LIANE HANSEN, host:
Hockey players' careers are built on talent, training and sometimes luck. The same could be said for classical musicians, who have to navigate through the tricky and somewhat limited career options. This is especially daunting for those players fresh out of school.
In New York, Jeff Lunden reports that Carnegie Hall and the Juilliard School have developed a program to address these concerns. It's called The Academy.
JEFF LUNDEN: The idea for the academy began over a meal. Carnegie Hall executive director, Clive Gillinson, and Juilliard school president, Joseph Polisi, were talking about the challenges young classical musicians face today.
Gillinson says they both agreed that talent alone isn't enough - they have to be teachers and entrepreneurs.
Mr. CLIVE GILLINSON (Executive Director, Carnegie Hall): How do we deliver, to the best young musicians, a skill set that will enable them to define their own lives as musicians, around what their own talent is? You know, rather than having to say: Ah, I'm going to have to apply for that job or I'm going to have to apply for that job, because that I think is the box, which will enable me to earn a living as a musician.
We're saying, you've actually got the capacity to define your own life.
LUNDEN: So, Gillinson and Polisi designed a program they hope will produce great musicians, who are also great communicators. Every two years, they select 20 fellows. Each receives a stipend of $25,000 a year, health insurance and access to the best teachers and coaches at Juilliard.
They work three days a week, 30 weeks a year on the very highest musical level - performing on one of Carnegie's stages with musicians like Sir Simon Rattle -and on the most basic musical level, teaching in New York City Public Schools.
Juilliard President Joseph Polisi.
Dr. JOSEPH POLISI (President, The Julliard School): They fit into the mold of what one would call in the United States today, teaching artists. In other words, they teach their art and they do it through their performance and through their instrument.
LUNDEN: One of the fellows beginning the program is Nathan Schram, a genial 23-year-old viola player. He was a Navy brat who grew up all over the country and got a music degree at Indiana University. Last year, Schram got an email inviting him to audition for The Academy.
Mr. NATHAN SCHRAM (Fellow, Academy): I was thrilled. It sounded great. It sounded like it was going to help me communicate better with audiences. I was going to find a newer audience. I was going to help people that might otherwise not be able to experience music, and maybe I can learn something from them, too. And now I'm here, day one.
(Soundbite of children)
LUNDEN: Day One is in mid-October at P.S. 75, an elementary school in Bushwick, an immigrant and working class neighborhood in Brooklyn, where Zelman Bokser teaches violin.
Mr. ZELMAN BOKSER (Violin Teacher, P.S. 75): You know, I think you would describe this school as under-resourced. It's not a very high socioeconomic neighborhood.
LUNDEN: But even with limited resources, Bokser has created a vibrant music program. In a school of 650 students, he's teaching 83 of them to play the violin.
Mr. BOKSER: What's amazing is that these kids are competitive with kids in any other public school in the city. So these kids have played in Carnegie Hall and at Lincoln Center, at the Apollo Theatre and lots of other places. And there are very few schools that have had those opportunities. So we're really lucky.
(Soundbite of violins)
LUNDEN: And Bokser says they're really lucky to now have a professional musician in their midst.
Mr. SCHRAM: My name is Nathan Schram. I'll be coming in about twice a month, working with you all and learning from Mr. Bokser and also helping him out as much as I can. So I actually play viola, which I'll introduce to you later. But I've been playing for 13 years now. I started when I was 10.
Unidentified Child #1: Wow.
Mr. SCHRAM: Which makes me how old?
Unidentified Child #2: Thirteen...
Unidentified Child #3: Twenty-two.
Unidentified Children: Twenty-two.
Mr. SCHRAM: Ten plus 13?
Unidentified Children: Twenty-three.
Mr. SCHRAM: Twenty-three, nice.
LUNDEN: Bokser divides the class in half and has Schram help with tuning the violins.
(Soundbite of violins)
LUNDEN: ...and help out with musical exercises.
(Soundbite of music)
LUNDEN: As the class winds down, Schram brings out his viola.
(Soundbite of viola)
(Soundbite of cheering and applause)
LUNDEN: A month later, Nathan Schramm is back. He's hatched a plan to do some improvisations with Zelman Bokser.
Mr. SCHRAM: I'm trying to explain to them that music can also have character. Music can describe people. It can be a character in itself. And just trying to develop on their understanding of music and what's possible they can do with it.
LUNDEN: So the third and fourth grade beginning class decides Nathan should improvise a piece that expresses who he is.
Mr. SCHRAM: So how would you describe me?
(Soundbite of conversation)
Unidentified Child #4: Kind person, helpful.
Mr. SCHRAM: Helpful, kind and helpful. Okay, I'm going to try to express who I am, as a kind and helpful person, on the violin.
(Soundbite of violin music)
LUNDEN: Fourth graders Jolessa Guzman and Calista Condili are impressed.
Ms. JOLESSA GUZMAN (Student, P.S. 75): They just popped it up in their mind. I don't - they didn't even rehearse for that.
Ms. CALISTA CONDILI (Student, P.S. 75): Exactly.
LUNDEN: And Calista finds herself inspired.
Ms. CONDILI: When I am in fifth grade, I would like to play in Carnegie Hall and hear all the people clap just for me.
LUNDEN: Nathan Schram says working with the kids thus far has been inspiring for him, too.
Mr. SCHRAM: You know, the kids are wonderful. I'm amazed at how well-behaved they are, how excited they are about music. They're very receptive. You can work with them and if someone doesn't get something the first time, they'll get it the second. I mean, it's just, you see - I didn't expect to have such quick results.
LUNDEN: For NPR News, I'm Jeff Lunden in New York.
(Soundbite of violin music)
HANSEN: NPR will check in with Nathan Schram periodically during his two year residency with the Academy, as he introduces kids to the music of Brahms for the first time, and works with Sir Simon Rattle.
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