It would have so easy for Beethoven to be discouraged; he can’t even hear the thing he loves most. But he actually accelerated, he pushed himself even harder, he absolutely redefined what music can do. That’s what we’re going to try to do with the Heifetz Virtual Institute this summer.”
– Heifetz Institute Artistic Director Nicholas Kitchen
The first week of the 2020 Virtual Institute was full of new challenges – Zoom meeting tutorials, time zone map consultations, and crash courses in live streaming technology – but one thing remained consistent with our usual summer session: world class performances by our students through the twice-weekly Stars of Tomorrow Concerts. Against some daunting odds, we are offering a summer of virtual music-making. This does not come without substantial technical challenges, but as one faculty member noted, “There are so many moving parts to make the institute work, and I just have to say I didn’t encounter a single hiccup. Although sadly the Institute was not able to meet in person I truly believe having the virtual option is playing a crucial role in sustaining not only music-making for the students but also providing a positive outlet at these unprecedented times.”
The fruits of these labors is, as always, the performance itself, and one such effort that truly captures the spirit and potential of this venture was that of cellist Boubacar Diallo and pianist Yoon Lee, who collaborated to perform in the expansive first movement of Beethoven’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor. During a year in which celebrations of Beethoven’s 250th birthday were set to reverberate through concert halls worldwide (including ours), his determination, spirit, and of course artistry, continue to serve as a guiding light for our summer program, as Artistic Director Nicholas Kitchen noted above in our initial announcements regarding the Virtual Institute.
Like Beethoven, we continue to make music in uncertain times and perform against unprecedented odds. Boubacar and Yoon Lee performed the sonata masterfully despite being separated by a great distance (though both in New York State, Rochester and NYC are 300+ miles apart) and having to record their parts through a demanding layered approach that our Artistic Team has helped to pioneer. This performance displays exemplary musicianship as they mirror one another’s dynamics, phrasing, and tempo-changes as if they were performing in Francis Auditorium! Virtual collaboration is the new normal, and it is performances like Boubacar’s and Yoon’s that make us excited for the musical possibilities that lie ahead.
As Beethoven himself remarked, “The barriers are not erected which can say to aspiring talents and industry, ʻThus far, and no farther.” The barriers ahead are indeed great, but we shall strive to go farther, as Beethoven would insist. Our students, our teachers, our audiences, and you deserve nothing less than our fullest, best, effort.