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This month, we welcome Stephanie Chevalier to our ever growing faculty! Stephanie will be teaching voice here at CAM, drawing upon her extensive experience as a musician! We sat down with Stephanie last week and asked her to tell us more about herself. Read on to find out more!

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Stephanie and Placido Domingo, opening night for La Rondine at the Kennedy Center, directed by his wife Marta Domingo. He was Artistic Director with The Washington National Opera.

What brings you to Charleston?

My husband and I came to Charleston a year ago. My husband is a consultant, which means we can live anywhere we want. We both picked Charleston for its sophisticated and lively art scene in a beautiful city, which is near the beaches!

What do you enjoy in Charleston?

The food! Besides that, being near the water, I enjoy kayaking and paddleboarding. I’ve also been to numerous concerts and ballets here, and sang during the Spoleto Festival. You can always get good quality artists here! In fact, I meet many of them when I perform ancient music with the Charleston Renaissance Ensemble, and we will be presenting a concert on Shakespeare’s Birthday at the Library Society on April 21!

You have sung in so many places – what are some of your fondest memories and best experiences?

I have performed with so many great musicians! When I was singing with the Washington Opera in Samson and Delilah, Domingo was the conductor, and on the closing night, he sang the lead! I’ve also sang with Denyce Graves, Jennifer Larmore, and was a singer/dancer/actor in a show with Kiri Te Kanawa!

What is your teaching philosophy?

I think that the student should set the pace for lessons. As a teacher, I can push them but only so hard. If I can challenge my students and keep them interested, they learn better especially if they don’t know they’re being challenged! Especially when they are young, students will learn concepts better while playing games. Family involvement is the most important! Music needs to be a family affair.

Do you have any interesting teaching stories?

My students know no bounds. They’ll bring a piece and they’ll learn it, and that is the most interesting thing in teaching in general – it’s limitless in what a student can accomplish. I’ve had students that I thought wouldn’t last a week but have gone on to get Doctorates in choral conducting and voice, and even become a neurosurgeon! I can’t think of a single student who stayed with me through high school and did not go into higher education. Not all of them are in the music scene now but many did stay involved, including some in conducting, and some in Broadway…

Any messages to your students?

Don’t ever let anyone tell you that something is too hard! I wouldn’t have been able to sing a 4 hr opera in Russian by memory if it weren’t for the teachers that allowed me to dive in!

Sometimes you just have to dive in! Challenge yourself!

What is the role of music in your life?

Is there life without music?! (CAM notes: Stephanie is in shock at this point of the interview.)

What are some of your favorite music to listen to or to perform?

The Trout (by Schubert), and Rachmaninoff’s Variations on a Theme by Paganini. I tend to like pieces and works that are too big for my instrument, like Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev. (CAM notes: Stephanie is also an accomplished pianist!) Besides piano works, I like listening to Wagner and things that I won’t ever perform. My all time favorite is Vivaldi. Also…. my favorite role that I have sung is Bradamente in Handel’s Alcina! Bradamente was a woman who pretended to be a man in the opera before revealing herself. She’s got great arias!

Any upcoming events where we can see/hear you perform?

I’ll be singing with the Charleston Renaissance Ensemble on April 21 at the Library Society! Also, I’ll be speaking at the Suzuki Association of Americas on pre-learning, kiddykeys, body movement for parents and kids age of 2-3, and preschool preparation for music

Find out more about Stephanie on her website and follow her on Facebook!

Dr. Richard Stanton will be performing in a Rush Hour Concert this Friday, January 29, 6:00p.m. at Spoleto Festival USA, The Murray Center, 14 George Street, Charleston. He recently moved to Charleston from Minnesota and is one of our newest faculty members! Here’s an interview we did with him, where he talks about music, teaching and his life.

Come this Friday to hear him perform music of Bach, Schubert, Franck and Chopin.

Rick at piano

  • What brings you to Ch​arleston? 

My wife and I retired from our jobs in Minnesota and moved here because we had come as visitors and loved the city.  We were looking for a place where we could be outdoors all year round with no snow or ice.  We also came to be closer to our son, who lives in Maryland.

  • Tell us about some of your favorite music.

I have loved the music of Rachmaninoff since my teacher in high school first introduced me to it.   For piano students I would recommend listening to the Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and the 3rd Piano Concerto. 

  • Do you have any particular teaching philosophies?

I want to help my students catch the thrill of playing this wonderful instrument, the piano.  In my last twelve years of teaching I taught mostly by the Suzuki method.  There are many points of commonality between Suzuki method and traditional teaching.  I believe that when parent, child, and teacher are all part of the training, children will be more successful.  I assign specific strategies for practicing the most difficult parts of pieces.  Young students generally do not take a piece apart and practice it in chunks.  When parents attend the lessons and supervise home practice, more frequently than not I see students who progress and learn to enjoy the piano.

