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MARLI Week Four In Review

This past week marks the conclusion of the first phase of the Music Academy Remote Learning Institute (MARLI). While there is much more to come during the Creative Extension, the regular instruction portion of the Remote Learning Institute has officially come to an end. The seminars, lessons, coachings, and studio classes will give way during the next two weeks to individual projects, the London Symphony Orchestra Keston MAX auditions, and the MARLI Digital Challenge, among other things. You will have the chance over the coming weeks to read all about these various activities. Now, though, seems the perfect time to reflect on the four weeks of MARLI. And who better to reflect on this bold new endeavor than the faculty who have been on the front lines of MARLI’s innovative curriculum? Below some of the Music Academy’s faculty members look back on the highlights and the challenges of this experience. Drawing attention to the difficulties as much as the victories is crucial. Like so many aspects of the “new normal” we’re all dealing with, there are no perfect solutions. It is incredibly important that we acknowledge this, and that we look back—and move forward—with grace, with humility, and with hope.
For me, the greatest highlight has been to see how unwavering the student commitment to learning and artistic advancement remains during such challenging world conditions.
The bonding of my horn class, which over Zoom is a pretty phenomenal thing to say. My six horn students have developed trust, respect, and I can’t wait to have them in person next summer, where they’re a preformed, cohesive unit before the summer even begins.
The highlights have been discovering a new way of connecting and learning that a lot of us have not explored extensively before. I think this will help the Music Academy moving forward and can be another tool in our arsenal for the benefit of the fellows.
I though that Beth Morrison’s keynote session was definitely thought-provoking, and her being cast in the role as provocateur was an excellent choice.  I think it got MARLI off to a good start and set a tone to keep looking at the big picture as we went forward. Of course, working with truly outstanding fellows who were fully engaged and working tirelessly on their artistry was gratifying as well.
As every year, working with the fellows and my dear colleagues, and sharing in the extraordinary teaching, learning, and performances that take place at the Music Academy of the West each summer.
I have to say that the whole MARLI experience has been an overwhelming success from my standpoint. We have all had to think fast on our feet, and I couldn’t be more proud to be a part of this esteemed organization.
I think a highlight was getting to know each fellow and understanding the atmosphere in which they’re living and learning. After Massimo Martone’s lessons, which are Wednesday evening in Rome, he has a late dinner with his parents. Or Dominic Jacquemard’s lessons, which are Monday late afternoon for me and Friday morning in New Zealand for him, where it’s fall outside. Even though my studio is spread all over the world I feel like I’m there with them. Probably the most exciting thing will be next summer when these students can all be making live music together, after meeting each other a year before at MARLI.  Their shared experience this summer will only make next year’s music that much more incredible.
The majority of my students began MARLI already having had significant experience in a virtual learning environment; as a result, they were able to move seamlessly into the Music Academy activities.
I’ve developed some new teaching senses that have been requiring some extra attention and effort. Teaching over Zoom doesn’t include working on beautiful sound, which is my usual go-to place in a live lesson. I’ve had to resort to more visual and "instinctive telepathy." So, although it’s tiring, it’s also necessary and the new normal.
As you can imagine, this has been a summer like no other. We have all been on the same learning curve. After an initial feeling out period where everyone was getting used to the format, and finding out the correct mic placements and recording levels, things have been going very smoothly.
It goes without saying that it would have been a far richer experience if we could have worked together in person. Considering the high level at which our fellows perform, offering meaningful instruction depends on hearing them live to assess and encourage subtitles of expression and nuance. Also, hearing them in performance and rehearsal with other players was impossible in the remote setting, so the all-important skills of listening and responding in the moment were not addressed. That said, in the remote format teachers do have an opportunity to listen very carefully and comment thoughtfully on student’s lesson recordings, which facilitates really going into depth on technical aspects of playing. In terms of getting to know them as people, MARLI provided enough group meetings like studio classes and excerpt sessions where we could all interact that I thought we were able to create a real sense of community. I look forward to building on that next summer in person!
We’ve had an exceptional class of fellows again this year, and I became virtually unaware (and otherwise took advantage of) the screen/technology in every one of our sessions together.
Teaching in a remote way was something I didn’t think could happen effectively, to be quite honest. Platforms such as Zoom, FaceTime, and Skype do not lend themselves to transmitting sound in a reliable, effective way. Once it became clear that the most valuable use of our time would be to have the Fellows record themselves, send us YouTube links, and use our shared remote time for observations and discussions about their recordings, a whole new pedagogical world opened up. I was able to stop and start the recordings, review things again and again, and make valuable discoveries that actually wouldn’t happen in real time. I got excited, the Fellows got excited, and I believe some real progress was made for each of them this summer.
