Violist and 2012 Curtis graduate Jessica Chang beautifully sums up the orchestra’s trip to Dresden.

In my three years at Curtis, I’ve learned that we always strive to push our musical boundaries. We’re taught in classes and coachings to explore possibilities— as individuals, as ensembles, and as an institution. The Curtis Symphony Orchestra’s tour to Dresden has been exactly that. I can’t imagine a more incredible capstone to a busy year! As a very recent graduate, I was even more excited to have an extra week full of music, friends, and concerts.

Our first concert at the Frauenkirche will always rank among my most favorite Curtis performances. What an honor for us to open the Dresden Music Festival! Not only did we fully represent Curtis on the international stage, but we also brought the music of Brahms back to its roots. We pushed our boundaries to work together and to learn to play with the gorgeous Frauenkirche as an instrument—to listen and to play together took much teamwork, and to colors and sounds I will never forget.

Also, who in the world decides to program a four hour-long chamber music concert AND expect a full audience? Call it a marathon, and every Curtis student will want to play. Along with my colleagues, I was pumped to be part of the Chamber Music Marathon at the Transparent Volkswagen Factory in perfomances of Gabriella Smith’s Kisiabaton and Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major, Op. 135. Thanks to Matt Barker’s careful eye, the program achieved a balance in repertoire and instrumentation, and the audience certainly rivaled our beloved Field Concert Hall audiences in enthusiasm. What also excited me about the Chamber Music Marathon was the venue—futuristic, bold, and unusual. In particular, it got me thinking about looking beyond “typical” concert venues and audiences to exciting new collaborations. Though we don’t have the Transparent Volkswagen Factory in Philadelphia, we can definitely chew on the idea of combining unexpected venues and adventurous programming!

Finally, the Curtis Symphony’s collaboration with Royston Maldoom and the students of “Let’s Dance! 2012” was a new and unique artistic collaboration for all. It was remarkable to experience Mr. Maldoom’s choreography, actualized by over 100 talented students from Dresden, to a piece that we had worked with intimately and performed previously. I think we were all inspired by their focus and precision, especially since all of us in the orchestra kept turning around in rehearsal to watch what was happening on their stage (I plead quite guilty to the preceding charge)…

The whole tour was a whirlwind of activity—from sightseeing around Dresden to attending the Vienna Philharmonic’s dress rehearsal, dining on the Elbe River, and performing orchestral and chamber music works—and what a privilege to share these experiences among the tight-knit community of Curtis students and staff! We’ve expanded our experiences and sights during our time in Dresden in many ways as individuals, as an orchestra, and as a school. As we boarded our buses at 4:30am for the final drive back to Frankfurt, I grew sadder and sadder with the realization that I’d just played my final Curtis concerts ever. Bleary-eyed, I looked back and saw rays of sun yawning over the river—rising on a fresh summer and new Curtis season ahead, both with promises to continue looking beyond our own horizons. 

A big thank you for an unforgettable Dresden tour to all who made it possible!

- Jessica T. Chang