Hi! My name is Joëlla Becker and I am a cellist currently studying with Professor Guy Johnston. I am a first-year master’s degree student, and I also completed my undergrad degree at Eastman, so I have been here for a while. I would love to answer questions you may have about studying cello at Eastman!
What do you like about the program?
It’s so much fun! Not only are all the professors and students amazing musicians, but they are also awesome people who I have made great memories with. We often get together outside of our weekly studio classes and lessons to play for each other or just hang out. My studio members even went on a boat trip! I love having the opportunity to hear our faculty play in concerts throughout the semester in solo recitals and chamber concerts.
Who are the cello faculty members and when are lessons?
Eastman has four cello professors: Steven Doane, Rosemary Elliot, Guy Johnston, and David Ying. Rosemary Elliott and Steven Doane work together in one studio. David Ying is a member of the Ying Quartet, our quartet-in-residence. Guy Johnston is an active soloist and chamber musician.
We have hourly weekly lessons with our assigned studio teacher and a weekly studio class where we get to play for the other cellists in our studio. Sometimes we will do joint studio classes with other studios if a guest cellist is in town or if Professor Doane wants to work through his ergonomic exercises!
Are there lots of chamber music opportunities?
Yes, there are so many opportunities! For chamber music, undergrads have one year of string quartet seminar in their curriculum, where they are coached by the Ying quartet, our quartet-in-residence. Upperclassmen and graduate students can choose any instrumentation, partners, and coaches to work with. There is also a chamber music certificate program that students can apply for which includes performances both at Eastman and in the surrounding Rochester community.
What is the orchestra experience like?
We have two main orchestras at Eastman, the Eastman School Symphony Orchestra (ESSO) which is for first years and sophomores, and the Eastman Philharmonic Orchestra (Phil) which is for juniors, seniors, and first year graduate students. Both of these ensembles are conducted by Prof. Neil Varon and play four concerts (also known as concert cycles) per semester. Students are rotated into different concert cycles based on how many cellists are needed, but I always played in at least two cycles a semester. There are also opera orchestras that happen four times a year. We have played works like Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Glass’s Hydrogen Jukebox, Guettel’s The Light in the Piazza, and many more.
Do you get to play other types of repertoire?
We have lots of new music, early music, and other fun ensembles happening at Eastman!
Musica Nova is conducted by Prof. Brad Lubman, and plays 3-4 concerts a semester of fabulous music ranging from Kaija Saariaho, to Hilda Paredes, to Julia Wolfe, and many more. OSSIA New Music is a student run orchestra that was founded by members of Alarm Will Sound. Students gather repertoire requests by the Eastman community and program four concerts a year played on Kilbourn all stage. These works are performed, conducted, and coached by Eastman students.
We also have a phenomenal Early Music program at Eastman. Professors Paul O’Dette and Christel Thielmann conduct our Collegium Musicum which performs operas like Campra’s Le Carnaval de Venise, Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea, and orchestral suites and concertos all on period instruments.
Empire Film and Media Ensemble is a student-run group that plays film music and collaborates with the Film Scoring department and Beal Institute at Eastman. They have played scores for House of Cards, Star Trek Continues, and The Biggest Little Farm, and many more.
If there is a type of music you enjoy playing and there is not an ensemble already formed, you create a student-run ensemble! Ensembles like OSSIA New Music and Empire Film Orchestra were started by students and there is always room for more creativity at Eastman. It is likely that other students are also interested in a similar genre and would want to join your ensemble!
What about recitals?
At the end of our degree program, students present a degree recital that showcases all we’ve learned during our time at Eastman. This is a fun opportunity to perform your favorite repertoire and collaborate with friends.
Students also have the option to perform non-degree recitals–recitals that don’t count for your degree and are just for fun! This is a great opportunity to challenge yourself, polish up your jury repertoire, or put on a chamber concert.
Can you share a favorite memory from your time at Eastman?
There have been so many, but I think one of my favorites was hearing Professor Johnston and Professor Doane perform the complete Beethoven Cello Sonatas in two concerts on Kilbourn Hall stage. These performances inspired me so much that I chose Beethoven’s fourth cello sonata for my program for my bachelor’s degree recital in honor of them!