  • What is the role of music at this point in your life?

I love to practice and play the piano.  Now that I am retired (except for one teaching day a week at CAM), I have more energy and time to devote to my own playing.  Teaching five days a week is draining for many teachers, and me, and now I feel fresher and more creative on the one day that I do teach.  

  • What else do you do outside of CAM? 

I love to run, bike, play board games, and hike.  Most of these things I do with my wife.  We are loving our retirement here!

  • Please share some of your favorite stories from your performing or teaching ​experience.

 In Minnesota I had many students who began lessons when they were four or five and who are now in junior high or high school or college.  I have loved watching them grow in ability and confidence.  For some music has been life altering for them and for their families.   Two of my families planned a going away gathering for me last summer.  They took pictures of their children and me and told stories of what my teaching had meant to them.  They also stunned me with a gift of over $1500 to help pay for moving my piano to Charleston!

  • What do you think are the ​benefits for a young student studying music?

Learning the discipline of daily practice, learning how to do something that is very difficult, not quitting when things get tough, self confidence in front of an audience, and an appreciation of classical music in addition to the other kinds of music they enjoy.

Terry w YoYoMa Now croppedterry-muir-with-yoyoma cropped

As a young cellist, I knew every recording Yo-Yo Ma ever made. I saw him perform live on numerous occasions and was lucky enough to meet him after a concert, when I was in college. So, I was thrilled to learn I would be sharing the stage with him for the inauguration of the new Gaillard Center. It proved to be a highlight of my career and entire musical life. Yo-Yo is extremely warm, approachable and generous. And oh yes, he plays rather well.

Rehearsal was full of great music and fun. Yo-Yo likes to look around the orchestra while he plays and he will lock eyes with you, making you really feel like you are playing together. Even though I was sitting on the fourth stand, I had a clear sight of him and we had a number of such moments. One of those moments in the slow movement must have been particularly intense, as I got totally lost. For the concert, I made sure to wear my music reading glasses and not look at him. After our first play-through, Yo-Yo walked over to the cello section and traded his cello with Damien, the assistant principal. He still sounded great while playing on a strange cello, and Damien got to play one of the most famous and valuable Stradivarius cellos in the world for the the remainder of the rehearsal.

After rehearsal, I ran into him in one of the backstage hallways and got to visit with him for quite a while. He remembered the concert where we met 31 years ago. We joked around about how old we are now, but he insisted we “still have it!” He also signed the underside of the cello podium next to my signature. As to be expected, the concert was spectacular. It was a day of music and camaraderie I won’t ever forget.

Yoyomaw podium cropped

written by Terry Muir, CAM cello faculty

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Tell us briefly about your musical experience in the Lowcountry in the past 6 years.

I came to Charleston in 2008 to attend the College of Charleston. Since then I have graduated with a degree in both piano performance and music history, and performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician. I have been fortunate and honored to have shared the stage with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, Chamber Music Charleston, CAM faculty & students, and many talented musicians. In addition, my duo (together with my colleague Amy Tan) has enjoyed much success in Charleston as well.

 

How long have you been working at CAM? Tell us about a memorable time during your years at CAM.

I started teaching at CAM in 2009. I have had many students who have had impressive achievements over the years, including some of my current students who have been studying with me for a couple of years. There are just too many memorable times! I particularly enjoy seeing my students perform at a recital and playing their hearts out! I remember my first student here who started the piano at the age of four. He left Charleston in 2012, but I met him again when his family came back for a visit. It was touching to see that he had kept up with his piano studies and made even more improvements! I also really appreciate the efforts of the CAM Honors Program students and teachers.  Accompanying those students over the years and watching them grow into great musicians have been such a rewarding experience.

 

What inspired you to come up with the Rush Hour Mini Concerts?

I perform a lot around Charleston, however, my students rarely make it to my concerts as they usually go to bed before I even step onto the stage! I know many other students who would love to see their teachers perform, but the students have such busy lives in school these days. Thus the idea of a shorter concert at an earlier time made sense to me. In addition, I wanted to create an avenue for the teachers of CAM to perform. At CAM, we pride ourselves in having the best faculty in Charleston area. I thought to myself ‘what better way to showcase them than having them perform for the community in a regular series?’ The time of the concerts made sure that it was easy to invite members of the community, and not come into conflict with any other concerts in Charleston!

 

How did you quickly develop such a following for these concerts? Almost every concert seemed full, to the point where some people had to sit outside the recital hall.

Charleston might not have needed another concert series, but people here love the arts. The CAM family has always wanted to see more of the faculty in concert. And the time is so convenient! Part of the reason for its popularity is also taking into consideration the tastes of the audience. The concerts are varied and interesting, covering a wide range of instruments, such as the winds, strings, piano, jazz guitar, voice, and so on. This attracts a wide variety of audience too!

