From the John J. Cali School of Music to Famed Carnegie Hall

Photo by Mike Peters

It’s not just practice, practice, practice that helps students and faculty from the John J. Cali School of Music get to perform at some of the most prestigious venues around, including Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall and Lincoln Center. It’s also being at Montclair State University.

Rachel Friedberger, a sophomore with a double major in Music Education and Performance who performed with other students and faculty at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall last January 11, said providing such unique and enriching opportunities to students is one of the hallmarks of Montclair State.

"Montclair State University gives you a lot of opportunities because of how close it is to New York City," said Friedberger, whose primary instrument is the flute and who’s performed at Carnegie Hall three times already. "Our teachers are always actively trying to find us opportunities to play in the city and in front of new audiences."

Alumnus Ashlen Udell agrees, Udell, who graduated in 2010 with a Music Education major and a minor in Flute and Dance, added the opportunities are made available to students even after they graduate.

“The [Cali] school…provides amazing musical opportunities for their students,” she said, “for example, performances with Meredith Monk, New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (NJSO), conducting Symposiums and vocal tours overseas.

“Even after graduation, I am still able to participate in collegiate work and experiences. Some of these include this Carnegie Hall experience and singing with NJSO. It makes me feel proud to be an alumnus of the Cali school,” she added.

To add to the distinction, a new initiative, called the Cali at Carnegie Project, was introduced last September by the school's director Robert Cart.

"The John J. Cali School of Music Cali at Carnegie Project is...focused on commissioning and performing new works by Cali School students," explained Cart.

The project begins with a call to music composition students for new works that will compete for a chance to debut at Carnegie Hall.

Following the competition, students attend a series of workshops, master classes and open rehearsals dedicated to refining the new works and their musical interpretations. The Carnegie concert, which also includes works--traditional and/or new--by other composers, is followed by a free public concert on campus.

Cart cited the project's numerous benefits to students.

"The Cali at Carnegie Project [first] affords music students the opportunity to compose new works to be premiered by students, faculty and staff at performances held on campus and at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall," he said. "Montclair State students who attend the open rehearsals, workshops and performances of these newly composed works will experience exciting contemporary trends in music, enhancing their [the students'] access to contemporary music. Montclair State University's student composers and performers will complete the Cali at Carnegie Project with concrete outcomes, including a newly commissioned work, a recording and other supporting materials."

But, it doesn't end there, he quickly adds.

"Following the performances, after receiving the recordings, photographs, reviews and other materials, students will participate in a workshop discussing the next steps toward careers as successful musicians," he said.

These "next steps" the workshop provides include the entrepreneurial skills needed, as well as recommendations and advice for drawing on the Carnegie experience, to promote themselves.

The competition phase of the project is scheduled to start this fall.

Meanwhile, Friedberger said getting to perform at Carnegie Hall was memorable enough.

"I was very excited to learn that I would be playing at Carnegie Hall," she said. "The experience was amazing. It is an honor to be playing at Carnegie Hall at all, but it was even more fun to be playing with my friends. We also got to perform alongside our amazing flute teachers, Tanya Witek and Susan Palma.

"I am sure this experience will look very nice on my résumé," she added.

“I was honored that the faculty thought of me when I had already graduated,” Udell added. It was a performance at Carnegie Hall. More importantly, we were playing with some amazing musicians that were inspiring in their performances. Sharing the stage with Cali faculty was an incredible and fulfilling experience.”

Cart cited the uniqueness of the Cali at Carnegie program, specifically the competition component.

"Students and alumni performing with faculty and a director, dean or president is heard of and...students perform or have Carnegie Hall, but the competition portion is unique I believe," he said. "I am not aware of other New Jersey public institutions providing this opportunity.  That is to say, any longer."  

Students at the Cali School also perform at many other prestigious venues off campus, including at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) with the NJSO, and the Guggenheim Museum.

All Cali at Carnegie Project workshops and on-campus performances are free and open to the public. The next Carnegie concert is scheduled for next year, March 6, 2013. Carnegie Hall provides ticket discounts for students and seniors.