Every summer, young string players from around the country come to Bloomington, Indiana to eat/breath/sleep music. It’s the Indiana University Summer String Academy, in its 25th year. Sure, the program is designed for youngsters to grow as musicians, but it’s also an opportunity to create connections: student to student, student to teacher, and student to accompanist.
To get a better idea of the inner-workings of the string academy, I met up with a student from Pennsylvania, Linda Numagami. She plays the viola, and she just turn 16 years old. Her days consist of lots of practicing, lessons, coaching’s, rehearsals, “and every night we have a concert to go to. And they’re all really good!”
Then, there’s another side to the string academy, the IU students who accompany the string academy kids. Bethany Pietroniro was assigned to one particular studio for the string academy, so she was responsible for rehearsing and performing with 8 students, Linda included. Bethany enjoyed working with the students, but also it’s also exciting to see their musical development. “What everyone says about the string academy and what I say too is it’s remarkable to see what progress can be made in four weeks,” she said.
With regular rehearsals, Linda and Bethany got to know each other as musicians and people. Sure, it was a job for Bethany, getting paid by the hour, but it ended up being more than that. “I think with her, mainly what charmed me was the way that we seemed to understand each other from the very beginning.”
They had an open line of communication during the rehearsal process as well, bouncing musical ideas off one another. Although, they are both very soft-spoken so much of the communication happened through whispers! “LAUGH I think that we found that we have a lot of similarities as people and as musicians more importantly,” Bethany mentioned. “There’s another part of why this is so rewarding for me. I’m put into a position that doesn’t have the full responsibility of teacher. It’s somewhere between coach and collaborator, and I love that!”
And what about Linda? Being away from home for four weeks, in a strange place with strange people, living every moment for the viola. I asked her what the hardest thing for her has been, and she didn’t really have an answer for me. “I really have loved it! They hardest thing probably is keeping up with the schedule, because you just go go go go go.”
But, the non-stop schedule of the string academy hasn’t deterred her from wanting to pursue music as she grows older. “I’m not really too good at anything else, so I figure this is the only thing,” she joked. “But I really like doing it, and I want to do something with it. It doesn’t have to be anything fantastic – just something to keep me happy with what I’m doing.”