A Morning of Chamber Music at Hoff-Barthelson Music School

Stephanie Liu

On the morning of March 2, 2023, the Hoff-Barthelson Music School brimmed with classical music from talented chamber groups from four schools across Westchester County. They were performing at the 4th Annual Young Musicians Concert to compete in the Westchester-Hudson Valley-Connecticut Regional competition. The purpose of this competition was to determine who would be going on to perform for the Young Musicians Concert at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center.

As an event for demonstrating musical talent among select high-school students, the competition was difficult, and two of the groups, hand-picked from many submissions across Westchester, were from Scarsdale High School. Interestingly, this event allowed the submission of original student compositions, however, all the competing groups played classics by old masters. The first SHS performed Trio in C minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 1, No.3 by Beethoven, and the second group performed Quintet in C major for Two Violins, Viola, and Two Cellos, D. 954, Op. 163 by Schubert. For a few of the students, they were already experienced with performing at this competition, but for the others, this was their first time.

Playing in a chamber group is different from playing in an orchestra or band since it is with a much smaller group. “I guess it’s more individual, but you also work together, and you have to rehearse,” Patrick Chen ’24 said, the violinist in the chamber group which performed the Beethoven Trio.

Although they are a group, each member has to play their own part, especially when there are so few of them. The performers also had to choose their pieces and prepare a recording for application to the competition by December. This required a lot of time dedicated to practice, but also allowed for bonding between the students, even across grade levels. Between the two groups, there were two freshmen, two juniors, one sophomore, and two seniors. “It was really fun, and I learned a lot,” Audrey Li ’26 remarked. “It was really nice being able to collaborate with older kids​​.”

For freshmen especially, this is a unique experience since most of the time, freshmen are not able to collaborate with upperclassmen. The freshmen orchestra class does not even get to play with upperclassmen except during early morning rehearsals, dress rehearsals, and concerts.

Each chamber group was also eligible for professional coaching by a member of the Chamber Music Society. The coach for Li’s group was a violinist named Sean Lee who has performed all 24 Caprices of Niccolò Paganini, known to be some of the hardest pieces for solo violin in history, in a single concert. “[It] was a pretty cool experience to work with a professional violinist,” Li said. 

Receiving coaching from an experienced individual could be incredibly constructive and bring your playing to another level, so this was a very influential experience for the young chamber group members.

Currently, the results are still not out. The performers are hoping to move on to the next stage, however, if they are not selected, they are eager to try again next year as well! If you are a young musician who can sing or play an instrument, consider joining or forming a chamber ensemble next year to compete at the Westchester-Hudson Valley-Connecticut Regional competition. Or perhaps, create one just to have fun creating music with people.