• Ensemble ACJW: Hello Jacqueline, Shir, and Caleb

    Ensemble ACJW is introducing new 2014–2016 fellows every Friday. Out of the 18 new fellows, today we’d like you to meet Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington, Shir Semmel, and Caleb van der Swaagh.

    Find out where they’re from, their pre-concert rituals, and other fun facts.

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    Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington, Flute

    Jacqueline Cordova-Arrington is a currently pursuing a doctoral degree at the Eastman School of Music with Bonita Boyd. In 2010–2011, Jacqueline received a Fulbright grant to study with Andreas Blau, principal flutist in the Berliner Philharmoniker. Most recently, Jacqueline performed in the Eastman Conservatory Project at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Currently, Jacqueline resides in Rochester, New York, where she performs regionally with the Erie Philharmonic and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.

    Where is your hometown?
    Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

    What is your favorite place to visit?
    Boathouse Row in Philadelphia and Independence Pass in Aspen, Colorado

    What is the best musical advice you ever received?
    When I was 16, I played the Mozart Flute Concerto with orchestra and had a minor memory slip in the middle of the performance. As a teen, I thought this was the end of my music career as I knew it. My high school orchestra director said, “It’s understandable given you’re expectations that you’d be upset. But in music, there is no perfect. Learn the difference between constructive and detrimental criticism. Always push yourself, but also be able to acknowledge when you've gone too far. A career path in music is a challenging road and many careers end because people were unable to distinguish these two very different kinds of criticism. Know the difference and you’ll grow.”

    Do you have any stories associated with the instrument you play?
    I picked my instrument with my eyes closed. When I first attended the University of Michigan, my teacher made it very clear to me that I needed an upgrade. Arriving at the flute dealer’s home, I saw a number of flutes that looked beautiful but was unsure of the flute that would be the one for me. My teacher blindfolded me and encouraged me to choose the instrument that felt like an extension of my own body and sounded like my voice. Listening to the silky sound of the instrument, the easy of sound production, I realized that the rose-gold flute in my hands was the one for me.

    Do you have a pre-concert ritual?
    Besides praying, I like to listen to music that is completely different from what I’ve practiced for months. It might be funk, bossa nova, or bluegrass. 


    Shir Semmel, Piano

    Shir Semmel has performed in Europe, the US, and her native Israel. Winner of the Pnina Salzman Memorial Prize, Shir has appeared in such festivals as Music@Menlo, Gstaad Piano Academy at the Menuhin Festival and IMS Prussia Cove. An avid chamber musician, Shir co-founded the Jerusalem Piano Duo with her brother, pianist Dror Semmel. A recipient of multiple American-Israel Cultural Foundation scholarships, Shir has participated in master classes given by András Schiff, Murray Perahia, Richard Goode, Yefim Bronfman, and others. She earned a master’s degree with honors from the Buchmann-Mehta School of Music as a student of Emanuel Krasovsky, and currently studies at the Peabody Institute with Leon Fleisher.

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    Where is home?
    Jerusalem, Israel 

    If you weren’t a musician, what would you want to do professionally?
    If I weren’t a musician, I would want to be a classical ballet dancer. I danced until my senior year of high school, when I became too busy to keep up with everything. I had to give it up, but I certainly miss dancing. 

    What is your most prized possession?
    My most valuable possession is a beautiful necklace my grandmother passed to me when I turned 12; I wear this necklace when I play concerts. It is near and dear to my heart as it represents family, and my family means the world to me.

    What is the best musical advice you ever received?
    “In music, one must think with the heart and feel with the brain.” —George Szell

    It’s hard to pick one “best” piece of advice, but I’ve been carrying this inspiring quote with me ever since I heard it from my teacher, Leon Fleisher. 

    Do you have a pre-concert ritual?
    Life is too busy for rituals, but when possible I try to get a good rest the night before a concert, and avoid distractions the day of the performance. I prefer not to talk too much right before I play and rather focus on the music. I draw inspiration from listening to different pieces by the same composer I’m about to perform (e.g., Mozart’s operas, Schubert’s lieder, etc.).

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    Caleb van der Swaagh, Cello

    An advocate of contemporary music, Caleb has premiered many works by composers of his own generation, and also performs his own arrangements and transcriptions of compositions that range from Renaissance viola da gamba music to jazz. Caleb graduated magna cum laude from Columbia University as part of the Columbia-Juilliard Exchange program with a degree in Classics, as well as Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Caleb received his master’s degree with academic honors from New England Conservatory and later studied at the Manhattan School of Music. 

    Where is your hometown?
    New York, New York

    If you weren’t a musician, what would you want to do professionally?
    Play shortstop for the Yankees. 

    What is the best musical advice you ever received?
    To be willing to try all music and to not impose limitations on the kind of music that you will play.

    What do you like to do when you’re not playing music?
    I am a big baseball fan and I like to cook.

    Who is your musical hero (dead or alive)?
    Pablo Casals

    What artists or songs (not classical) are you currently listening to?
    Sufjan Stevens has long been a favorite and I have been listening to Sonny Rollins.