 

As a teacher, recitalist, accompanist, and student, you have many roles to fulfill. What makes you so adaptable and flexible?

I attribute this to my experiences growing up. At home, in school, and while serving in the military in Singapore, I’ve always been pushed to do my best in more than just one role. It is a matter of practice! After that, it just seems natural to do all that I do, especially since I enjoy these “jobs” tremendously.

 

What do you think the younger students can gain from being exposed to music early on in their lives?

Listening to music breeds cultivation, and the earlier the better. Art music of the past few centuries is always organized, complex, intriguing and educational – something that all students can take from. I could quote numerous studies that state how beneficial music education is (you can even read some of them in the CAM elevator)!

 

How do you think students can benefit from attending concerts rather than just practicing their instruments?

Students often get caught up in practicing. Teachers and parents push them to practice, practice, practice, fixing this mistake, repeat that section, and so on. This can get mundane really quickly, and it is usually the reason why students quit early in their music education! Going to a concert gives the students something tangible to grasp – this is the goal! To students, attending concerts is beyond just an inspiration. Students can really feel what it is like to create beautiful music for an audience, even more so when their teachers are the ones performing!

This week, we met with another guitar student. Milena Urroz is one of the recipients of the Financial Aid award, and has been taking guitar lessons at CAM since the start of the program. In fact, she was one of the first students that began taking guitar lessons at CAM. Not only is she an accomplished guitar player, she is also an experienced clarinetist. 

milena oringal cropped

 

When did you start learning the guitar and the clarinet?

I began playing the guitar when I was 5 years old. Well, I remember plucking the strings as a 4- year-old, but I wouldn’t count that as playing! As for the clarinet, I was in my 6th grade when I started. My Dad put on a CD of Beethoven’s clarinet music, and I fell in love with the sound of the clarinet. I made a sound right away when I tried blowing on the mouthpiece for the first time. That usually is a good sign, if you are considering learning a woodwind instrument!

How do you divide the practice time between the guitar and clarinet? I mean, you play both instruments so well. 

Honestly, it does get tough to find the time for both. But since muscle memory is so important when learning to play instruments, I try to practice the clarinet about 4 times a week and almost every day on the guitar. I do have soccer practices and games, so it’s not always easy.

So, you’ve been playing in CharAMGO (CAM Guitar Orchestra) this semester and in the Guitar Ensemble previously. What do you enjoy about ensemble playing?

When I first began taking guitar lessons at CAM, there were hardly any other students who took guitar lessons. It was tricky to figure out where I was in comparison to other students. Playing in this ensemble lets me to see and hear how my peers play, and it is a lot of fun to playing and performing with others. It is especially neat when Ulyana brings in other instruments, such as percussion, trumpet, cello, and flute. We performed at many different venues, including the assisted living community at The Bridge, to a very appreciative audience.

What do you enjoy most about your lessons?

My teacher, Ulyana, is very supportive and really funny. This makes every lesson fun, and I look forward to it each week.

Do you have any favorite musicians or bands?

I love The Beatles. They are a huge inspiration. Dad and I always listen to them, and I grew up listening to their music. In fact, I have a thick Beatles fake book (book with guitar chords, etc) at home! I enjoy singing and playing all of their songs.

What is the role of music in your life?

Music and literature are the 2 things that are very dear to me. It helped me get through some sad times. For instance, I remember getting quite depressed about leaving France, after living there for a year. I’d made so many good friends during my time there. It was really hard to leave my friends behind, and that’s when I started singing and accompanying myself on the guitar.

Also, whenever we have big family get-togethers, there is always music. Dad and I would get out our guitars, and play some Beatles. Then my Mom would dance – she used to be a ballerina. My brother, Nicolas, plays the violin but also enjoys singing. We even tried out some violin and guitar duets. In fact, we are visiting family in Mexico this summer, and I really want to get a piece ready for my brother and me to play for the family when we get there. I am really looking forward to it.

What took you to France?

We were there for about a year, because my Dad was on his sabbatical. I found a clarinet teacher there who opened the door to the world of Jazz. It was a real eye-opener, and jazz was a whole new world. It’s almost like learning different accents or languages.

 

This accomplished young lady hopes to be able to save up for college by utilizing and combining her skills in languages and music. She is fluent in Spanish and French, and would love to teach children music and languages while babysitting. Thank you for sharing your story with us, and we wish you all the best. 

 

Our Spotlight Interview Series features Dmitry Hackel this week. These stories are made possible by your generous gifts. Every gift goes further on May 6!

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This week, we met with Dmitry Hackel, a 12-year-old student that received the Financial Aid this spring. He is a member of CharAMGO (Charleston Academy of Music Guitar Orchestra), led by his teacher, Ulyana Machneva. He has been enjoying his lessons with Ulyana, made possible thanks to generous gifts made on last year’s Giving Day. 

