Cello Fest to feature guest artist

Dan Goubert

Though midterms may have students questioning their careers and their future, Grand Valley State University’s Cello Fest hopes to show them the rewarding ability of music to create beauty in the present moment.

“It’s the ability to express whatever emotion that you’re feeling or whatever the piece is meant to convey without saying anything,” said senior cellist Jake Will.

Beginning Oct. 25 with a recital by Benjamin Whitcomb in the Sherman Von Solkema Recital Hall, Cello Fest is a four-day celebration of the stringed instrument. On Oct. 26, a master class will be held by Emilio Colón, in which GVSU cellists have the chance to improve their pieces with advice from an outside expert.

Will said the master class would provide him with feedback on his playing and help him to grow as a musician.

“It’s a little nerve-wracking to play for a teacher of such high caliber,” Will said. “I just want to get the most amount of good feedback I can. (Colón) will go over different technical things, skills and techniques to kind of bring it all together for a more powerful performance.”

Will said also that the power of the cello is what drew him to the instrument.

“It was just the powerful sound that seems to emanate from it,” he said. “The fact you get these deep rich sounds and you also get these lovely, high-pitched melodies higher on the fingerboard. It’s the diversity.”

Professor Pablo Mahave-Veglia, who coordinated Cello Fest, said that guest artists bring another kind of diversity to learning the cello.

I hope that (students) see how many nuances and how much difference there is from one great performer to another. Here, they’re mostly exposed to me,” Mahave-Veglia said. “It’s like watching a professional soccer or basketball player; it’s not the only way to dunk a ball. You get exposed to the endless variety within one discipline.”

In addition to the recital and master class, Cello Fest features collaborative performances between GVSU’s Laker Cello Choir, GVSU professors and guest artists on Oct. 27 and 28. Mahave-Veglia said that collaboration inspired Cello Fest’s creation.

“(Playing music) is something that’s really hard to do in a vacuum,” he said. “So (Cello Fest) all started with having guests here that not only come and do their thing but in fact collaborate, which is why they aren’t always here for the concert. They’re here for two to three days, they rehearse with the students. By the time you get on stage and you see the concert, that’s really the tip of the iceberg of everything they’ve done on campus.”

Will said he noticed the cumulative power of collaboration while preparing for cello performances like Cello Fest.

“With the group dynamic, you’re constantly adapting to everyone else’s sounds and trying to blend it together,” Will said. “You’re taking everyone’s individual strengths and weaknesses and trying to form them into this cohesive unit that is better than the individual.”

Mahave-Veglia said that oftentimes, he sees music classes getting cut when money is short. He said he hopes that during Cello Fest, he and his students will have the opportunity to help students at GVSU see value in music.

“Whenever music classes are cut, we’re always put in a position of ‘what does it do for us?’ So if we have limited amounts of money we have to cut something: music. Because math is very useful for making bridges and keeping the accounts balanced, and music is very useful for music. In that sense, it’s very hard to argue for the usefulness to people who are not sensitive to (music).

“Once you get in that argument it’s very hard to get out of it. I think by the time you engage the argument, you are validating the premise that music is only valuable if it affects things other than the music. But I wouldn’t engage in that argument. I would just expose those people to music and they would get a sense of something that is unlike anything else in their life, and they’ll value it. They’ll want to have it.”

More information on Cello Fest events can be found online at www.gvsu.edu/music or by contacting Mahave-Veglia at [email protected].