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What is chamber music?

Chamber music is classical music composed
  • for a small group of players (2 to as many as 13)
  • with a separate part for each musician
  • for musical ensembles of strings, woodwinds, brass, guitar, piano, or harpsichord, or for piano four-hands
  • by any composer worth their salt
It is rehearsed and performed
  • without a conductor
  • with a coach who gives suggestions to help musicians learn the music, but does not stand in front of the ensemble and conduct

What do Caltech students say about chamber music?

They joined because

"I could see there were performers at a number of different levels, and therefore felt that there was room for me"

of the "non-intimidating atmosphere"

"there are no music majors... everyone else only got to practice by squeezing in some time between problem sets"

"I had never played in a chamber group format before and the idea sounded very intriguing and interesting"

They find chamber music rewarding because

"chamber music fills a sort of addiction I have for music. It sounds bad, but if I didn't have chamber music, I'd probably suffer withdrawal"

of "small groups and individual attention"

"working together with a few other people to puzzle out a difficult rhythm, or decide on how to handle balance and dynamic constrasts: that can be very stimulating"

"it's more fun than I had in my undergrad as a music major playing with other music majors; I'd assumed I'd have to give up playing when I came to Caltech, and was delighted to see the quality and scope of what we have here"

"groups are small, you get to know others that are in your group and teamwork is essential"

"I have a significant role in a chamber group. Without one of the members the group cannot function properly"

"being a pianist, my role was previously one of two extremes; either being soloist or accompanist. Participating in chamber music allows me to perform with others where each member's part is equally weighted"

"I think the music program keeps me sane! It is one of the very few things I do here that completely takes my mind off work."

"with music we are given freedom to become passionate, emotional, and irrational because it is part of the music and part of us that needs to be expressed"

How much time does it take to be in chamber music at Caltech?

  • are required one hour per week; more is encouraged
  • are longer or more frequent close to concert time
  • are both independent and with a professional coach
  • include everyone in the chamber music program
  • occur in January and May
  • are scheduled not to coincide with finals
  • often take place on weekends and weekdays at noon (with free lunch provided for audience members)

Who plays chamber music at Caltech?

Ensembles consist of
  • 40 or so undergrads from all options and all houses
  • 20 or more grad students - your TA might be in your trio!
  • An occasional post-doc, staff, faculty member, or JPL employee -- only as needed to fill a student ensemble
  • participants who all want to be there 
Participants' musical experience levels include
  • musicians who have never played chamber music before
  • advanced players -- some with past degrees in performance
  • many people with mid-range experience and ability

How do I join Caltech Chamber Music?

Audition Sign-Ups
  • at Club Fair during Orientation Week
  • or at the Performing and Visual Arts Office, located at 305 South Hill
  • are friendly, not competitive
  • are for ensemble placement only, so you can work with other musicians at your level; in other words, everyone gets in!
  • need not involve long prepared pieces; play whatever you can and sight read
  • take place just before classes begin
Academic Credit
  • is available for all music ensembles, including chamber music
  • is 3 units per term
  • sign up at registration or add the class later
  • it's OK to be in chamber music if you don't sign up for credit

Who coaches Caltech Chamber Music?

Maia Jasper White
  • directs the program
  • organizes the groups, helps select music, and coaches most ensembles
  • founded and directs the Salastina Music Society, one of the area's best chamber music series -- and also played on the soundtrack for Star Wars: Episodes VII and VIII (among many others)

Robert Ward

  • coaches piano four-hands, and two piano four-hands ensembles
  • is an internationally acclaimed pianist and teacher

Donald E. Hudson Visiting Artists

  • coach all types of chamber ensembles
  • are distinguished musicians drawn from many orchestras and university faculties in the Los Angeles area