Arts and Entertainment

CMS Meets Stuyvesant

An overview of the Young Musicians Innovation Challenge and a look into Project Connect, a proposal submitted to the contest by Stuyvesant students.

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“There isn’t enough recognition for chamber music in this day and age.”

Sad but true. One day, when sophomore Eugene Yoo was in his symphonic orchestra class, his teacher Joseph Tamosaitis introduced a chamber-music related contest using those exact words as encouragement for students to participate. Yoo, junior Cynthia Tan, and sophomore Sophia Wan-Brodsky were inspired by the unique opportunity to make a musical impact on their community. And they found the perfect way to do so.

The Young Musicians Innovation Challenge is a program launched in 2021 by the Chamber Music Society (CMS), an organization at Lincoln Center dedicated to promoting chamber music. CMS is known for encouraging musical education in schools through several programs for students in the tri-state area. This year, there were seven teams participating in the challenge, including two groups from the pre-college program of the prestigious music conservatory Juilliard.

The challenge was met with enthusiasm and dedication by participants, who presented projects ranging from podcasts to educational mobile apps to concert series surrounding chamber music. “We received proposals from New York City, Great Neck, and Miami, all of which exceeded our expectations,” remarked Matthew Tommasini, Director of Education at CMS, in an e-mail interview. “All of our Preliminary Round teams did a wonderful job absorbing feedback from their mentors.”

The contest consisted of two rounds: the Preliminary Round and the Final Round. The students displayed their projects as video presentations, which would be followed by a Q&A session with a member of CMS. Yoo, the leader of the Stuyvesant group, admits that it was a bit “nerve-wracking” to present their projects in front of professionals. “They were grilled by a distinguished panel of musicians and administrators,” commented Tamosaitis in an e-mail interview. Luckily, Yoo was able to push through the stress: “My teammates and I persevered, stuck with the plan, and that ultimately paid off in the end,” he said.

The Stuyvesant team proposed Project Connect, a musical education network which gives children in underserved communities with limited access to properly funded music projects the opportunity to experience chamber music. After winning “Honorable Mention,” Yoo and his teammates will receive coaching from a CMS member before launching their program in June. The virtual lessons will be led primarily by Stuyvesant students in the summer, switching to in-person meetings during the 2021-22 school year. The group leaders hope to host concerts for the chamber music groups and invite guest speakers from music organizations to talk about the genre. The project was created as an effort to pass the art form onto the next generation, since chamber music has been pushed to the side as the world moves on to more contemporary genres like rap and pop. The members of the Stuyvesant group aim to bring it back into focus. “It’s important to make sure that this form of music will be remembered,” explained Yoo. The project is meant to be a long-term one that Yoo hopes will be carried out by students of the program even after he and his group members go off to college.

Tommasini and other CMS members are thrilled at the outcome of the contest. Once this year’s projects are launched, he said that the organization will be assessing whether or not to continue the YMIC as an annual event. Since the competition doesn’t focus solely on musical ability, the judges were able to see contestants’ creativity in action. “Overall, I would say the experience was rewarding and a lot of fun,” Yoo said. “I would definitely recommend it to anyone else interested in making an impact in their community.”