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Penn State music students gain experience at Carnegie Hall

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Sarah Files and Alex Wu at Carnegie Hall

Two Penn State School of Music students were chosen to participate in the prestigious New York String Orchestra Seminar in December. The seminar and performances took place at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 

Alex Wu, a sophomore double-majoring in cello performance and political science, was a participant and performer in the seminar. He was chosen after a two-part audition process that included playing in front of a panel of judges at the Mannes School of Music (part of the New School) in New York City.

Senior Sarah Files, a violist who is double-majoring in music and Spanish, served as the chamber music manager for the seminar as part of an internship. Her responsibilities included chaperoning the performers, administering schedules for the various ensembles and coordinating the events throughout the week. 

The New York String Orchestra Seminar was launched in 1969 to offer professional training to young and gifted string, wind, brass and timpani musicians. Frank Salomon, an arts administrator and artist manager, originally created the seminar for Alexander Schneider. Schneider, an important musical figure of the 20thcentury, committed his life to young artists and became an inspiration for the next generation of student musicians.

This year the seminar brought together 45 string players and 18 wind and brass players from across the United States, ranging in age from 16 to 23. The young musicians performed in two main concerts at Carnegie Hall, in addition to participating in workshops and other events with their fellow instrumentalists.

“Having the chance to perform on the same stage as some of the greatest musicians of all time was simply an amazing experience,” said Wu. “The architectural beauty of the hall was only matched by the sonorous acoustics.” 

Files reflected on the long days that came with interning for the seminar. Despite the rigorous schedule, she said the experience was nothing short of spectacular. 

“I was interacting a lot with the students—the students were great. But it was really the coaches that made it special. It was so cool to listen to their insight and see how they interacted with the students,” said Files, adding a perk of her internship was getting special box seats at Carnegie Hall to view the concerts. 

Kim Cook, Penn State professor of music in cello, said Files and Wu’s participation in the seminar reflects positively on Penn State. “We are very proud of our students for being chosen to participate in this seminar,” said Cook. “Having two students selected from Penn State is a great honor. These talented students had an extraordinary opportunity to experience music at the highest level, and to bring recognition to Penn State.” 

Wu said that many of his fellow musicians at the seminar were from top conservatories, such as The Julliard School and the Curtis Institute. 

“My favorite part of the seminar was getting to play chamber music with the other musicians. Playing in a string quartet with three other [musicians] and being coached by esteemed faculty was an incredibly intimate experience that I will never forget,” said Wu. 

He noted that because he had only a few days to prepare the music before each concert, he learned how to internalize music more efficiently. Wu said he learned much more about orchestral music and how to both perform and appreciate the art form. 

Files, who is the treasurer of the Penn State Viola Society, said she gained a greater appreciation for arts administration as a future career option.

“This internship gave me more experience at being a leader,” said Files. “I am more interested in facilitating and promoting the arts now and focusing on the behind-the-scenes work. That is probably one of the main things I learned from this internship.” 

For more information on the New York String Orchestra Seminar, visit https://www.newschool.edu/mannes/new-york-string-orchestra-seminar/.

Story by Carlie Fox