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A step in the right direction

l-r: Masha Popova (flute), Jacob Shack '14 (viola) and Maria Semes (violin) after they performed Beethoven's Serenade for Flute, Violin, and Viola, Op. 25.

Jacob Shack ’14, a resident of Pforzheimer House concentrating in the Comparative Study of Religion, was awarded an Office for the Arts at Harvard (OFA)/Office of Postgraduate and National Fellowships Artist Development Fellowship to attend the Tanglewood Music Center this summer. He has performed as principal violist and has held leadership positions with the Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, Dunster House Opera, and Brattle Street Chamber Players. His professional ambitions include becoming an orchestral violist, a violist in a chamber ensemble, and a professor of viola.

While having been here for just over a month, my musical summer in the Berkshires feels like it has lasted several years. I don’t mean to say that my summer is tediously boring and uneventful. Quite the contrary—I have learned and absorbed so much that each day feels incredibly long and full. In the process, I have been exposed to exactly the kind of life as a professional musician that I hope to attain after college.

I have spent the past month and a half studying at the Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) in Lenox, Massachusetts. As a viola fellow at TMC, I am a member of the TMC Orchestra, which performs once a week. In addition to my orchestral engagements, I am assigned various chamber music projects throughout the summer. On the faculty of TMC are some of the greats in the classical music world, like composer John Harbison and Roger Tapping, the incoming violist of the Juilliard String Quartet. I have been lucky enough to work with these incredible musicians over the past month, and there are more to come.

The first week of study at TMC was a string quartet seminar. Before the start of the summer, all the string players were split into pre-assigned quartets, and were expected to learn their music before arriving at Tanglewood. The groups assembled for a week of intensive rehearsals and coachings, which culminated in three quartet “marathon” concerts in Tanglewood’s majestic Seiji Ozawa Hall. Between the hours of rehearsals, coachings, and master classes every day, I was more than ready for orchestra rehearsals to start after my quartet’s satisfying performance of works by Haydn and Britten. The TMC Orchestra has performed three times in Ozawa Hall, conducted by two of the conductors who are also here to work with the Boston Symphony Orchestra as well as the TMC conducting fellows.

Between the incredible pace of music-making and the sheer caliber of my colleagues and conductors, I feel as though I am already a professional orchestral musician. I know there is much more work to be done before I can actually get there, but this summer will prove to be an invaluable stepping stone to the life that I want.

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