The Maroon

Resident music artist teaches independence to chamber orchestra

Andrew Callaghan

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The College of Music and Fine Arts’ resident artist, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, has transformed the university’s chamber orchestra into a conductorless ensemble over the last year.

The chamber orchestra is a large ensemble which features string instruments, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The ensemble’s musicians are divided into physical sections respective to their instrument type. Typically, a conductor leads the ensemble, often with a baton.

However, Salerno-Sonnenberg’s philosophy is that a group is stronger without a singular conductor, adding that it “develops their sense and ability to listen.”

“They cannot be reliant on anyone but themselves,” Salerno-Sonnenberg said. “They own the performance. And when a musician has developed this keen ability to listen and hear everything that is going on in any particular piece, they are superior musicians without a doubt.”

Salerno-Sonnenberg is an internationally acclaimed classical violinist and graduate of The Juilliard School. In 1999, she was awarded the Avery Fischer award for excellence in music. She is also the music director of San-Francisco based musical group, the New Century Chamber Orchestra.

Last fall, Loyola introduced Salerno-Sonnenberg as the school’s first resident music artist. In her year of residency, she visited Loyola in four 10-day increments.

Jean Montes, director of orchestras, believes the chamber orchestra has evolved significantly throughout Salerno-Sonnenberg’s residency.

“Their level of responsibility and awareness becomes much more intense, like a reflex. They have to take charge at times, because there’s not somebody telling them when to come in,” Montes said.

Montes praised the way Salerno-Sonnenberg was able to play alongside the ensemble while simultaneously teaching them how to be independent leaders.

“She was like a quarterback. Playing solo, but also leading,” Montes said. “In doing so, [she] created little quarterbacks. Little leaders. Like the saints did the other day… the trick now is to have multiple quarterbacks, so that any point, any section leaders can lead.”

Salerno-Sonnenberg said her experience as resident artist was very gratifying.

“I’m so proud of these kids. What they have learned in such a short period of time is something they will take with them forever. And it [was] an honor to share this experience with them.”

See The Maroon’s video from when Salerno-Sonnenberg began her tenure as artist in residence:

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Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola
Resident music artist teaches independence to chamber orchestra