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Hamptons Life

Apr 21, 2019 10:22 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

The Young Musicians of New World Symphony Bring Classical Music To The Parrish Art Museum

Cellist Chava Appiah of New World Symphony. ANDREW PORT
Apr 25, 2019 4:41 PM

As an art form, classical music is often considered a vestige of centuries past and one that is most often enjoyed by genteel, older audiences who run in elite circles.

But the New World Symphony based in Miami Beach, Florida, is an organization that is focused on the future of classical music, not its past.

Established in 1987 by director Michael Tilson Thomas with Lin and Ted Arison (founders of Norwegian and Carnival cruise lines), NWS, as it is widely known, is a training ensemble for musicians in their 20s who are about to embark on professional careers in classical music. The symphony is comprised of 87 musicians who are granted fellowships lasting up to three years.

The symphony’s home base is New World Center, a Frank Gehry designed 756-seat concert hall in Miami Beach. It’s extremely rare for NWS to go out and perform on the road. But on Friday, May 3, a 12-member NWS ensemble will perform in concert at the Parrish Art Museum as part of its Salon Series. The ensemble will feature two violins, two cellos, viola, flute, clarinet, bassoon horn, and two pianists who will arrive on the East End after the full symphony performs two concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York City on Wednesday, May 1 and Thursday, May 2.

Among the musicians coming to the Parrish are second-year viola fellow Kip Riecken of Orlando, Florida, and first year cello fellow Chava Appiah from West Bloomfield, Michigan.

Mr. Riecken comes to NWS with a bachelor’s degree after having studied music at New York University and Florida State. The NWS program is extremely competitive with just 35 fellowships granted each year. Most fellows come to the program shortly after completing their bachelor’s or master’s degrees in music and they leave prepared to become the next leaders in classical music. Since its founding, NWS has helped launch the careers of more than 1,000 musical alumni worldwide. Mr. Riecken is on his way to joining them and in many ways, sees NWS as his graduate education.

“It’s a time for me to work with the best of the best viola coaches and work on my craft,” he said in a phone interview. “I have time every day to practice and don’t have to think about other things or even commute home. It’s a 3-minute bike ride to my apartment.

“The program allows me to think about what classical music can be. Even though this isn't a huge organization, the staff members help us find things we want to do and gives us ideas and we see the ideas of colleagues,” he added.

At its heart, NWS is focused on tapping into the passions and skills of its young fellows, encouraging them to produce their own concerts or community outreach programs to ensure that classical music has a bright future. In Mr. Riecken’s case, while living in Chicago prior to his fellowship, he was involved in an organization spearheaded by cellist Yo-Yo Ma in which he worked with young offenders in prison to help them turn their experiences into music. At NWS, he and two other fellows fully produced a concert in which they selected music that was meaningful to them, then marketed, promoted and directed the program themselves.

“I see New World as almost being a business degree. At the end of the day, we all need to be entrepreneurs in what we’re doing," he said. "You have to be vulnerable and finds ways to personally connect with music and find ways for others to do the same.”

One way that Mr. Riecken has helped others connect to music at NWS is through an outreach program which he initiated for Florida farm workers. The primarily Spanish-speaking population of laborers toil in the tomato, zucchini and okra fields west of Miami, a world away from the tall buildings, upscale hotels and white sand beaches that most people know of the area.

“I come from Florida and I’m astounded people work in the heat all day long,” said Mr. Riecken who noted that many of Florida's farm workers lost their homes or access to them in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in 2017. “I couldn’t talk to the farm workers because they were from Latin America. This year, I asked if anyone wanted to learn Spanish with me in the orchestra, and we gave three concerts in the community in Spanish.”

“I was happy we could speak Spanish in front of these people who are kind of marginalized,” he added. “It's a weird time, in that our populations are in very different positions. I see music as the most important thing for expressing and connecting. Yo-Yo Ma says the currency of art is trust. How do you build trust without building connections? How do you build connections if people don't really understand what’s going on at your performances?”

“At NWS they want us to work toward our vision of what we believe classical music should be for a healthy system for the future,” he said. “For me, it’s about being aware and being adaptable, which I like.”

First year cello fellow Chava Appiah just joined NWS in September after having performed as a substitute player for the symphony while she was finishing her master’s degree at the New England Conservatory in Boston.

Since becoming a full fellow at NWS, Ms. Appiah has followed her passion for playing by presenting a program in which she talked about the range of emotions of music written for cello and performed concerts to illustrate her points.

But like Mr. Riecken, Ms. Appiah recognizes the importance of connecting with the larger community beyond the concert halls at NWS.

“Another fellow wanted to do a fundraiser awareness concert for a type of cancer she got as an infant,” noted Ms. Appiah. “We went into a cancer community where she shared music and her story.

“We started to play in the lobby of the cancer institute, but most of the patients couldn’t come to listen to us because they were in treatment,” she added. “So a woman at the institute suggested we go into the patients' rooms and ask what they wanted to hear.”

Ms. Appiah said that the first patient she played for immediately took out her cell phone and called her daughter so she could hear the music too.

“It really puts you in your place,” said Ms. Appiah. “We’re in a bubble, then you go to a hospital where one cancer patient was not any older than me. To go to a hospital reminds you of that perspective.

“I’m definitely about finding ways to help people with music,” she said.

The New World Symphony 12-piece ensemble performs in concert at the Parrish Art Museum’s Salon Series on Friday, May 3, at 6 p.m. The program includes works by Franz Joseph Haydn, Zoltán Kodály, Bohuslav Martinů, Antonín Dvorák and Leoš Janácek. Tickets are $50 ($35 for Parrish members, children and students) at parrishart.org or 631-283-2118. The Parrish Art Museum is at 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill.

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