January 5, 2011
CHS violist to play with Syracuse Symphony
Senior will perform with string quintet during Jan. 25 concert at DeWitt Presbyterian church
Jonathan Fleischman began playing the viola as a Cortland High School freshman because he saw it as a path to performing professionally.
“It was different, and since I wanted to go into music as a career, I saw there were fewer viola players,” he said recently of the instrument that, with its thicker body, produces a deeper, richer sound than the violin.
Fleischman, a senior now and an All-State instrumentalist, will get a taste of that professional world on Jan. 25, when he gives a concert with the Syracuse Symphony String Quintet.
He will be the only high school student among five performers in that quintet and among 15 musicians in three quintets performing that evening.
The String Quintet will perform Mozart’s “String Quintet No. 4 in G Minor, K 516” as part of a program at the Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church in DeWitt.
He said he has heard the other four musicians play as members of the Syracuse Symphony but has never met them.
“I’ll probably be nervous at first, they’re professionals,” he said during a break in practicing with the Cortland High School orchestra. “But when you play with high-level musicians, you feed off them, it gives you an idea for how you are playing.”
Fleischman said he has been practicing the Mozart piece along with pieces for the high school orchestra. He practices about two hours per day.
“On a good day, if I have extra time, I go longer,” he said. “The piece for the Quintet is challenging but not the hardest thing I’ve ever played. I don’t know how it will be put together.”
He has been practicing the piece since October and will have four rehearsals with the other four musicians, violinists Jeremy and Sara Mastrangelo, violist Wendy Richman and cellist David LeDoux.
Fleischman said neither his mother, Virginia, nor his father, John, are especially musical. His father has played the guitar “but otherwise they don’t know where this music interest came from.”
Fleischman was one of three All-State musicians at Cortland High School this year, joined by junior Dan Moss, a bass chosen for the mixed chorus, and senior Christopher Spadolini, a percussionist.
The high school orchestra, where Fleischman is principal violist, shows the trend that attracted him to playing viola: eight students play the viola compared to 19 on the violin.
As he recently rehearsed a Celtic-themed piece titled “Ancestors,” sitting in the front row between sophomore cellist Kassandra Johnson and senior violist Kaylee Gebhardt, Fleischman listened as Cortland High School’s orchestra teacher Paul Feissner urged the orchestra to find the notes he wanted.
“Play uglier, then take it back 10 percent and you’ll have the note,” he told the viola players. “Your arm weighs 8 or 9 pounds, the viola can take it. I want real life, not Disney.”
He smiled and nodded as the violists produced the notes.
Fleischman is also principal violist for the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra, which is why he was chosen to perform with the String Quintet.
Fleischman said he played the violin from third grade at Barry Elementary School until eighth grade, when he switched to the viola with teacher Julie Carr. His viola teacher now is Roberta Crawford of Ithaca, a professor at Binghamton University.
“The switch was natural,” Feissner said. “Jonathan has always been diligent, and he takes advice well, but the main thing about his progress is his consistent work ethic, knowing the progress he needs to make.”
Fleischman practices after school and at home.
“If you find yourself playing badly, you take a break and come back, or let it go,” he said. “If you get frustrated with yourself, you’re going to get nowhere.”
He has applied to music programs at Ithaca College, Temple University, Eastman School of Music, Northwestern University and SUNY Fredonia.
His audition at Temple is Jan. 17 and his audition at Ithaca College, his first choice, is two days after the Syracuse Symphony String Quintet performance.
“He’ll be ready, he’ll be at a high level from preparing for the concert,” Feissner said.
Fleischman said Ithaca College’s degree program lasts five years and prepares him for both a professional performance career and a teaching career. He knows the odds of making a living with the viola are challenging.
“This way, I’ll be ready,” he said.
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