Aspen Music School’s international students get warm welcome
June 26, 2018
Students from 40 states and from 34 countries around the world make up this year's class of the Aspen Music Festival and School.
As the school welcomed students Monday morning in a convocation at the Benedict Music Tent, President and CEO Alan Fletcher alluded to the currently strained international relations of the U.S. and offered a special welcome to international students.
"We are proud here to be a global festival and to touch the world of music on every continent, both in drawing students and sending students from our program to the musical world," Fletcher told the class as it began its summer studies. "We couldn't do that if those who are not American citizens were not here with us, and we are so grateful you are here. On behalf of the United States, I want to say that we welcome you and we're happy that you are here."
Fletcher also underscored for the young musicians — whose average age is 22, the youngest among them just 8 — the importance of their artistic work and rigorous attention to honesty in making music.
"Artists are truth-tellers," he said. "They mean what they say. They say what they mean. They are worth listening to. After all the necessary technical work, the essence of the practice is uncovering one's honest interpretation — sometimes a searingly honest interpretation. We need that honesty. In a culture where truth, where facts, where reality is so debased, artists stand up and reveal themselves in all honesty."
Monday's convocation also included a welcome from music director Robert Spano, who reminded students that their work in Aspen puts them in community with immortal composers like Bach and Debussy and Stravinsky
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"There's a wonderful community we all live with every day," Spano said. "And that's dead people. … They all live on with our engagement with them."
Jed Bernstein, beginning his first summer season as producing director at Theatre Aspen, gave the convocation's keynote address. He used his speech to inspire the young Music School students — the next generation of arts leaders — to embrace change and build a more welcoming ecosystem for the performing arts. Bernstein outlined a democratic vision of arts presentation that would break down all barriers of entry for audiences and embrace new technology such as virtual reality concerts.
"Anything that makes consuming our output forbidding or difficult needs to be done away with," he said. "Technology needs to be our friend, not our enemy."
He called on students to prepare themselves to not only be great musicians, but to be active ambassadors for the arts.
"It is not enough for us to dedicate ourselves to excellence," he said. "It is not enough to focus on making the best art possible. In order to justify support from the public — whether it's financial or otherwise — in order to attract audiences and build careers, we must build an active engagement approach, not a passive one."