By Paige Pfleger, Daily Arts Writer
Published March 22, 2013
The Paradigm Shift Chamber Orchestra is one of the newest musical groups in Ann Arbor. Composed of 20 string players, the orchestra is a mix of students from the School of Music as well as players in the Ann Arbor area. It gives performers the opportunity to participate in a cooperative-style group in which everyone’s opinions and suggestions are of equal value.
Paradigm Shift Chamber Orchestra
Saturday at 8 p.m.
First Baptist Church
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School of Music junior Jake Woollen is the founder and organizer of the group, with help from Assistant Professor of Conducting and Associate Director of Orchestras Christopher Lees.
“The idea really germinated this summer at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado,” Woollen said. “I was there as a cellist, and several other Michigan people were there too — Chris Lees and several other string players — and that’s really where the idealistic air of Colorado really allowed these ideas to flourish.”
Woollen further developed his dream during the fall semester while he studied abroad in Paris. He began planning and organizing the group and was heavily inspired by the art of music-making as practiced in Europe.
“The general attitude towards music-making in Europe is quite different from here,” Woollen said. “They are much less embarrassed to be extremely earnest about music-making. There is no fear about completely baring their soul in performing. Here, there is a tendency to be reluctant to really let your guard down as a musician and a performer. That’s something I wanted to bring back with me — this intense excitement and earnestness about music.”
One of the many reasons that Woollen founded the group was to placate orchestral musicians’ frustrations over the lack of opportunities to perform concertos with an orchestra. While the School of Music has a concerto competition annually, only four students can win. The Paradigm Shift seeks to provide more students an opportunity to perform and shift in how classical music functions.
“We wanted to experiment with artistic authority,” Woollen said. “Traditionally, the paradigm was the all-knowing imperious male conductor, who would run their orchestras like totalitarian states. The musicians and the orchestra were basically factory workers — they weren’t artists, they were artisans. And what we are seeing now is a shift away from that, towards the conductor as a facilitator; he is just one of many brilliant artistic minds in the room.”
Along with shared artistic power and collective investment, Woollen places a heavy emphasis on taking a proactive stance toward education.
“Why do we sit around and wait for people to teach us things that we can very easily proactively go out and learn ourselves?” he asked. “I think when you’re at university, it has so many incredible resources, but so often there is a passive academic mindset. We think of ourselves as students learning from professors, as opposed to professors guiding us in teaching ourselves. I’ve found that in all areas of my life, especially music, I learn much more effectively when I make a mental switch from ‘I’m going to learn this’ to ‘I’m going to teach myself this.’ ”
The group has succeeded thus far in accomplishing just that. The musicians meet every Sunday morning — not for pay, not for academic credit, but simply for the love of music. Their first concert was at the beginning of February, and they’re looking forward to performing again at their upcoming concert — titled “Eight Seasons” — which features Vivaldi’s Four Seasons as well as Piazzolla’s Four Seasons.
“All of us as musicians are a conglomeration of musicians that we’ve been around or grew up with, and we all take something from each of them,” Woollen said. “Instead of all of us learning from one conductor, all of us are learning from all of us. We are taking responsibility for our own musical education.”