans and Argentines. He sees one orchestra, and it’s capable of enchanting an entire city. I look around at my friends. Everyone is glowing and some are starting to cry. We had done it, but only because we had each other. It takes a while, but the applause dies down. We celebrate, say our goodbyes, and once again we’re on a plane, the start of the long journey back home. We’re exhausted, but the laughing and joking starts as soon as we land in New York and continues unabated. I realize that I’ve left Argentina with my arms full of friends.

For our friends back in Neuquén, we helped show them the importance of what they’re doing for their community and the bonds that can be forged across barriers of language and distance. They are performing a valuable but endangered service and they deserve the reminder that what they do every day is worth more than gold. And for ourselves, we have witnessed firsthand what can be created through music, and it’s a very long list. It’s friendship. It’s beauty. Most importantly, it’s the humbling inspiration we received ourselves, both from our fellow musicians and our audience. We are ready to continue playing music, to continue seeking partnership through music, and above all, to support music especially where it’s most threatened. So no matter where the winds of fate may take me, I know that I’m bringing music.



Executive Board 2017-2018 Paul Huang President

Derek Nie Vice President

Felice Liang Treasurer

Meghan Powers Secretary

Grace Hwang Fundraising Chair

Emilie Camera Alumni Relations

Sara Jenab Outreach Chair

Zeyu Hu CSO Social Chair

Jeffrey Yao Newsletter

Michelle Lo CCO Social Chair

Eric Shen Historian/Photographer

Katie Stawiasz Publicity/Social Media

Lauren Blacker, Mitch Dominguez, Paul Huang, Garrett Levesque, Derek Nie Tour Planning Committee

Co-sponsored by the International Students Union

Stay Tuned for Next Year’s Concert Schedule! Websites:

Follow us on Social Media!

Cornell Symphony Orchestra: http://www.cuorchestra.org


Cornell Chamber Orchestra: http://cuchamberorchestra.strikingly.com