It may be summertime, but class is definitely in session for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Institute, the L.A. Philharmonic-sponsored training program for aspiring instrumentalists and conductors now in its seventh year.
In one room at Schoenberg Hall at UCLA, the institute's home base, cellist/Institute artistic director Lynn Harrell puts student Susan Moyer through the paces of a Bach prelude. Down the hall, Philharmonic principal flute Janet Ferguson devotes 30 minutes to a few measures of Debussy's "Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune" for the benefit of student Joanna Markson.
In another room, Philharmonic associate principal trumpeter Donald Green answers questions on perfecting difficult pieces, while in a basement studio, Philharmonic percussionist Charles DeLancey demonstrates the intricacies of "West Side Story" on the xylophone.
The following morning, all 100 institute instrumentalists and three conducting fellows join conductor Daniel Lewis for the initial rehearsal of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, which the orchestra performs Sunday as part of the first of its three Sunday Sunset Concerts at Hollywood Bowl.
Despite a few yawns, the musicians respond alertly to their conductor's soft-spoken behests. During the break that follows, Lewis, director of conducting studies at USC and former Pasadena Symphony music director, expresses satisfaction with his young charges.
"Without a doubt, many of the players are destined for work in major orchestras. They learn fast, there is a very high caliber of technical accomplishment. This is among the most difficult music there is--the institute is unique among training programs in that the required repertoire makes no concessions, there's no playing down to the students."
The institute also stands apart from other noted summer programs, such as that at Tanglewood, near Lenox, Mass., summer home of the Boston Symphony, in the amount of hands-on involvement students have with members of the sponsoring orchestra.
"Not only do the students have an almost daily open working situation with Philharmonic players," said Harrell, "but they'll have the opportunity to join them in performance in the Mahler First Symphony (July 28 at the Bowl). To sit next to experienced orchestra musicians and play with that kind of immediacy is worth a thousand words. There's a give-and-take here on many levels."
In addition to the Bowl concerts, the Institute Orchestra performs three times at Royce Hall and also presents chamber music programs at Schoenberg Hall, at Gindi Auditorium and at the Getty Museum.
The six-week curriculum, which this year drew 666 applicants from throughout the United States and several foreign countries, also includes master classes with Philharmonic members, Harrell and violinists Vladimir Spivakov and Nadia Salerno-Sonnenberg; rehearsal sessions and seminars with such conductors as Heiichiro Ohyama, Edo de Waart, Leonard Slatkin and Jesus Lopez-Cobos; chamber music coaching by Harrell and the Bartok Quartet, and classes in the Alexander Technique. Other seminars cover auditioning, life as a musician and musical stardom. This comprehensive program has evolved gradually in the years since the institute's first session in 1982, when, under the batons of artistic directors Daniel Lewis and Leonard Bernstein--Bernstein co-founded the program with Philharmonic Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann--the orchestra played a collective second fiddle to the conductors' training. The appointment this year of the 44-year-old Harrell marks the first time that an instrumentalist has served as artistic director.
David Alan Miller, 27, the associate director of the institute, as well as assistant conductor of the Philharmonic--himself a two-time conducting fellow--said, "We hope to have Lynn here for three years, and we think that this inaugural year heralds a new era for the institute. The diversity, the quality of players--it's a renaissance that we're thrilled about."
The students echo his enthusiasm. Said 33-year-old conducting fellow Kirk Muspratt, a Vienna-trained Canadian: "Musically, you have to prove yourself with different styles and programs. Lynn Harrell is special--his humanity, respect for people, humility before the music. And being in L.A., this program is more open and friendlier than others."
Added flutist Joanna Markson, 22, of Toronto, who is currently on leave from the Eastman School of Music: "One of the things that really attracted me to the institute was seeing the repertoire on the application brochure. It was solid chunks of stuff that everybody needs to know to get a job."
The only criticism voiced by the students interviewed regarded the lack of advance notice given for certain events, due to the fact that players are not evaluated as to level of ability until the institute's opening week.
"We just found out the Bartok Quartet will be giving a master class next week," said cellist Susan Moyer, a 19-year-old New England Conservatory student from Pennsylvania. "If I'd known ahead of time, I could have prepared a piece to ask questions about."
The students might be surprised to discover that they are not the only ones to benefit from the institute experience.
Said Harrell: "I feel I know deep in my bones what it means to be an orchestra musician, personally, musically and psychologically. To be able to pass that on is thrilling. The satisfaction of a good performance is short-lived, but to know you're helping someone improve--\o7 that \f7 lasts your whole life."