When did you start playing the guitar?
I started playing when I was 6 years old. I did take a break from it by learning the piano, but got bored and came back to the guitar.

What made you interested in the guitar?
A few years ago, I saw pictures of my grandpa playing the guitar. He really was an amazing guitarist. I wanted to be just like him, so I played the guitar at my school. We learned rock music, but I wasn’t a huge fan. At the Academy, the focus is more on classical guitar and I enjoy it very much. My mother also used to play the guitar. She even gave me some tips and tricks on the guitar. But now, I think I might be playing better than her! She is very supportive of my music education.

What other subjects do you enjoy?
I love musical theater. I love to sing and dance, and would like to become an actor one day. When I started theater at school, I realized that people did not just act – they played instruments as well. I am working on improving my skills so that I won’t get so nervous performing on stage.

Do you have any artists that inspire you and you look up to?
I love watching the conductor, Alexandre Desplat, who composed and conducted the two most recent Harry Potter movies. He conducted many other movie soundtracks. Every time I watch him, I feel like he captures the different moods so well. It is very moving to watch and listen to his performances.

What are some pieces you recently performed?
For the audition when I applied for this scholarship, I performed Small Prelude by A. Iyanov-Kramskoy. It has an emotional story line, like  going through a phase of sadness. I usually like to think before and after the piece, to plan out how to best express and capture the mood. I try to imagine how sad I would be if anything happened to my family, especially my mom.

What role does music play in your life?
When I play music, it takes me away to a place where I feel free. Especially on the days when the going gets tough, it helps me get through the day and calm myself down. It also makes me feel stronger from within.

We also met with his teacher, Ulyana, who believed that Dmitry has “big musical potential.” She believes he can really benefit from the programs offered at CAM. According to Ulyana, Dmitry is a “hard-working and attentive student, who understands different concepts quickly.” She believes that music is a great way for children to express themselves, especially for the creative personalities. For Ulyana, one of the joys in teaching comes from learning new things from her own students. For instance, Dmitry would share with her about his experience in combining theater and music, in order to develop musical ideas, which has proven to be very useful! Ulyana has been teaching at CAM since 2011.

Thank you for sharing this story with us, Dmitry and Ulyana! We wish Dmitry all the best with his future endeavors.

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In celebration of Lowcountry Giving Day coming up on May 6, we are sharing special stories made possible by your generous gifts. Every gift goes further if you give on May 6! Your gift will make it possible for us to share more stories like the one you are about to read.

Meet one of our Financial Aid Award recipients – Jon Medina-Valencia!

Last December, Charleston Academy of Music (CAM) took part in a national day of giving called Giving Tuesday. The donations received on that day made it possible for CAM to offer Financial Aid awards . One of the award recipients is a dedicated and committed 9 year old cellist, Jon Medina-Valencia. Jon is one of the few that received a full-year scholarship, which allows him to take cello lessons at CAM with Terry Muir. We met with Jon, his mother Natasha, and his teacher, Terry to listen to his story.

When did you start learning the cello?

I was 9 years old when I started. I am turning 10 this year.

What do you enjoy about playing music?

Whenever I feel a bit down, playing the cello cheers me up.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Astronaut! I enjoy math and science at school.

I understand that this is your 2nd semester being part of the Kidzymphony Orchestra Program. Tell us about your experience in Kidzymphony.

I enjoy practicing and playing together with my friends. We sometimes get nervous about performing, but also feel very proud to present pieces we have been working hard on. I especially enjoyed performing in the concert last December. Sometimes there are times when some of us do not feel like rehearsing. But I try to cheer up others by telling them that it’s good for us that we get to play, because it’s a privilege – not many kids get the privilege to play an instrument like us.

We also asked Jon’s teacher, Terry about what music can bring into children’s lives. He believes that “learning to play an instrument can teach you discipline, teamwork, and how to learn other things by applying these skills.”

His mother, Natasha, is evidently his biggest fan and supporter. Having played the clarinet herself, she is “exceptionally supportive” when it comes to Jon’s lessons, according to Terry. Not only does Jon have a supportive mother, he has the support of the whole family. Terry considers this an important factor in the Jon’s impressive progress. In fact, when Jon auditioned for the Financial Aid award, he even performed over the phone for the other family members who couldn’t be there to hear him perform.  According to Natasha, the family loves to get together and make music. It wasn’t hard to guess where Jon’s positive outlook on life came from, when we met with Natasha. Natasha also says that “for Jon, practicing the cello is not a chore…he just really enjoys it. He will even ask the family members if we want to hear his new piece quite often.”

Thank you Jon, Natasha, and Terry for sharing this story with us. We wish Jon all the best in his future with lessons and school!

 

 

 

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