Archive for the ‘Masterclasses’ Category

NTSO Music Festival

by Rebecca Lo

I had a wonderful time and experience when I attended the National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra Festival in Taiwan over the summer of 2013. The NTSO Festival is a two week orchestra training camp. Students had opportunities for private lessons, orchestral and wind band training, as well as participating in public master classes during the camp. The faculties are renowned musicians from the NTSO and different orchestras from all over the world. The faculty members from the US whom we may know include Mr. Cho-Liang Lin from Rice University and Juilliard school; David Chan, the concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and faculty at Juilliard school; Brian Chen, viola professor at USC; and Ben Hong, assistant principal cellist of the LA Philharmonic.

The location of the camp was in Wu-Fong, the suburb of Taichung City, my hometown. The transportation system is convenient in Taiwan, so that it usually takes only around 30 minutes by bus to get into the center of the city. We stayed at a 3-star musical-themed hotel attached to the NTSO concert/rehearsal hall. This is a government-funded festival, so it only cost around $330 USD, covering the tuition, hotel stays, daily meals, and all other transportation and fees.

When we first arrived, we were required to do an orchestra seating placement audition. The two-week intense orchestra training was to prepare for our tours around Taiwan. We gave three concerts in three different cities, including a performance at the National Concert Hall in Taipei City. All of the faculty were with us during every orchestra rehearsal. They would stand by us and coach us at any time during the rehearsal. This is one of the most unique experiences that make it different from other summer festivals.

0319a massage chairs

There are massage chairs on every floor in the hotel; what we musicians need the most!

0319b musical themes

Different styles of musical themes on each floor, including classical, Chinese traditional, pop, disco music.

0319c hotel room

Our room in the hotel

0319d music museum

There is a little Music Museum in the hotel as well

0319e meal

Our typical meal at the festival

0319f faculty concert

Faculty Concert

0319g master class

Mr. Cho Liang Lin’s master class

0319h group photo

Picture with Ben Hong and Cho Liang Lin

0319i concert hall

The national concert hall in Taipei

In conclusion, I would highly recommend this camp for anyone who is interested in going to Asia or will be in Asia during the summer time. The age group is a bit younger; however, you can still learn a lot from the camp and meet a lot of awesome people. If any of you are interested, feel free to contact me for more information!

Importance of travel as a developing young artist

by Stephanie Mientka

As a performing artist it is essential to find new avenues for the creative thought process.  There are many ways that we can grow as musicians, such as performing music from different genres, playing with different musicians, or studying with new professors. As a student, it is even more essential to find these various avenues in order to stimulate growth as an artist and find one’s own voice. To study in the country where a huge majority of classical music was composed would be one of the very best ways to expand the musical growth of a classically trained musician.

It’s always been important to me to travel and study music abroad. I believe that learning music in different cultural settings is crucial to discovering new ways of approaching music and one’s chosen instrument. I’ve been lucky in my life to have participated in many summer festivals abroad beginning at the age of 12, so I’m well accustomed to traveling abroad and can attest that it is well worth the many trials and errors that inevitably occur in both the planning and travel itself.

My parents were performing classical musicians and decided in the 1980s to move to Germany and make a concert career there. My country of birth is actually Germany, but my family moved back to the states not long after I was born, so I can’t say I remember that time of my life. However, in my youth I traveled back to Europe many times with my parents accompanying them on their various concert tours.

But adventures are scary!

Being a US citizen myself, I know that it is quite easy to remain in the states and study music in one’s home country. But due to my parents and their life as traveling musicians, I’ve always had the desire to travel and study music abroad. For many people it can be an intimidating idea, but I can say that everyone I know who has studied abroad in some capacity has appreciated the great opportunity.

Germany was a big draw for me personally, but it is also one of the best places to study classical music. Classical music has simply been a part of daily life in Germany for hundreds of years, and this relatively small country has produced some of the most notable classical composers in our history. This has deeply embedded a strong classical music tradition in German culture, as well as great respect and support for classical musicians.

0313a Photo 1


The master class I attended last summer was the Musikalische Sommerkurse, and took place in Leutkirch im Allgäu, Deutschland. It is a 12-day master class for violin, viola, and cello. The first evening the professors performed a wonderful concert, which kicked off the course in a very inspiring way.

0313b Photo 2

View of concert hall in Leutkirch

Each participant receives one 30 minute lesson every other day, and all the lessons are public, so the participants can observe all lessons taking place. Last summer there were four student performance opportunities, and these took place at beautiful venues in nearby towns and in Leutkirch.

0313c Photo 3

View from concert hall in Bavaria

The audiences were wonderful to play for; they were very appreciative and supportive. Every concert had a packed house, which was incredible. Along with private lessons at the course, there is also a professional pianist who gives the participants daily coachings (if you choose works with piano). These are almost as valuable as the lessons themselves. It is rare to have so much time to spend rehearsing with a pianist. This gives the violist the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of the piano part, which in turns helps make you into not only a better violist, but also a better chamber musician. We had one long technique class led by Roland Glassl, which for me was alone worth going to the master class.

Advice for this type of course:

  • Prepare at least half a recital’s worth of music, and bring this repertoire to the course at the very highest level. In order to participate in the performance opportunities you must have repertoire that is performance-ready when you arrive.
  • Listen to as many lessons as you possibly can (as long as you get in your practice hours, of course!) There are violin and cello master classes going on as well, so when you’re sick of viola repertoire, go listen to a cello or violin class!
  • Take notes, record all of your lessons, and listen back immediately. This will help you to retain the comments and the progress that you make. It is a very intense 10 days, and it goes by very quickly!
  • Stay with a host family. The festival is kind enough to find host families for the participants, which is half the cost of a hotel at 15 euros per day. I’ve always had good luck with host families, and it really adds to the experience to be immersed in the culture.
  • And, of course, have fun and meet new people!!

0313d Photo 4

View from my room at my host family’s home

AND yes, let’s talk about cost

Lastly, I would like to comment on the cost of this type of adventure. It’s the first reason why most people don’t travel, and I understand it can be very expensive. However, if you do it right, the biggest expense is the flight, and that price varies.

Food and housing

Food is very cheap in Germany, and you can easily live on 10 euros a day or less. There are many opportunities to live with a host family, and most of the time they feed you, which cuts down the cost even more. One additional bit of advice on housing is to ask your friends if they have friends/family in the countries where you are traveling. You’d be surprised how many connections people have in far away places, and I’ve found that everyone loves to host traveling student musicians! I also know many friends who have had a lot of luck with hostels, although I haven’t had much experience myself.


As far as traveling within the countries, my favorite way to travel is the Eurail train pass. This allows you to travel and change plans freely without losing money. When traveling, the best thing you can do is to be flexible, and the Eurail pass allows you to do this.

Make money while traveling? Why yes!

One way that I have found to actually make money while traveling is busking on the streets. All towns in Germany have weekly, if not daily, street markets in the summer. And if you do it right, you can make good money. The tricky part is making sure that it is legal where you are busking (e.g., a lot of towns you can only play for an hour and then you have to change locations).

0313e Photo 5

Gift from wonderful host family!


Okay folks, my conclusion is to just do it. And don’t wait, travel while you’re young and have fewer commitments (kids, job, etc.) holding you back. The longer you wait, the more difficult it is to take the leap! You will never regret it. When you are planning, just remember to be creative and use the people and resources you have at hand, and before you know it you will be on a trip of a lifetime. Bon voyage!

Website for master class:

Website for Roland Glassl:

Eurail website: