Saxophonist Matthias Roth first came to Eastman as a Summer student. In 2018, he participated in Eastman Experience: Summer Classical Studies, and the following two summers he enrolled in the Eastman Summer Saxophone Institute for 2019 and 2020. Matthias went on to enroll at Eastman and is currently a sophomore in the studio of Chien-Kwan Lin.
For this blog post, we interviewed Matthias and the Summer saxophone faculty (Summer Classical Studies’ Dr. Chisato Eda Marling and Eastman Summer Saxophone Institute’s Chien-Kwan Lin) to get their thoughts on the importance of Summer study, and how Eastman’s Summer programs can help young musicians prepare for a future in music.
From Matthias Roth, ECMS Summer Classical Studies and Eastman Summer Saxophone Institute student, ESM Class of 2025:
Q: Do you remember what attracted you to Summer Classical Studies?
A: It’s hard to choose only a few memories. I had a very great group of friends that I hung out with, and in that short span of time we did a lot together. An interesting memory that comes to mind was when I ended up playing duets with a cellist. Now, I’m a saxophone player, and we really don’t get to play with strings at all. But there I was, playing Metallica on a baritone saxophone with a cellist! This wasn’t the only random jam session that happened; there were multiple instances of my friends and I going to a practice room and just playing music together. The tacit understanding that we all loved doing what we were doing just made these moments that much more special. There really isn’t anything better than being surrounded by people who love to do the same things you do, and who encourage you to keep doing that special thing.
Q: Any special memories from your summer at Eastman?
A: It’s hard to choose only a few memories. I had a very great group of friends that I hung out with, and in that short span of time we did a lot together. An interesting memory that comes to mind when I ended up playing duets with a cellist. Now, I’m a saxophone player, and we really don’t get to play with strings at all. But there I was, playing Metallica on a baritone saxophone with a cellist. This wasn’t the only random jam session that happened; there were multiple instances of my friends and I going to a practice room and just playing music together. The tacit understanding that we all loved doing what we were doing just made these moments that much more special. There really isn’t anything better than being surrounded by people who love to do the same things you do, and who encourage you to keep doing that special thing.
Q: The program divides student’s time and focus between classes, lessons, ensembles, and performance opportunities. Which of these aspects do you feel impacted you the most and why?
A: The classes definitely had a huge impact on me. Going into the program, I had not taken any music theory courses. By the time I left, I had gained important fundamental skills that helped me understand music better, and advanced my musicianship in a very different way. There are four levels of music theory and aural skills classes offered, so there is something for everyone to learn regardless of how much background knowledge a student has when coming into the program. Lessons were also very impactful. The chance to study with Eastman faculty and members of the RPO is a remarkable experience. My instructor during the Classical Studies program, Dr. Chisato Eda Marling, was an incredible teacher and mentor. She helped point me in the right direction regarding a career in music as a saxophonist and an overall musician. She was also instrumental in my growth as a performer over the next couple of years. Dr. Marling informed me of other opportunities I had at Eastman as a high school saxophonist, such as the Eastman Summer Saxophone Institute, where I was able to study and form a connection with Professor Chien-Kwan Lin. This heavily influenced my decision to eventually enroll at Eastman.
Q: How did your participation in the summer help your audition and studies at Eastman as an undergraduate student?
A: Summer Classical Studies really helped me understand what was expected of me going into university. The summer program schedule is very busy. On top of everything that goes on during the day, students need to practice, do homework (yes, you will have to do some homework!), and ensure they get enough sleep, among other things. I am now a Dual Degree student pursuing two degrees, learning how to adapt to a somewhat formidable schedule has given me a huge advantage in making sure I am getting the most out of my education while still enjoying my time at Eastman. Gaining the insight of conservatory life early on eased the transition from high school to college, and I was able to jump right into a brand new lifestyle with little difficulty.
Q: If you went back to your high school, what advice would you give to this year’s summer classical studies students?
A: The best advice I have is to make the most out of this experience. By immersing yourself in this environment, along with the many others who will join you, you can grow as a musician and as a person in an enormous way in a short time span. Take the time to talk to people from all sorts of different backgrounds and instrumental experience. Use this opportunity to make connections with peers, professors, current Eastman students, and anyone else sharing this one-of-a-kind experience with you. I truly believe Eastman is a place that promotes a sense of community, on a collegiate and a high school scale. You will make friends and acquaintances who you will definitely see again at some point in the future (there are a handful of students at Eastman who I already knew because of Summer Classical Studies). Eastman’s summer programs are extremely rewarding if you are willing to learn and put in the work to improve yourself and your craft. Be eager to absorb information, gain ideas from your peers, and take advantage of everything the school has to offer, and you will walk out of Eastman with a new perspective on music that will continue to advance your career for years to come.
From Dr. Chisato Eda Marling, ECMS Saxophone Instructor, Summer Classical Studies Saxophone Faculty:
Students can grow tremendously during even a short Summer program. They already arrive with good musicianship; by the end of the program, their skills will have advanced to another level. Their solo and ensemble performances mature. The Summer Classical Studies program gives students a taste of college life: in addition to academics and performance, students learn how to get the most of out of the time they have with teachers and coaches. Students have to learn things quickly, and they also learn to work with colleagues in many different areas: classes, ensembles, and social life. I try to help students work on their music to bring it to the best level they can by their recital date–I review the calendar and plan their goals backwards.
To prepare high school students for auditions, I have a good discussion with them regarding what students usually look for in a program, so that they can pinpoint what’s important to them. (Colleges select students, but students also select colleges! The process works both ways.) I always encourage students to request lessons with college professors at schools they are considering, as that would be the most intense student-teacher relationship they would have. Findings are not always what we imagined!
From ESM Professor Chien-Kwan Lin:
Q: What are main characteristics you are looking for in undergraduate applicants?
A: I think Matthias is the quintessential Eastman student. He’s dedicated to fulfilling every ounce of his talent in becoming a first-rate player on his instrument, a musical and intellectually informed performer, and just an overall honest, sincere and thoughtful professional. He is curious about all things music, gobbles up knowledge from his classes and his peers, and never shies away from a musical or technical challenge on the saxophone. These are characteristics I look for in my undergraduate students.
Q: What do you recommend to high-school students interested in applying to ESM?
A: For high-school students interested in Eastman, I highly recommend immersing themselves in one of our summer programs. Not only will they be able to meet lifelong friends with similar aspirations, but it’s also truly the best way to experience what it’s like to live the life of an Eastman student.