May 15, 2007

Young violin virtuoso makes the rounds - Jinjoo Cho will hold workshops with area students before taking the stage

Jinjoo Cho: an 18-year-old freshman phenom at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, takes the stage for a formal recital Saturday night at the Kentucky Center and will conclude a whirlwind of workshops and playing time with area string students.When young violinist Jinjoo Cho finally takes the stage for a formal recital Saturday night at the Kentucky Center, she will conclude a whirlwind of workshops and playing time with area string students. Cho is the ninth young performer to visit Louisville since January 2005 as part of the Gheens Foundation Great Expectations visiting artists series.Cho, an 18-year-old freshman phenom at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, has studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music and won the concerto competition at the 2005 Aspen Music Festival and the Grand Prize at the 2006 Montreal International Violin Competition.Just as her budding career has been busy, so will her “residency” this week in Louisville. It kicks off Wednesday with a live noon radio broadcast on WUOL-FM’s “Lunchtime Classics” show. Then she will scoot to a meeting with young violin students and their parents at the Louisville Central Community Center. The players, age 4 to 11, are part of the ArtsReach Studio Violin program directed by Louisville Orchestra violinist Keith Cook. Cho will skitter through some Paganini, then take part in a Suzuki-style play-in with the kids.Thursday she will visit the Youth Performing Arts School, where she will play first violin with seven other string students, performing the Mendelssohn Octet. The instrumentation of the octet is two first violins, two second violins, two violas and two cellos — a kind of double string quartet, with eight parts.“The students have been practicing the octet under the direction of YPAS conductor Jason Seber,” said Jeff Jamner, who administers the Gheens program through the Kentucky Center. “They will rehearse twice, with Cho playing first violin.”The chamber group will then perform the Mendelssohn Octet Thursday evening in a “Chamber Soiree” at the Academy of Music at St. Francis in the Fields Church.On Friday, Cho will meet and play with middle school string players at Johnson Middle School. Those kids are under the direction of David Ruth.Finally, in the Saturday recital at the Kentucky Center, Cho will join pianist Christopher Falzone.What a schedule!And a unique experience for the students.“It’s a special chance for young players to see what it’s really like to be a performer like Jinjoo,” said Robin Hicks, also of the Kentucky Center. “They get to talk with her to find out what her life is like. And, they get to see and hear at what level the bar is set to be a soloist on a national level, find out just where that bar is.”Jamner said a visiting artist’s appearance sometimes spontaneously spurs further experiences with classical music.“We did a cool joint performance with soprano Laquita Mitchell earlier in the year,” Jamner said. “She sang spirituals and performed a liturgical work that had been choreographed for her with a group of our young dancers. The performance was at Phillips Chapel in Old Louisville, and afterward, Laquita offered the kids a chance to see her sing Mimi in ‘La Boheme’ with the Cincinnati Opera. We chartered a bus and 45 people went to the opera in Cincinnati.”In contrast to veteran concert performers, the Gheens artists are just a few seasons into their careers. They have things in common with the students they meet.For example, in an appearance on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” show, Cho admitted she preferred playing fast-paced movements to slower ones.“In fast movements, the difficult parts are usually technical and can be mastered by practicing hard,” Cho said. “In slow movements, it’s more about concentrating and feeling the music with my heart, and that can be harder. My teacher encourages me to concentrate on loving what I’m playing instead of just reading the notes and trying to play them.”That’s the best aspect of the Gheens series: The students are almost the same age as the star.“Having the artists in the schools, in a smaller venue, is a wonderful chance for the young musicians in our area to get to meet and know musically, and personally, someone like Jinjoo, who is so accomplished,” Jamner said. “We believe this is the best way to get the next generation interested in classical music.”