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Ensemble ACJW: Partner School Performance Festival

In a celebration of Ensemble ACJW’s two-year partnerships with 20 New York City public school music classrooms, more than 450 elementary, middle, and high schools students from ACJW schools performed at Juilliard’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater on June 15. Take a look at a few of the photos from that day, along with a couple of the fellows’ favorite memories.

James Riggs, oboe:
ACJW James Riggs (blog)

“The chamber ensemble at High School for Public Service has been a pleasure to coach. The students consistently inspire me with their attitudes and eagerness to learn, even when I purposefully stretch them beyond their current capabilities. They had little to no exposure to classical music before me, and I have asked them to work on several pieces, including Pictures at an Exhibition, which presented them with many new challenges. They are new to changing time signatures, new to triple meter, new to key signatures with so many accidentals. Observing their rehearsals, I have seen how much the students have grown over the past year. They even started bringing a pencil (and using it) each time! They have so much initiative and vigor for the process and I am so proud of them.”

ACJW Juilliard Performance photo 1   ACJW Juilliard Performance photo 2
ACJW Juilliard Performance photo 3   ACJW Juilliard Performance photo 4

Daniel Kim, cello:
ACJW Daniel Kim (blog)

“Every year the students of Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music have to prepare solo repertoire to perform for their NYSSMA requirement (a statewide music festival where a panel of judges listen and give scores to students based on their solo performances). This is a very nerve-racking task for most of the students, as they mainly play orchestra in school and rarely play solo for anyone other than their teacher.

“In order to prepare them for the NYSSMA judges, the students practice their solos in front of the classroom a few weeks before the festival to test their nerves. One of my most advanced students, a cellist, gave a brilliant performance of a Brahms sonata for the class. Everyone—including me—was so impressed and proud of his achievement. After he finished the last note and the class gave their heartfelt applause, he put his head down behind his cello, buried his eyes in his arms, and began to tear up. At first I thought it was because he was overwhelmed emotionally by the music, but after a moment I realized it was because he didn't play as well as he wanted to.

“Once the applause died down and all you could hear was his stuttering breaths from the tears, not one person made a negative comment about him showing his vulnerability in front of the class. Instead, the next words that broke the awkward silence was a student asking the orchestra teacher, "Can I give him a hug?" The teacher, of course, gave his approval. Not only did that one student give him a hug, but the entire class of 35 students showed their support in a big group hug. I was so touched and moved by the compassion my students showed their colleague that I began to tear up as well. It made me realize what beautiful hearts my students have and how honored and lucky I am to be able to work with them.”

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