First of all, just like when the Summer Festival takes place in Santa Barbara, the time just flew by. I think the fellows got a real reminder of the benefits of recording yourself. The students and I spent a lot of time sending recordings back and forth and really dissecting their playing.
Connectivity is inconsistent to/from some regions of the world, which can slow the teaching/learning process. Additionally, audio quality is a problem with the sound of a musical instrument. I routinely ask students for a pre-lesson recording in order to evaluate sound more objectively.
The most challenging aspects of MARLI have been the audio issues. Trying to make sure all the fellows have good internet connections, and can present a relatively realistic representation of how they sound online.
Even with the excellent technology and instruction in using it provided by the Academy, I find it difficult to make many judgements on subtitles of tone and dynamics. Also, I definitely missed the contributions of our excellent staff pianists and collaborative piano fellows which enrich the ‘real’ Academy experience.
With creativity and imagination on both ends, each challenge inspired solutions, often accompanied by a shared laugh and “aha!”. Any wishes that remain involve the special feeling of community we get to experience when we are all together in Santa Barbara. It is this community—its long history, forward thought, and leadership—that made possible the meaningful experience that MARLI got to be for all of us as we look forward to future summers together.
I love my kids. I don’t know that that’s surprising, but I’m delighted. And they’re happy! I think they approached it with some caution because they’re “Zoomed” out from the last semester of school. So, they’ve surprised me with how well it’s worked for them.
The most surprising aspect of MARLI for me has been discovering that I can actually connect in a personal and musical way with the fellows and can have a meaningful sesssion with them, even though we might be thousands of miles apart.
I was really impressed with the MARLI team for organizing such a seamless Festival. They allowed us to feel a sense of community and collaboration in what feels like an isolated world at the moment.
I was pleasantly surprised that the session felt lively and that the students were unfailingly engaged. Even with the challenges presented by our remoteness, it still felt like a Festival. Before it started, I was concerned that the fellows would have ‘remote learning fatigue’ from their spring semesters at school, but I felt no evidence of that. Everyone was involved, energetic and ready to work hard. I think that the fascinating and useful innovation seminar events presented in MARLI definitely helped energize the program.
Since joining the Music Academy and the Vocal Institute in 2016, I’ve found myself increasingly less surprised, but continuously amazed and inspired by what we accomplish together—and then still build upon—every year, and by what the fellows continue to achieve going forward. MARLI is just another expression of the incredible people and place, physical or virtual.
I was surprised how intimate the lessons could be through the Zoom platform. I feel like we spent more time than normal discussing and describing sound concepts. I think there was a real benefit to trying to verbally describe an idea with more details than just playing it.
The passion for learning and forging meaningful careers in music grows each and every summer at the Music Academy. I see no diminution of this drive in the MARLI setting.
They’re awesome. Great horn class and great people.
Without question, our low brass fellows this year have been engaging, open minded, and motivated to learn during what have to be anxious times for them. That gives me great hope for the future. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of them for the first time and reconnecting with fellows from last year as well.
I became inspired by the motivation and productivity of our fellows. Their positivity and curiosity allowed us on the faculty to connect with them in a way that I didn’t think possible during this pandemic. I believe we all needed this MARLI experience to feel whole as artists, and I credit the Music Academy administration and MARLI team for their vision.
This is an incredible group of musicians. Look and listen for great things from them next Summer IN SANTA BARBARA!
I have a few things to say regarding the Fellows—they have been remarkably cheerful, resourceful, and resilient. I believe having the MARLI advantage of quality equipment sent to them helped tremendously. They were able to get a good sense of their own sound and expressive capabilities, so important for nuanced string playing, and something I definitely didn’t think I could work on with them at first. Another challenge has been teaching at hours that work for everyone—I had a student in Australia, one in Korea, 2 in Canada, the rest scattered across the US....and the time change was tricky. But, as I said—the good-natured flexibility shown by all the kids was heartening and inspiring.
The celebration of victories both big and small. The acknowledgement of difficulties and challenges, the creativity and flexibility to confront them. Drive and passion, and a sense of hope in the future. These are the important threads that weave together these answers and MARLI as a whole. And this is what MARLI will be remember for. On the subject of this year’s fellows, Nils Neubert added this:

“With musicians like these flourishing at a time like this, imagine what our future holds. I look toward the unknown with an increased sense of hope and possibility for having been part of MARLI, and for knowing that these fellows will play an important role in charting and defining it.”

This feels like as good a sentiment as any with which to end. Imagine what our future holds, indeed. – Henry Michaels Resonance editor, Audience Services and Community Access Manager, Music Academy of the West

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