Barthelmes Faculty at Heart of Music Program
By D. J. MORROW INGRAM
FACULTY OF NOTE: Members of the Barthelmes Conservatory faculty recently shared a bit of their personalities and thoughts on the Conservatory with GTR Newspapers. From left are: Terry Pollak, Dana F. Maher, Aida Aydinyan, Kevin Jackson, Dr. Teresa Reed and Aquiles Figueroa.
The Barthelmes Conservatory opened in August 2001 with the mission to build a better community through providing music education for children and enrichment for people of all ages. It was created out of the Barthelmes Foundation. The late Tulsa couple, Albert and Hete Barthelmes, left Germany just before World War II, and they were supporters of the Tulsa Philharmonic, the Tulsa Youth Symphony and the Tulsa Opera.
The Conservatory, located in the Bernsen Community Life Center at 708 S. Boston Ave. in downtown Tulsa, is organized into two divisions: the Music Center and the Music School. At the Music School, the Conservatory works with approximately 30 students who are accepted on their high musical aptitude rather than their current musical ability. The School’s students benefit from individual instrument lessons with instructors and classes in music theory, music history, music literature, ensemble and orchestra.
Through the Music Center, the Conservatory works with about 500 students, about 350 of whom are part of the satellite talent development wing. Six area schools participate in the program: Kendall-Whittier Elementary School, Remington Elementary School, Eugene-Field Elementary School, Walt Whitman Elementary School, Chouteau Elementary School and San Miguel Catholic School.
The Music Center also offers individual and group lessons to over 150 students and students of all ages in the community on a variety of instruments such as piano, cello, violin, viola, guitar, flute, drums and jazz piano.
At the heart of the Conservatory is the outstanding faculty, says Aida Aydinyan, executive director.
“These professional musicians offer Conservatory students an exceptional opportunity to interact and learn from outstanding teachers who teach at the university level,” Aydinyan says. “Their experience in teaching and performing combines for outstanding mentoring, role modeling, referrals and guidance for our students.”
GTR Newspapers interviewed the faculty of Barthelmes to provide its readers an up-close look at this outstanding faculty. Interviewed were: Aquiles Figueroa, Violin; Kevin Jackson, Cello; Dana Maher, Piano; Terry Pollak, Violin and Viola and Dr. Teresa Reed, Music Theory/History/Literature.
GTR: At what point did you recognize you wanted to be a musician?
FIGUEROA: I can’t remember the exact moment but I do remember where I was…somewhere during my sophomore year in high school I remember two violinists that were friends of Mr. Holmes, the teacher, came and played several duets. I sat enthralled and felt like I had finally seen something that I could truly wish for and wouldn’t even mind working for.
JACKSON: When I as a sixth grader and heard the Cleveland Junior High string group perform at my elementary school.
MAHER: I don’t remember a certain point in time where I made a decision to be a musician. Once I began playing music I very quickly came to a place where I couldn’t imagine my life not revolving around music.
POLLAK: It was the summer before the 8th grade. I had been last chair 2nd violin for 3 years straight. I was sitting in the dermatologists’ office, and I decided that I was going to become the 1st chair 1st violin. It took until my junior year of high school when I became concertmaster of the Norman High School Orchestra. That orchestra also won a national competition that year resulting in a two week tour of Romania. Well, the competition was won based on a tape of the previous years’ orchestra, but I got go to Romania as concertmaster, and was subsequently bestowed with the American Legion Award.
REED: I first knew that I wanted to become a musician when I was a child of 12 or 13 years old. I was not only inspired by the church, but my parents bought a piano one Christmas, and although I had no formal training, I was drawn to it like a moth to light. I ended up choosing the saxophone as my primary instrument, but the piano was where I first explored my musical creativity.
GTR: Why do you think music education is important?
