This article was originally published in the spring 2013 Harker Quarterly.
In late January, the San Francisco-based wind quintet Frequency 49 held several master classes for Harker students. Made up entirely of working professional musicians, the group visited a number of classes at the middle and upper school campuses, starting with the grade 7-8 orchestra, led by Dave Hart. The musicians showed the students the sounds and various attributes of each instrument and played a special selection of pieces in a variety of styles.
“Since many of the students in orchestra have had experience performing in chamber ensembles throughout the year, they were able to ask questions about the process of rehearsing and performing music in a chamber setting,” Hart said.
Later, the group stopped by Hart’s grade 6 wind ensemble’s rehearsal. For this session, Hart rented duplicate instruments played by Frequency 49 so that students could try them out following a brief lesson on how they were played. “They spent the rest of the class with each member trying out those particular instruments. It was a blast, and the kids were completely engaged!” Hart exclaimed.
Their final stop at the middle school was Hart’s grade 6 strings class. Students had been spending this semester separating into groups and learning a chamber music piece of their choosing. The students had the chance to play the pieces for Frequency 49, who later performed for them. “Hearing Frequency 49 provided the students an opportunity to see and hear a professional chamber music group perform the pieces the students have been working on the last two weeks,” Hart noted.
Lastly, the group visited the upper school for a workshop with Chris Florio’s class, demonstrating what could be done on their respective instruments. “For example, the flutist demonstrated how the flute can produce bird-like sounds,” said Victoria Ding, grade 9. Ding said communication was one of the important principles that the group taught the students. “Frequency 49 instructed us to sit in a certain arrangement such that each instrument’s sound carries well to the other players and the audience,” she said. “They also reminded us to maintain eye contact with each of the four other players and adjust to what we hear in order to maintain balance in the ensemble.”
“I found it to be really beneficial because I had just begun playing in a woodwind quintet this year and I wasn’t quite sure how to play so that each member could play together well as one ensemble,” said Aaron Lee, grade 11.