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GRCC to host summer camp with musicians who mash classical, popular genres

Gene Hahn

Think about Shakespeare and hip-hop, said pianist and composer Brendan Hollins.

“It’s the same language, right? We so often disconnect all the styles of music we listen to, and they are more connected than we know.”

Hollins and violinist Gene Hahn, members of Eclectic String Music Ensemble, or ESME, are working to broaden music students’ sense on possibilities with music genres and styles — bringing together different eras of music and unlikely compilations– during the five-day 2019 ESME Band Camp Summer String Intensive in August.

  • What: ESME Band Camp Summer String Intensive
  • Who: string music players in sixth through 12th grade
  • When: from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug, 12-16
  • Where: GRCC Music Center, 142 Ransom St. NE
  • Cost: $450 by May 20; register here. The fee goes up to $475 until the June 20 deadline.

“We write our own arrangements that mash up popular styles of modern music with classical instruments,” said Hahn, associate concertmaster for the West Michigan Symphony. “Part of our goal is to treat musical exposure of any type of popular music that students have and utilize it as a tool to be able to make connections in what they’re learning.”

ESME has paired music by Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Guns ‘N Roses and The Beatles with Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart.

In its third year, String Chamber Summer Music Camp is expanding from a small intensive experience to a full-fledged camp. Workshops will cover a range of topics from theory and ear training to maximizing sound production and body awareness. Visiting faculty include Blake Hinson, assistant principal bass for New York Philharmonic, Abraham Feder, assistant principal cello for Detroit Symphony Orchestra and teaching assistants from Manhattan School of Music and Grand Valley State University.

ESME leads intensive experiences with middle and high school students (courtesy photo)

ESME, which also includes Jeremy Crosmer, cellist with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and former assistant principal cellist for the Grand Rapids Symphony, creates live performance experiences accessible to different ages and tastes. The West Michigan string band collaborates with artists and cultural institutes on various projects.

Blake Hinson

“We started out just getting together and having jam sessions at each other’s apartments for fun,” Hahn said. “Eventually we realized this is a fusion string group that combines iconic classical repertoire with popular styles of modern music.”

The musicians create educational programs including clinics for student orchestras. They have worked with Grandville, East Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Christian high schools. They’ve also collaborated with Project 440, a youth training organization for inner-city music students.

Through the camp, Hahn said, they’d love to see young musicians embrace possibilities of music, experience for themselves how to step out of the box and use what they learn to advance their musical studies.

Kevin Dobreff, program director for the GRCC Music Department, is happy to host.

“The GRCC music community is particularly excited to be collaborating with ESME because it is a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful building and make sure people in the community know more about what we have to offer as a music department,” Dobreff said.

“It allows high school students to come here and see exactly what we have to offer and then possibly consider coming here to study music. The goal is to inspire these students to be more actively involved in their music making.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is managing editor and reporter, covering Kentwood, Lowell and Wyoming. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013, and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio


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