RNO Boca Raton Residency

Behind the scenes of the 13th Annual Festival of the Arts Boca in March, artists from the Russian National Orchestra and Bolshoi Ballet led master class sessions for over 100 high school students.

On March 5, RNO Principal Cellist Alexander Gottgelf traveled to Dreyfoos School of the Arts in West Palm Beach, where he held a 90-minute master class for 11 young cellists. There were lively interactions and demonstrations, detailed work on fingering, timing, and bowing, and Gottgelf offered individual tutoring sessions to two student soloists. {Full image gallery}

Two days later, on March 7, RNO Principal Flutist Maxim Rubtsov and Assistant Principal French Horn Alexey Serov led a 90-minute class for over 60 woodwind and band members of West Boca Raton Community High School. Rubtsov opened the session by working with over a dozen flutists in several small groups, then led the entire assemblage of band members in breathing exercises. Serov then worked closely with eight young horn players, demonstrating and discussing useful performance and warm up techniques. {Full image gallery}

That same evening, in the bright dance rehearsal rooms of Boca Ballet Theatre, Bolshoi Ballet dancer and teacher Yan Godovsky led a vigorous two-hour training session for over three dozen local dancers. Working methodically through numerous warmup and technical exercises, the students ended their master class with energetic, bounding leaps and dizzying pirouettes. {Full image gallery}

Charles Letourneau, Artistic Administrator of Festival of the Arts Boca, who acted as translator for the outreach events, shared his impressions of the experience:

 

I did the translating in all three masterclasses and was intimately involved in each of the experiences. Having studied at the Moscow Conservatory, it was more than translating: it was immersing myself back in that world of the best artistic education in history. There is a reason why Russia has consistently turned out such a high percentage of the greatest artists, musicians and ballet dancers.

What struck me the most was how these young American students, who were all born after the Soviet days, all seemed to understand this. Their earnestness and seriousness of purpose was palpable, and they knew they were in the presence of greatness. Some of the Russian coaches were quite tough, I initially feared, by our standards; but the American students rose to the challenge, with several contacting us afterwards asking for private follow-up lessons. I know that for some of them, it was a life-changing experience; one of the burly brass players from the high school cried when Alexei Serov played the solo from Tchaikovsky Fifth Symphony.

And it reminded me why we do all this. Why contact between peoples is so vital. And how art transcends all differences.

I will never forget it.

On March 8, the program culminated with the nineteen visiting members of the Russian National Orchestra combining with the local SYMPHONIA orchestra, conducted by Constantine Kitsopolous, in a concert that included symphonic and ballet works by Russian and American composers. Yan Godovsky, along with fellow Bolshoi dancers Tatyana Lazareva and Pavel Galkun, danced on the broad stage in front of the orchestra, wowing the nearly sold-out crowd with their dramatic and uplifting combination of American and Russian ballet. {Full image gallery}

Video from the outreach workshops and the March 8 performance.

Photography/videography by Paul E. Richardson