From New York City to the North Sea

by Victoria Aschheim '10. Artist Development Fellow: 2009

Victoria S.D. Aschheim ‘10, of Dunster House, was awarded a Fellowship to attend New England Conservatory (NEC) Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice, followed by instruction and mentorship by Professor Anthony Cirone, Chairman of the Percussion Department at Indiana University, and former member of the San Francisco Symphony, in percussion performance and ensemble conducting. A Music and History of Art and Architecture joint concentrator at Harvard, Aschheim has also studied with percussionists from, among others, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. She plans to receive a Masters in Music for Percussion Performance from NEC in 2011. Her future goals include becoming a member of an orchestra, teaching at the university level, and continuing to be involved in musical outreach in community settings.

Another warm hello from Victoria Aschheim on August 15, in my second blog of the summer. Early August brought my return to New York City for my greatly appreciated study with Daniel Druckman, percussionist of the New York Philharmonic and esteemed teacher at Juilliard, happily with the promise of future lessons with him – for which I am grateful to Mr. Druckman. I am now writing to you from Aldeburgh, England, on the Suffolk seacoast where my window looks out onto the North Sea. I have come to Aldeburgh as a result of being selected to be a member of the Britten-Pears Orchestra at the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, which is a partner of and has a close association with the Tanglewood Music Center. This type of international friendship and cooperation, including the opportunity to work with musicians of diverse nationalities, is one of my fundamental interests.

Benjamin Britten’s musical roots were planted in the Suffolk seacoast region. His family home (the place of his birth) in Lowestoft (Suffolk) faced the North Sea, with the sound of the waves and the seagulls, and with the the sight of the beach inspiring the compositions of Britten (later Lord Britten of Aldeburgh). The Suffolk seacoast is thoroughly enshrined in Benjamin Britten’s work.

Britten and Peter Pears created the idea of the ongoing musical life of the Aldeburgh-Snape area. Having observed Britten’s home turf, the English towns of Aldeburgh and Snape (the site of the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme and the Snape Maltings Concert Hall) provides insights for my work with Harvard’s Dunster House Opera in the forthcoming academic year in our presentation of Benjamin Britten’s opera, Albert Herring. First staged in 1947, so close to the end of World War II, in the original Glyndebourne Opera House, this Britten opera is a promising production for the intimate venue of Harvard’s Dunster "opera house." Very English in its setting of the invented East Suffolk village of Loxford, Albert Herring has very original orchestration including a single percussion part which I look forward to recreating. At Harvard I have done research and writing on Benjamin Britten’s music. I have also performed his work as a percussionist, so it is interesting to experience the Britten-Pears Young Artist Programme, together with the sights and sounds of the North Sea. I am about to perform (tomorrow) in the Britten-Pears Orchestra concert, which includes percussion music I particularly love to play, the poignant and iconic snare drum writing of Shostakovich’s symphonies.

My Harvard Artist Development Fellowship has been memorable in every way, and I am grateful for having been given the opportunity of the Fellowship and the learning experiences from which I have thereby benefited this summer. In this fruitful summer which now enters its final phase, I have deepened my experience and reflections on both my scholarly work and my music performance work. I will thus begin the new term in the Harvard / New England Conservatory Joint Program, enriched by the work in the first part of the summer with the San Francisco Symphony percussion section, and then with Daniel Druckman of the New York Philharmonic, as well as my work at the New England Conservatory Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice. The invaluable instruction I received this summer at the San Francisco Symphony and from Mr. Druckman due to the Artist Development Fellowship, polished, refined, and brought special, new insights into my study of orchestral percussion. This will, of course, have important applications in my devotion to the life of the arts at Harvard.