Winds study at Mannes begins with the rigor of training, the athleticism and importance of conditioning to discover one’s personal best — as if students were preparing for the Olympics, a comparison Winds Department Chair and flautist Judith Mendenhall considers apt for what Mannes instrumental faculty are trying to do with their students — replicate the standards of the outside professional world. "Students take their tone to the gym at Mannes. We want to make sure they can hit one out of the park — as team players and soloists. My job is to make them feel valued and challenged. We are dedicated. Every single person honors everyone."
The world-class Winds faculty are active performers on the New York scene and hold chairs in top ensembles, including American Ballet Theater, the Metropolitan Opera, Mostly Mozart, New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Ensemble, New York Chamber Symphony and many others. Bassoonist Kim Laskowski and Oboist Sherry Siler play for the New York Philharmonic; Elaine Douvas is principal oboe for the Met, Judith Mendenhall is principal flautist for ABT; Clarinetist David Krakauer, in addition to enjoying a distinguished chamber music career, plays klezmer music all over the world.
A typical week for students consists of a private lesson, chamber coaching and Winds class, with individual instrument class six times per semester. Faculty encourage healthy competition. For example, renowned flute teacher Keith Underwood and Ms. Mendenhall together hold "Winter Olympics" for their students each year, four events of performance challenges for students to compete in and have fun. In Winds classes students play for each other and listen.
"We honor creativity and color, bold artistic choices," Mendenhall says. "So students need to focus first on their base of skills — the nuts and bolts. They need to be strong in their tone to support higher levels of musicianship. Out of the strength of this foundation comes musical intelligence, and finally, rising from that intelligence — inspiration, imagination, ideas."
Dynamic opportunities abound, with Master Classes in each instrument, a new rotating Special Projects program that augments the classroom focus on symphonic literature (this year students will have the opportunity to play Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde in Schoenberg's chamber arrangement), and access to visiting artists — this year the Imani Winds, in residence at Mannes for 2014 — who talk to students about how to make it as a professional musician.
Performance is at the core of the curriculum. With many ensembles, from the Mannes Orchestra to numerous chamber music series, all Winds students get a steady stream of public performing opportunities, including solo recitals. There are seven orchestra concerts, including opera performances. These include two concerts at Alice Tully Hall and one at Carnegie Hall. There is also an annual concerto competition, with the winner performing with the Mannes Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall.
With emphasis on how to reach people in the community and find varied audiences, the Department values the idea of the "artist as citizen" in the world. "Mannes has great integrity and humanity," Mendenhall says. "Great passion, commitment and care. I describe what we do as heart-led teaching, heart-led mentorship."
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