New Recital Hall Opens Virtual Music Classes to Public

November 29, 2010

More Information:
For Media Only: Helene Snihur (585-274-1057,

New, cutting-edge technology at the Eastman School of Music will allow the Rochester community to observe virtual classes at the world’s top conservatories without leaving town or spending a dime.

On Tuesday, Dec. 7, for the first time, the local community will be invited to sit in on an afternoon of live music instruction, performance, and conversation between acclaimed faculty and students at both the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo and the Eastman School.

The demonstration will take place in the newly opened Hatch Recital Hall, a 222-seat venue wired with Internet2 capabilities and state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment that enables students at Eastman to work directly with professors and artists at institutions worldwide.

Internet2 is a next-generation Internet fiber network that connects more than 60,000 U.S. educational, research, government, and community institutions. Internet2’s very high bandwidth makes possible unprecedented collaborations between peer institutions that are connected by these dedicated high performance networks.

In 2001, the Eastman School of Music and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama became two of the first music schools to hold a transatlantic videoconference. Since then, the Eastman School has used Internet2 for more than 50 master classes, discussions, workshops, and performances with other institutions. However, in the past these collaborations lacked a suitable venue and were therefore not open to the public. Now, with the opening of the new Eastman East Wing on Dec. 6, audiences will be able to sit in Hatch Recital Hall and observe publicly accessible master classes and discussions, which Eastman plans to hold on a regular basis.

The institutions are connected through fiber optic cables throughout the United States and across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Because the network is limited to the research and educational purposes of a select group of organizations, it’s less crowded and faster than consumer internet connections. Helen Smith, the Eastman School’s director of technology and media production, likens it to a six-lane superhighway with little traffic.

In the musical realm, Internet2 allows for data transfer speeds of up to 60 megabits per second, while consumer internet services may provide only about 1 megabit per second.

“This technology means that an interactive project, like a music lesson between a teacher in England and a student in New York, can happen with CD-quality audio and DVD-quality image clarity, little delay, and no blips, freeze frames, or pixelation, like one might experience over Skype, or other consumer conferencing connections,” Smith said.

The demonstration with the Norwegian Academy of Music, scheduled for noon on Dec. 7, is part of the Festival Week of events celebrating the opening of the Eastman East Wing, which houses new teaching, performance, and rehearsal spaces for the school. A full list of tours, concerts, guest lectures, and master classes is available on the web at .

Leading the session are the Eastman School’s Benton Hess, Distinguished Professor of Voice, and W. Peter Kurau, Professor of Horn; and from the Norwegian Academy, Håkan Hagegård, Professor of Vocal Studies, and Frøydis Ree Wekre, Professor of Horn. They’ll be joined by voice and horn students from both institutions.

Senior Emily Schroeder participated in a spring 2010 horn master class with Frøydis Ree Wekre. Though she found the anticipation of playing for the renowned teacher and performer nerve-racking, Schroeder also found the experience invaluable. “As soon as I finished playing and could see Frøydis’s face smiling back at me all the way from Norway, I realized it was silly to be nervous and then started enjoying myself,” Schroeder recalled. “She had some great suggestions for the piece on which I was working — a piece that was written specifically for her — and I felt that I learned a lot that I hadn’t known before.”

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Master class faculty biographies:

A conductor, composer, and pianist, Benton Hess also serves as musical director of the Opera Theatre at the Eastman School and artistic director of Mercury Opera Rochester. In addition to conducting, Hess has toured throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East as pianist/accompanist and master class clinician. For the past 35 years he has maintained a coaching studio with a roster of clients that reads like a “Who’s Who” in grand opera. Just a few of his collaborators have been Eleanor Steber, Nicolai Gedda, Renée Fleming, and Placido Domingo.

W. Peter Kurau is an active soloist, clinician, and chamber musician, appearing at numerous professional conferences, universities, and festivals throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia. He has been active in commissioning and premiering new works for horn, including compositions by noted American composers Verne Reynolds, John Cheetham, and others. In 1991, Kurau was the soloist for the premiere of a recently discovered and reconstructed version of Mozart’s Concert Rondo K. 571 for horn and orchestra.

Swedish baritone Håkan Hagegård catapulted to fame in Ingmar Bergman’s film version of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), in which he played the role of Papageno. His career spans four decades and he has performed at all the major international opera houses and concert halls including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Covent Garden, La Scala, Concertgebouw, Sydney Opera House, and Deutsche Oper Berlin. He has performed and recorded many of the great song cycles; his recording of the Brahms Ein deutsches Requiem with James Levine won a Grammy Award.

Frøydis Ree Wekre studied piano and violin before taking up horn at the age of 17. She first won a position with the Norwegian Opera Orchestra, then in 1961 joined the Oslo Philharmonic and became co-principal in 1965. In 1991, she retired from the orchestra to be professor of horn and wind chamber music at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where she already held a part-time position. She has given master classes and workshops throughout Europe and North America. Her book On Playing the Horn Well has been translated into several languages.