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Ensemble ACJW at Skidmore College

For the past nine years, Ensemble ACJW has traveled to Saratoga Springs, New York, for its biannual one-week residency at Skidmore College, during which the fellows offer master classes, lessons, classroom demonstrations, and performances for students, faculty, and the broader Saratoga Springs community. During the most recent residency in February, the fellows also had the opportunity to work with composer Ted Hearne before giving the world premiere of his new piece Baby (an argument) at the Zankel Music Center, Helen Filene Ladd Concert Hall on campus. 

Ted Hearne shares his reflections on that eventful week:

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I was honored to spend a lovely 10 days with Ensemble ACJW rehearsing; performing; talking about music, education, and audience engagement; and working up my new piece Baby (an argument). (And cursing myself for not bringing more warm clothes from sunny California).

Of course, I expected to encounter musicians of the highest level who were both intellectually dedicated and technically exceptional. (And of course I was not disappointed). But what I did not expect was the holistic approach to concert programming, music education, and audience engagement—and a family-like camaraderie—that seems to be a hallmark of the ACJW experience. Conversations about music and its social meanings and purposes were always springing up among the fellows, which was so refreshing.

This part of ACJW’s mission strikes me as so important: the cultivation of thinking musicians who are aware of the world around them and their capacity for good in it. Speaking to the musicians about their various educational and entrepreneurial projects, I got a strong sense of humility and commitment to ongoing reflection and improvement. I was lucky to be a part of it.

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ACJW at Skidmore
Ensemble ACJW rehearses with composer Ted Hearne. Photo by Deanna Kennett.

ACJW fellow Jenny Ney shares her experience working with the composer at Skidmore, which involved crafting a whole new instrument:

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It all started when I got an e-mail saying that the piece Ted Hearne was writing for Ensemble ACJW would require that I use a bassoon reed. “A what? But I play the horn!” I asked our bassoon player, Michael, for a couple of reeds, only to find that they did not fit into my instrument. This began a series of e-mails and calls to Ted and to horn players better versed in the technique. Finally, I fit the pieces together, at which point I took a deep breath, blew into this “horsoon” contraption, and heard the most awful sound I’d ever made! But after weeks of preparation and rehearsal, I came to love the colorful sounds I could produce. The horsoon creates these gritty-sounding notes with many, many overtones, and now I’m hooked—I can’t wait for the next opportunity to perfect my new technique!

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Watch Ensemble ACJW’s full concert at Skidmore College, which includes a pre-concert discussion with Associate Professor of Music at Skidmore College Jeremy Day-O’Connell, ACJW fellows Dana Kelley and Garrett Arney, and composer Ted Hearne.

Learn more about Ensemble ACJW.

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