Tatjana Masurenko and Margaret Batjer, both faculty members at the Colburn Music Academy, give us an inside look at the pre-college program
In addition to its Conservatory of Music, the Colburn School‘s Music Academy offers pre-college training to young musicians looking to become professional musicians. Based in Los Angeles, the Academy is focused on expanding students’ musical knowledge and performance abilities, in preparation for post-secondary study.
Students perform regularly, both on campus and throughout LA, and participate in master classes. Alumni have gone on to study at top music schools, including Juilliard, the Curtis Institute of Music, and the Colburn Conservatory of Music.
The Violin Channel talked to two faculty members to learn more: Tatjana Masurenko and Margaret Batjer.
Masurenko is on the faculty of the Conservatory and Music Academy at the Colburn School, where she holds the newly created Richard D. Colburn Viola Chair, while Batjer is a violin faculty member at the Colburn Music Academy and director of the Academy Virtuosi chamber orchestra.
Can you tell us about the Colburn School? When did you start teaching there?
Tatjana: The Colburn School is one of the most unusual schools in the field of music: Here you can find a very unique kind of organization system in an educational institution. The Conservatory of Music is small, there are only around 130 students, all of them instrumentalists. (No singers or musicologists). It’s a small musical community with a very close connection between students, also between the faculty. The Music Academy is even smaller – around 45 students – and is for younger students preparing to enter conservatories and other top music programs.
Because students have the fantastic opportunity to live in the dorms directly in the Colburn building, to eat freshly prepared food in the Colburn Café (including fresh sushi!), and to study in the same building, this makes their life and studies extremely comfortable. For me, Colburn is the best place for students to find time, silence, and quality for new developments.
What I personally like and enjoy every day is the warm, attentive, and supportive contact with my colleagues and the administration here. Music and artistry stand in first place here, which I think is most important in our times. I started here in September 2022 and love it!
What do you feel are the benefits of a young student attending a pre-college training?
Margaret: I feel it is extremely important for serious young musicians to attend an excellent Pre-College program. The music world is incredibly competitive and being able to develop in a nurturing and competitive environment during their high school years helps prepare students for a career in music and also prepares them for a top University or Conservatory program. The benefits include having access to highly qualified teachers, a great chamber music program with other young musicians of equal talent and regular performance opportunities. All of these things are important for serious young musicians and difficult to find outside of a pre-college training program.
You teach in different institutions around the world, what is special about the Colburn School?
Tatjana: Yes, I taught in Germany for many years, including 20 years at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Leipzig, and I still teach in Switzerland at the Haute École de Musique de Lausanne in Sion, Switzerland. I feel that at the Colburn School there is a special touch of intensity in every aspect—musically, personally, and professionally. You feel like a member of the Colburn family, which is great!
How imperative is it to give Music Academy students a well-rounded experience in terms of fundamental skills, career development, and community outreach? Can you tell us about the unique courses offered?
Margaret: In today’s world, being a well-rounded musician is imperative. They not only need to be wonderful young artists and instrumentalists but also be able to communicate from the stage verbally and contribute to the community in a meaningful way through the lens of music. Colburn has a vibrant community outreach program as well as providing students with “in-home: concerts through generous patrons and board members.
At Colburn, there is also an infrastructure to promote the students who are ready for professional engagements. Students are also given support in traveling to competitions.
For you, what are the key aspects of a good music school?
Tatjana: 1: Good teachers/professors
2: Place and time to practice
3: Performance opportunities
How do you feel the professional music world is evolving and how can students best prepare to enter it?
Tatjana: My wish for all of us is to find a new, fresh energy for the future of the classical music world. We need more personalities—unusual, well-educated musicians of a new generation with smart and experimental ideas. More courage!!!
How does the Music Academy prepare students for undergraduate conservatory stories and beyond?
Margaret: Colburn Music Academy is not that different than a great college conservatory experience. In fact, all of our students are exposed daily to the Conservatory environment through attending concerts, and participating occasionally in the Colburn Conservatory orchestra and master classes. The faculty at the Academy are also all teachers at conservatories or Universities and have first-hand experience in how to prepare students technically and musically to successfully matriculate into a great college program.
One of the unique programs Colburn offers is the Academy Virtuosi. It is a conductor-less orchestra that meets 2 hours a week and performs each semester. The repertoire is very challenging and the student’s musical growth is very exciting to watch. They learn to lead the ensemble together in a collaborative way and they perform at the highest level.
What do you and the Colburn School look for in potential students?
Tatjana: Since the further development of the viola as a soloistic instrument is of great importance for me personally, I‘m particularly looking for interesting personalities with their own ideas and colors, with strong energy. That’s what we as violists also need to strengthen in chamber music and orchestral playing.
What advice would you give to a student looking to attend the Colburn Music Academy?
Margaret: I think visiting the school during the audition period is an excellent opportunity to see what the Academy has to offer. I encourage them to reach out to faculty they are interested in studying with and perhaps attend one of the weekly studio classes, Virtuosi rehearsals or Saturday recitals. There are live-streamed events weekly that they could attend virtually as well.
As a teacher, I find the Music Academy one of the most wonderful and unique programs in the country. The students are disciplined, inspired, and full of life and laughter.
How can students apply?
Students ages 14 to 18 can learn how to apply to the Music Academy here. The application deadline is January 10, 2023.