As we celebrate the start of BYSO’s 64th season, we caught up with Jayna Leach ’18 and Dacha Thurber ’20, recent BYSO alumni who participated in a 4-month long virtual concertmaster course with Malcolm Lowe, concertmaster of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Malcolm Lowe has served in this role since being appointed in 1984 under Seiji Ozawa, and is the second longest-serving BSO concertmaster in the BSO’s 138-year history.
Jayna and Dacha’s BYSO experiences together were on stage with a much larger orchestra, but as part of their concertmaster training they worked in an intimate group setting with Malcolm and one other student. “Playing without a larger group puts the details of your technique under a magnifying glass,” Dacha recalls. “It helps you focus on the ingredients of your sound that you demonstrate in an orchestral setting, such as vibrato, bow usage, tone quality, and so on.”
Jayna notes that in addition to performing individually for each other and for Malcolm for feedback, he had them record themselves from different angles for a more immersive experience. “We would record ourselves from the back so that we could see what the orchestra players behind you would see or hear. Watching it back would be really surprising sometimes, especially when you think you’re doing something or not doing something that you don’t realize until you watch the recording. It helped us to envision a section from all angles.”
Both felt that their time at BYSO helped set them up for success through Malcolm’s program. “When we would record ourselves from different angles, or play through a piece imagining ourselves sitting in different locations of the stage, that was easy to do because I’d already sat in all of those places during my time in the orchestras,” says Dacha. “I’ve been able to experience performing in an orchestra in so many different ways thanks to BYSO!”
As graduates, Dacha and Jayna are both interested in pursuing careers in music, and studying under Malcolm taught them many things they will need to know for the future. Dacha notes that “as a concertmaster, you have to think about how the music will impact not just yourself, but the people around you. Writing a fingering or a bowing means that it has to fit your interpretation, but that it must also be comfortable for the other musicians.” Jayna agrees, further noting that “you have to work with so many other people as a concertmaster – the musicians in your section, the librarian, the orchestra manager, or other personnel. It’s not just about you, it’s a whole team of individuals contributing to make something great.”
Dacha’s advice to current BYSO students and BYSO alumni is to “reach out to people! In music, or any other field, learning to connect with your colleagues and to keep in touch with your mentors can go a long way. Reaching out could be a risk, but it doesn’t hurt to try. It’s a valuable way to form relationships, and a good skill to practice.” Jayna agrees, noting that “you don’t have to be afraid of people just because they are accomplished – many times they want to help you.” Lastly, both offer the advice of being kind to your peers. “We worked together at BYSO, and you never know when you might work with someone again in the future, or have access to an opportunity as a result. Try to be kind and courteous to your peers!”
Are you, or someone you know, a BYSO alumni with a cool or interesting story or life update to share? Contact Jessica Chen, Development & Alumni Relations Associate!