By Jonathan Horn
Renowned Rice University music professor Jon Kimura Parker knows the limits of his field.
"If you're in an artistic endeavor, there's no such thing as perfection," he said. "You aim for it, but you never really get it."
But anyone can certainly keep trying.
And for those participating in the La Jolla Music Society's annual SummerFest, some very prominent musicians are here to help in the quest. Recent Rancho Bernardo High School graduate Andy Leu, 17, got some of that help at the La Jolla Riford Library on Aug. 3, as part of the festival's master class program. Andy played a Brahms rhapsody in front of about 35 spectators and was coached by Julliard professor Helen Huang.
"It was fantastic," Andy said. "I mean, I've performed this piece a couple of times, but it's pretty much night and day with all the tips that she gave me, and I'm hearing so many different things that I've never heard before."
Engaging an audience
A master class is somewhat like a publicly carried-out private music lesson between a young performer and an accomplished musician. However, it is structured in a way to engage an audience. The class begins with a full performance of a piece and then is critiqued by the instructor.
"I just think a master class should be something where you get everyone involved and you want to express everything in a way people understand it," Parker said after giving a master class to a fellowship piano trio.
Helen Huang, who lives in New York but is visiting La Jolla for the festival, said she wanted Andy's experience to be uplifting.
"You want to inspire these kids," she said, adding that she was very impressed by Andy's performance. "It's always been kind of a tradition to play for people that are senior than you because with the arts you need to have a conversation about some things, so it's very helpful for a youngster to play with someone who has had more experience."
Monday's class was Andy's fourth master class in his young career. He plans to attend Yale University in the fall.
New ideas the key
"I could have done a little bit better, but that's really not the point of a master class," he said. "The most important thing was to get the new ideas out. I didn't really have to play it perfectly."
The master classes run each weekday until Aug. 19, and unlike many of the festival's performances, are free for the public. The workshops run from 10 a.m. to noon, and are divided into two one-hour segments. Most days will feature the same piano trio or the Jasper String Quartet - the graduate quartet-in-residence at the Yale School of Music who are SummerFest fellowship artists this year - with only the master changing each day.
"They're usually in graduate programs at Julliard or some of the other really prestigious music programs in the country," SummerFest workshop coordinator Travis Maril said of the trio and quartet.