Nathaniel Pasague Taylor
Cello student Nathaniel Pasague Taylor (B.M. '15, G.P.D.' 17, P.S.C. '18, cello) writes from Tanglewood Music Center, where, as a 2017 Tanglewood Music Center fellow, he spent the entire summer as a full participant the Tanglewood season performing alongside BSO members and guest soloists.
The Tanglewood Music Center (TMC) Fellowship is a world-renowned training program for young professionals in classical music located in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. It is an intense eight-week program that fully immerses participants in studying chamber and orchestral music. Many musicians apply for this program every year, and I was fortunate enough to be selected to be a fellow this year.
Back in 2010, I was a student at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute (BUTI), a high school program similar to TMC. I was 17 at the time, and many of us in the BUTI program would go to see the TMC Orchestra perform. We were always blown away and so inspired after every concert. At the time, I never thought I would be good enough to be a student at Tanglewood. Fast forward to 2017, and I’m now here at the midway point of the festival. It’s a dream come true, and being able to represent Boston Conservatory at Berklee makes it all the better.
The program starts off with the String Quartet Seminar, which is a 10-day period of intense study of string quartet repertoire. Before I arrived, some friends of mine who have been to Tanglewood before told me this was the most intense part of the festival. They were 100 percent correct. Our daily schedule consisted of two 90-minute coachings, two-hour rehearsals, and individual practice time in the morning or evening. We also had a few master classes in the evenings. Fortunately, we had amazing faculty to help us through the process. The faculty for this year’s seminar included current and past members of the Juilliard String Quartet (JSQ). My quartet was coached by Joseph Lin, current first violinist of the JSQ, and Samuel Rhodes, former violist of the JSQ. Their knowledge and guidance helped the members of my quartet come out of our individual shells and come together as a group to be responsive, open to new ideas, and really bring the music to life.
After this intense period, we performed our pieces in a two-day quartet marathon in Seiji Ozawa Hall. The following day was one of our treasured days off at the festival—we only get three during the entire summer. Many of us took advantage of the private beach and enjoyed soaking up some rays and taking a swim in the lake. We then began rehearsing as the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra, and we had the privilege of being conducted by Boston Symphony Orchestra (BSO) conductor Andris Nelsons. I have seem him conduct the BSO on many occasions, but to see him up close and work with him was absolutely incredible. He is one of the most humble, caring, and down-to-earth human beings I have ever met. He is not egotistical and really cares about the music. For our final concert, he will be conducting us again and I will be sitting first stand in a performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 and Strauss’s An Alpine Symphony. No pressure, right?
A typical day for me at Tanglewood often starts at 7:00 a.m. when my roommate and fellow Conservatory alumnus Weiqiao Wu (B.M. '15, G.P.D. '17, violin) and I struggle to get out of bed before heading to breakfast. We then have orchestra rehearsal from 10:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. From there, depending on the day, we have chamber music coachings/rehearsals, master classes with guest artists or BSO musicians, and individual practice time before dinner at 5:30 p.m. At night we have time to relax in our dorm lounges, explore the Berkshires, practice more if we wish, or enjoy a BSO performance at Tanglewood—fellows get in for free!
One of the great things about Tanglewood is the incredible guest artists that come to perform. One of those artists is Yo-Yo Ma, the person who inspired me to play cello at the age of 5. Ma comes to Tanglewood every year, and through the kindness of my sponsor here at Tanglewood, I had the opportunity to meet him and talk to him about music, cello, and life. It’s something that I will cherish for the rest of my life. I’ve run into him a couple times on campus since then; he is always so welcoming and actually knows my name now (#fanboy)!
As my experience comes to a close, I will continue to take advantage of everything Tanglewood has to offer. It’s a lot of hard work, but I am constantly inspired by my colleagues, conductors, guest artists, and faculty. Tanglewood is a truly magical place, and I am very thankful to be here.