Violist Alyssa Warcup: an atmosphere that encourages and cultivates curiosity
Updated: Jan 9, 2020
This past summer I was fortunate to have the incredible experience of attending the Conservatoire Américain within the Ecoles d’Art Américaines de Fontainebleau. I grew up in the Chicago area and have always studied with American teachers, so this summer marked my first experience studying outside of the states, my first time in France, and my first visit to Europe. Violists oftentimes focus on the German and English classics of the repertoire, so I was very much looking forward to the opportunity to explore our French repertoire in greater depth and become acquainted with the French style of playing. Throughout the festival I was lucky to work with so many remarkable, thoughtful, and gifted musicians, which I found genuinely inspiring and transformative.
What other festival can one ruminate over their studies while exploring ancient palace grounds and appreciating the tranquility of the surrounding forest?
There are no shortages of performance opportunities at Fontainebleau. No two days at the festival are alike, and most days one could find a concert or masterclass to enjoy somewhere within the Château. Occasionally there would be a contemporary music workshop and we could explore the techniques (and types of scratches!) we would later use in our collaborations with the composers. My personal favorite experiences were rehearsing and performing works by Ravel throughout the festival. I loved exploring all of the gorgeous performance spaces, especially with the wistful Borisovsky arrangement of Pavane pour une infante défunte in the Salle des Colonnes as well as with the last movement of the string quartet in the Chapelle de la Trinité. One of my favorite parts of playing chamber music is growing as a performer through working with others. Our productive rehearsals and thought provoking coachings throughout the festival culminated with performances in the Mini Concerts, Prix Ravel, and Auditions.
I spent quality time in the Jardin Anglais reexamining what music making and practicing meant to me.
One exceptional aspect of attending Fontainebleau is being able to study in an atmosphere that encourages and cultivates curiosity. I vividly remember a moment in one of my lessons when a professor asked me to phrase my Bach a certain way to clarify one of my musical ideas. As we continued through the Bach, he kept asking for changes and I kept making them on the spot. Immediately the piece had a different life to it with no extra practicing, just a redirection of my thoughts. I wasn’t listening to myself in the way that he was listening to me. Throughout the festival I kept searching for more specific reasons that I hadn’t thought of those changes on my own. I spent quality time in the Jardin Anglais reexamining what music making and practicing meant to me, and how my process was helping me and holding me back. I realized how important it was to broaden my listening perspectives and make a point to think from every technical and musical standpoint possible. It was a powerful moment for me. Lessons like these ones guided me to rethink how to create a musical idea, how to refine them so they will come across to a listener, what makes one idea more effective than another one, and how to present them in the most engaging and moving way possible.
It seemed that every corner of the Château had a message to uncover, whether we were in our lessons or enjoying the day with friends. I cherished my mornings wandering the gardens and days spent savoring classes or finding creative ways to avoid the summer heat. What other festival can one ruminate over their studies while exploring ancient palace grounds and appreciating the tranquility of the surrounding forest? I feel lucky to have been able to partake in the traditions, whether it was joining in on choir nights, celebrating Bastille Day, or simply continuing the legacy of a school that is almost a century old. I made countless memories and am touched by my summer in the Château.