Thursday, August 14, 2008

Young musician has deep ties to Academy


The Music Academy of the West has been calling the young musicians who are attending the institute this summer “Fellows,” rather than students, to reflect the fact that they are truly advanced young professionals who have reached at least the college level, and in many cases are already working in the field.
But there’s one violinist at the Academy this season for whom the student appellation is merely an accurate description. Harold Reeves is just 17 and will begin his senior year in high school in San Diego next month.

Reeves is in his first summer at Music Academy of the West, but it’s not his first time in Santa Barbara. The young man lived here when he started studying violin at age 8 as an attendee at the Music and Arts Conservatory with Barbara Coventry and Nina Bodner, among others. In fact, he took some of his lessons at the studios at the Academy’s campus during the off-season, but never knew the extent of the summer music festival.
His grandfather, also named Harold Reeves, was a longtime employee of both the Music Academy of the West and the Lobero Theatre. The elder Reeves wrote “The Lobero Chronicles” in the mid 1980s to document the early years of the venerable opera house, where the Music Academy now stages it annual opera production as well as weekly Chamberfest concerts.
“I’m playing on his violin,” Reeves said over lunch between an orchestra rehearsal and a master class at the Academy early this week. “He was really pushing me to learn, and I wanted to. But my mom wasn’t that happy about it.”
Despite his parents’ misgivings, Reeves won the Young Artist Showcase just a year later, at age 9, beginning a musical journey that has landed him at the prestigious summer institute early in his career.
“I don’t really remember that much about it,” he said. “I played the Rieding violin concerto, which is not very advanced. But I did get to perform it with a professional orchestra at the Lobero.”

When he was 11, the family relocated to San Diego, where Reeves continued his studies, although he said he still considers Santa Barbara to be “home,” and spent a good deal of his downtime this summer either at the beach or roaming State Street.
After the move, he eventually hooked up with violinist Jeff Thayer, a nine-year Music Academy faculty member who also serves as concertmaster of the Academy Festival Orchestra. Thayer originally studied with violinist Zvi Zeitlin, the 35-year veteran of the faculty at MAW. So having his current student Reeves selected by Zeitlin to attend the academy this season was a boon to both.
“It’s very special, because it’s almost like three generations of musicians from the same line,” Thayer said. “Mr. Zeitlin heard something in Harold’s playing and was very encouraging to him. I was delighted he invited him to come to the Academy this summer as one of his students.
“It’s incredible for him to be one of the youngest students among all these very talented young professionals. You can learn as much from the fellow students as you do with the teachers.”
Indeed, Reeves said the biggest adjustment for him this summer has been immersing himself in the deep pool of strong players in various combinations, including sonata pairings, a chamber group and the symphony orchestra.
“I’ve never been around this caliber of musical talent and skill before. It’s pretty inspiring when I see them working really hard to improve.”
The chamber group made the strongest impression.
“I haven’t done a lot of chamber music before, so I had to learn how to play with other people, how to communicate with other musicians,” he said. “I didn’t expect at all that I would enjoy it as much as I have. The other members of my group were very supportive even though I was lot younger.”
Reeves’ group benefited from exposure to even more coaches than the typical ensemble because his main teacher was absent for two weeks, allowing the group to work with two visiting faculty members.

“It was really great to get all these different ideas on the same piece,” he said. “A lot of what they said would never have occurred to me. It changed the way I think about music in general because of how they described the composers and what they were dealing with when they wrote the music. That really opened my eyes.”
While other fellows have been very accepting of him despite his age, Reeves admitted that he still felt a bit overwhelmed.
“It does make me a little intimidated. I know I need to push myself a lot harder to reach their level. I realize I have a lot of work to do when I see them play. But it’s very inspiring.”
Reeves has two more public performances left before the season ends this weekend: he’ll be playing a solo violin sonata by Ysaye as part of the final Community Concert this afternoon at 2 at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art. And he’s in the string section for the festival orchestra’s reading of the Mahler Symphony No. 3 that closes out the summer Saturday at 8 at the Granada.
“It’s pretty cool doing something big like this,” he said of the massive masterpiece. “I haven’t heard it before, or played anything that’s close to as complicated at that. I’m sure that music is still way beyond me. But it’s been fun to learn.”

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