There is no shortage of talented individuals at the College of Music. The grand vocal showcases presented by the Eklund Opera Program and the sweeping orchestral works performed effortlessly by the CU Symphony Orchestra are built on the hard work, dedication and abilities of single musicians.
It stands to reason, then, that those single musicians are just as stunning in small ensembles as they are in large ones.
That’s exactly what Meta Weiss (left, photo courtesy Photo courtesy Juli L. Weiss) is seeing play out during her first few months as the college’s new chamber music coordinator. The cellist—herself a seasoned chamber musician and one half of the Weiss-Requiro duo with College of Music Assistant Professor of Cello David Requiro—came to Boulder in January to bring the various chamber groups throughout the college under one umbrella.
“Currently, everything is ad hoc, and different departments have different policies and methods,” Weiss explains. “My goal is to centralize the program and make it a chamber music department, with the same goals and requirements for everybody.”
Weiss estimates there are about 27 chamber music groups throughout the college—and counting. As the music world evolves, she says it’s becoming more important for musicians to expand their repertoire beyond solo or large-scale orchestral works.
“Musicians enjoy collaborating and building connections with each other, and chamber music has such a rich and vast repertoire for any combination of instruments imaginable, so more and more that’s a large part of what students are going to be doing after they graduate.
“Even if they join an orchestra, many people want to be involved in chamber music as well. It’s great that schools around the world are recognizing that.”
The mission of expanding chamber music opportunities for students is one Weiss has been exploring for most of her career so far. She earned her undergraduate degree at Rice University, where she was heavily involved in chamber music, both in school and outside of the program. When she was pursuing her master’s and doctorate studies at The Juilliard School, she continued performing in small chamber groups in concert venues in New York and around the country.
For the past three years, Weiss has been leading both the cello and chamber music programs at Queensland Conservatorium at Griffith University in Australia. “I set that chamber music program up as well,” she says. “It took about a year to get it running smoothly, and after three years, I was proud of the growth of the program and the quality of the graduating students’ chamber musicianship.”
In addition to broadening their horizons as musicians, Weiss says students can learn a lot from working together in groups.
“It’s so important that students learn those collaborative skills. By performing in chamber groups, you get to know other people’s personalities, and you learn how to navigate differences of opinion and learn from others’ perspectives.
“The organizational skills you learn are also important,” Weiss continues. “There’s a high level of commitment involved in coming to rehearsals, being at performances, scheduling time with your teachers and engaging the community through outreach.”
And perhaps the most important skills 21st century students can hone: entrepreneurial skills.
“As a chamber musician, you need a refined se of entrepreneurial skills. You need to know how to promote yourself, work with presenters and organize the program.”
As Weiss looks down the road, she says she’s thrilled to be forming the college’s chamber music program at a time when new investments in performance spaces are being made.
“It shows commitment to the future,” she says. “I’m looking forward to seeing the students get really excited about playing together with students from different instrument areas, sharing what they’re doing with the college and the Boulder community.
“I also see this transition period, before the new chamber hall opens, as an opportunity to get the program out into the community. We’ll invite people to come here to see our students perform, but in the meantime, we’re going to bring the music to them.”
There are three opportunities to see the College of Music’s talented chamber ensembles perform in the community next month: The Chamber Music Showcase is April 11-13 at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church. Find more information about the free concerts at cupresents.org.