FIGUEROA: To take up the path of a musician is much more than learning how to simply play some notes on any instrument. A musician must learn to work with others, in doing so communicate concepts that must be first imagined then realized before ever saying anything. One’s ability and style is solely determined by how much genuine thought, effort, love, and patience is devoted to polishing the sculpture that is a moving and truly great concert. Here I feel lay the secret, value. Musicians or anyone really that chooses to be great at something must appreciate the hours and hours spent practicing in order to earn the chance to show something beautiful, and feel great about it.
JACKSON: It helps in the building of a well-rounded individual. To ensure the existence of music, or the Arts in general, in the future, it must be emphasized today.
MAHER: Music education teaches students to be goal oriented and gives them the tools to successfully set and reach goals. It develops spatial reasoning abilities and cognitive thinking abilities. It also provides a framework to develop positive self image and serves as an artistic and creative outlet.
POLLAK: I think it has a synergistic effect which enhances all learning, and I think it helps turn out more peaceful citizens. That is, citizens that are more at peace than they would have been otherwise, as opposed to there being a greater quantity of the peaceful citizens.
REED: There are no brief answers to this question. People who study music learn to appreciate the beauty of sound, the joy of creating and sharing it, and in the process, they reap the rewards of disciplined practice. Music is that other language the cuts across all other sorts of boundaries. Age, nationality, social class, race, ethnicity, political differences – all of the things that tend to separate us as a human family seem to dissolve in the presence of beautiful music. Therefore, we have a responsibility both to learn and to teach that language.
GTR: The Conservatory’s tag line claims that it’s a place to awaken the musician within. Do you believe in that statement and if yes, why?
FIGUEROA: Absolutely!!! Everyone shares in the process of growing. To express that in an artistic and musical way is everyone’s birthright, we must simply find it.
JACKSON: Yes. After a student has gone through the musical aptitude assessment and audition process, we have the opportunity to see first hand the musical growth of that student as they go from: learning instrument parts, notation, terms and symbols-to performing in front of an audience in literally 3 _ months from the onset of their musical training. You see the passion for their art in their actions as well as in their eyes. You notice self-confidence shining through as they display their newly acquired musical skills from their individual lessons and music theory classes.
MAHER: Absolutely! Excellence and personal achievement are stressed and expected in a very loving and nurturing environment. In that type of environment students and faculty feel free to let loose and explore their creativity, and are not afraid to try new things and stretch themselves. The close proximity created by the students and faculty all being together means that each person is inspired by everyone else’s growth. All these factors work together to make it a vibrant and exciting place to be.
POLLAK: Yes. This is especially true of kids who have come to the program that otherwise would likely have had little or no contact with classical music. I have seen their desire to do this grow from a casual, “hmm, I guess somebody thinks I might be good at this for some reason”, to a sincere enjoyment and desire to excel.
REED: Absolutely. There are many talented people who go through life without the opportunity to explore, develop, and refine that talent. Barthelmes Conservatory provides these opportunities.
GTR: What do you envision for the Conservatory in the future?
FIGUEROA: With as much support as this program has enjoyed from parents, faculty, and administration thus far, I wouldn’t dare limit it’s potential to my imagination, but maybe something worthy of the history books. A huge state-of-the-art building, concert halls, all ages of talent development, incredible public school outreach programs, the finest thinkers and musicians for the next several generations.
JACKSON: Growth beyond belief!! The word is getting out and people are starting to take “note” (we musicians love that). I envision the Conservatory giving many musicians their wings thus allowing their musical souls to take flight.
MAHER: Our own building with facilities catered to our needs as a Music School and an expansion and growth in every way. I think the future for Barthelmes Conservatory is going to be wonderful and I’m excited to be a part of it.
POLLAK: Having a home of its’ own. The abilities of students rising to a level where recitals, chamber music concerts, and chamber orchestra concerts will be presented to the general public.
REED: I envision continued growth, national acclaim, and graduates who achieve world-class feats in the world of music!
To learn more about Barthelmes Conservatory please visit www.tulsaconservatory.com or call at 918-794-0330.