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Ensemble ACJW Fellows Share Their Favorite Memories

At a farewell event in Carnegie Hall’s Resnick Education Wing—where fellows have spent the past two years practicing, participating in workshops, and honing their entrepreneurial skills—ACJW musicians got together with Carnegie Hall and Juilliard staff to celebrate their two amazing years in the program. Here are some personal highlights from a few 2014–2016 ACJW fellows.


Libby Fayette, violin:
ACJW Libby Fayette

“One of my favorite performances during my time with Ensemble ACJW was a performance of Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. While the process of working on such an important piece was in and of itself impactful, what made this performance special to me were the 20 students from my partner school, Fort Hamilton High School, who attended the performance and sat in the front row. Seeing their faces as we moved through the piece—a work they were hearing for the first time—made me feel as if I was performing just for them, and that we were sharing a unique experience. It is rare to feel so hyper-connected to an audience, but I felt my students’ presence throughout the entire performance and saw the piece anew through their eyes.”


ACJW Kobi Malkin
Kobi Malkin, violin:

“I remember playing at Visions at Selis Manor, a community organization that supports people who are blind. At the end of our performance, we went out into the audience and invited them to touch and play our instruments. They had such joyful reactions to the feeling of the vibrations under their chins created from pulling the bow on the strings and sense of awe from making sounds on instruments we just told them might be 150 to 300 years old.”


ACJW Andrea Casarrubios
Andrea Casarrubios, cello:

“This year my interactive performance group went to AHRC, an organization that supports people with intellectual and other developmental challenges. After the session, a woman came to us and said something that has stayed with me since: “Today I feel I can do anything, if I set my mind to it.” This statement was very powerful to hear. It was powerful to see this woman overcome her challenges right there with us through music, and this reminded me that this statement can be true for everybody. The following days I started thinking about all of the people that have had that kind of an impact on my life. And I thank her for reminding me of that with her comment.”


ACJW Memories blog
Dana Kelley and Jacqueline Cordova Arrington share a few parting words on behalf of the 2014-2016 ACJW fellows.


Siwoo Kim, violin:
ACJW Siwoo Kim

“In the spring of 2015, my Interactive Performance group visited Queensboro Correctional Facility, a minimum-security facility that serves as a re-entry center for male inmates. This IP is particularly memorable to me. It was the first time we allowed ourselves to venture off script and engage in more personal conversations with our audience. There was also a moment when we were asked whether we can play popular music, and I started improvising on some Star Wars tunes, and the audience cheered me on. The IP culminated with a Q&A in which most men were asking how their kids can start playing music. It was really moving to hear how, even behind bars, these men were thinking about how they can enrich their children’s lives and that they thought music could be the answer.”


ACJW Shir Semmel
Shir Semmel, piano:

“I’ve been working with a very challenging special-education self-contained keyboard class at my partner school. One of the students in particular was exceptionally volatile—running around, swearing, and hitting other students. At one point we had a breakthrough with him, and he would show up in class to be “the star student,” saying that playing the keyboard makes him happy. He learned all the pieces from beginning to end, stayed focused and respectful for the entire period, and performed pieces for the class.”


ACJW Caleb van der Swaagh
Caleb van der Swaagh, cello:

“One of the Professional Development sessions that had the most impact on me was a dance session led by Maria Bauman. None of us had any training or background in dance but by the end of the session we choreographed and performed our own original dance. It was an inspiration to my own teaching because it was proof that you can have an artistic and creative experience no matter what your background or skill level.”