Talented young musicians in Shattuck-St. Mary’s music pre-conservatory program will head south Sunday to present a program inside the Owatonna Arts Center at 2 p.m.
A trio will perform pieces by Felix Mendelssohn, while a quintet will present compositions from Dmitri Shostakovich and Robert Schumann, and between the seven students playing Sunday, six different countries are represented, a hallmark of the international flavor in the school’s music program, said Eric Olson, director of Shattuck’s pre-conservatory.
“They get along really well, and it’s fun to see (students) learn from all the cultures,” said Olson.
Students often create their own “mishmash” of language, with words from various languages all appearing in the same sentence, but “they all have the language of music in common,” Olson said. “They perform really well, and it’ll be a great concert Sunday.”
When performing in a group, as opposed to solo, “you need to be sure everyone is equally represented” and communicate effectively, which can be complicated when the musicians are from different countries, said cellist Laura Aldana, a senior at Shattuck who is originally from Colombia’s capital of Bogotá. “We all have different perspectives, backgrounds, and sounds,” but they have to harmonize into a sweet ssound that is “proper for the song and the group.”
Kate Carson, a sophomore violinist from Northfield, is the only student Sunday to play in the trio, as the sole violin, and in the quintet, as the second violin, and she has to adjust her play based on the group, she said. As the only violin in the trio, she has the melody more often, while, in the quintet, “I play quieter and listen more.”
She’s most looking forward to the quintet’s music Sunday, because she’s been practicing Mendelssohn since the start of this year, so “you get to know it almost too well,” she said. There’s “a stark contrast” between the first and second movements of Schumann, “but they still go together.”
And “Shostakovich is pure Shostakovich,” added Carson, who picked up violin at age 4. “Every movement is a different side to his writing.”
Aldana, part of Sunday’s trio, earned a scholarship to the University of Texas and will join her sister, Sara, a fellow musician currently a sophomore at UT, in Austin this fall. She believes her experience at Shattuck-St. Mary’s has been crucial to her development not only as a musician, but as a person.
She’s become more confident on stage and has learned to use any anxiety to her advantage, she said.
“You’re always going to have nerves, but the most important thing is to manage them,” she said.
Rather than inhibit her performance, she converts her nerves to adrenaline, propelling her forward, she said. “I need that extra strength, because some pieces are exhausting.”
And, while most American students don’t interact with peers from other cultures until college, Aldana already has that background from her time at Shattuck, she said. “It’s very enriching as a person.”
Aldana clicked immediately with her cello instructor at Texas — a critical relationship for a music student, much like an athlete with a coach — and her sister, a violinist at UT, is eager to reconnect, Aldana said. “Family is an important part of our lives, and we’ve been taught that as sisters we have to support each other as much as possible.”
Aldana knew from a young age that music would be her profession, and her dream was always to study abroad. She credits her parents, especially her mother, for the success she and her sister have found in their respective instruments.
Since taking over as director of the pre-conservatory program at the school in 2016, Olson has placed an emphasis on finding opportunities for students to perform, like Sunday’s OAC concert. After all, so many do want to become professional musicians.
This is Carson’s first year at Shattuck-St. Mary’s, and “I love it,” she said. At the school, she’s able to devote plenty of time to practice, because teachers understand students like Carson — who want to be professional musicians — “are chasing what our career is going to be.”
“We try to get kids ready for the next step,” Olson said. “We want to help them realize their dreams.”
Olson “is our coach, and we improve each week more and more,” Aldana said. The career of a professional musician “is all about continuous improvement.”
Reach Reporter Ryan Anderson at 507-444-2376 or follow him on Twitter @randerson_ryan.