I completed my first year as Conductor of the CMCB Chamber Orchestra in June, the experience has been wonderful! I am driven by energy from the students, as well as the strong support I receive from my CMCB Colleagues (faculty and staff together!). I am proud to have initiated a Chamber Orchestra Student Committee. This student-driven group has already selected a complete concert program and set new directions for the ensemble.
Faculty Spotlight – Thomas Kociela
How long have you been at CMCB?
How has it been teaching and working remotely?
I certainly would have never chosen to lead an ensemble virtually, but I have come to embrace this reality and I now enjoy it very much. Still, I cannot wait to be back live! Even though we did have to cancel two concert programs, all was not lost! CMCB Alumnus Jorge Villeda’s piece Spring is currently the focus of our Virtual Orchestra class during the 2020 SummerMUSIC Program.
Our Chamber Orchestra was required to take a break at the beginning of the lockdown in March. Members of our Chamber Orchestra Student Committee met on April 4th, and they were compelled by the idea of creating a virtual orchestra performance — specifically of a piece we were scheduled to perform live on March 21st, with Morgan Beckford as our featured soprano soloist. Actually, this suggestion was from one of our violinists, Liat Rimoni — without her suggestion there might not have been enough momentum gained to pursue such a project!
Weekly Chamber Orchestra Sessions began on May 2nd. The results of these sessions include our He’s Got the Whole World in His Hand and Pomp and Circumstance virtual ensemble videos. I hope that you will take a moment to watch these performances, which can be found on CMCB’s YouTube and Facebook pages!
My greatest passion is for creating synergy within musical ensembles.Thomas Kociela
What projects are you working on now that you would like to share?
The Lowell Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), where I am Music Director, has been grappling with where to focus energy during this challenging time. After cancelling concerts scheduled for March 14th and 15th, we held a few virtual members meetings and ideas germinated over some weeks to become something truly special.
On Sunday July 19th at 2:00PM EST we will stream a video special on YouTube Live titled More Than Self: A Tribute to the Nurses, Doctors and Staff at Lowell General Hospital. In this special, community leaders as well as members of the orchestra will pay tribute to our front-line workers — in-between six unique musical performances. Somehow we have even managed to feature and collaborate with all of our guest artists from the Spring season. The Greater Lowell Community is getting involved in a big way, they feel strongly about letting our front-line workers know that they are dearly appreciated! Information about this event can be found on our website www.LowellPhilharmonic.org
From a musical perspective, I am most excited to have recently received the rights to stream the Andante cantabile movement from Florence Price’s Second String Quartet, with two musicians performing each part. This work will be pre-recorded — our musicians will be socially distanced and wearing LPO facemasks. Earlier this season I had aimed to program one of Price’s symphonies in 2020/21, though this will probably not be possible. I am honored to dedicate this beautiful string quartet movement to the nurses, doctors and staff at Lowell General Hospital!
Describe your role as a conductor?
My greatest passion is for creating synergy within musical ensembles. This is my strength as a musical leader, but there is more to why I choose emphasizing creating ensemble synergy over other possible aspirations. I am completely convinced that music ensemble training is an incredible positive force for any person. I feel this way because the principles I have learned through music ensemble experiences have been the guiding force of my life.
A perfect blend of actions is required in order for any ensemble to be good, meaning — the blend of responsibility to one’s self (preparation), combined with responsibility to all other members of the ensemble (collaboration). These actions are required to create a convincing performance, they also make a person successful at any endeavor they choose to pursue.
Each ensemble member must make small compromises to absolutely every element of the music they produce, and I absolutely love this fact!
To hear Jason and Thomas adjust the second space A on their trumpets just slightly, in real time, so that they match exactly; or to observe Chris and Sherry create a complementary vibrato (on their cellos) after being asked to match each other — this is what it’s all about; context, consideration, compromise!!! (Yes, two extra exclamation points, they are just decoration!)