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CMPI Violin Fellow Aiden Daniels recounts his experience from December 1, 2021, when he played on a masterclass for violin superstar Ray Chen.

Ray Chen and AidenI recently had the great opportunity to play in a masterclass for Ray Chen. It took place at Symphony Center in the Grainger Ballroom, a beautiful room with nice acoustics.

I will admit that I was nervous walking into the building since I had never played in a masterclass led by a soloist. At the door, I was greeted by a few friendly CMPI staff who took me to the Grainger Ballroom. I had about 15 minutes to run through my piece and get used to the acoustics. There was nothing particularly special about the one run-through I was able to do with piano, though it felt a little timid on my end. I took note of this and made an effort to quell any subconscious nerves. I walked off of the stage and sat in the audience in anticipation for Ray’s arrival. I, as well as the other people in the audience, sat in silence.

There was a palpable release of tension once Ray Chen walked into the room. I remember thinking that his whole demeanor was super down-to-earth, nothing like I had expected. Once he was situated, CMPI project director James Hall made a few announcements and then the masterclass proceeded. The first performer, Neal Eisfeldt, played a wonderful first movement of Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole. The comments Mr. Chen gave Neal were really well  thought out, specific enough but also general enough that I could apply the same ideas to my piece.

It was my turn to play, and shockingly enough, I was less nervous than during the warm up earlier. I played the first movement of Camille Saint-Saëns’ Violin Concerto no. 3. When I  finished performing the piece, I took a bow. Mr. Chen gave all sorts of compliments to begin with, and then went forth with some aspects of my performance that could be improved to make it even better. For example, he pointed out that I tend to play slightly aggressively during the slower sections of the piece, and he gave me some tips to free up my bow arm and produce a more beautiful sound. There was also a fast section of the piece that would always catch me off guard, and he gave some very useful practice tips for that passage as well.

The masterclass ended with my portion. I left the stage and sat back down in the audience, a few announcements were made, and an interesting question and answer session with Mr. Chen followed. After the Q & A concluded, I was able to get a picture with Mr. Chen.

Overall, it was a fulfilling experience that I was glad to have the opportunity to take part in. The feeling of the class was not as I had expected; I still wonder why I was ever so nervous to play. Since integrating the comments I received from Mr. Chen into my daily practice, I have seen tremendous results in several passages. I remember leaving Symphony Center with a better feeling than walking in that day, and I had some food-for-thought from a touring soloist to keep me motivated during my practice sessions. I walked out of Symphony Center in high spirits and enjoyed the breezy evening.


Top: Aiden with Ray Chen

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