Charles Sherba, Teaching Associate
Charles Sherba, violinist, holds the Heidi and Chester Kirk concertmaster chair of the Rhode Island Philharmonic, where he has served as concertmaster since 1987, under music directors Andrew Massey, Zuohuang Chen, and since 1996, Larry Rachleff. With that orchestra, he has performed some of the most demanding concertmaster solos in the repertoire to critical acclaim, including Ein Heldenleben by Richard Strauss, Scheherazade by Rimsky-Korsakov, Suite from L’Histoire du Soldat by Stravinsky, Appalachian Spring by Copland, Variaciones Concertantes by Ginastera, Symphony No. 4 by Mahler, Mozartiana by Tchaikovsky, and many others. During the 2010-2011 season he performed concertmaster solos from Brahms 1st Symphony, Muhly From Here On Out, Handel The Messiah, Strauss Also Sprach Zarathustra, Shostakovitch Symphony No. 11, Lutoslawsky Concerto for Orchestra, and Mahler Symphony No. 3. At the beginning of the 2012-2013 season, he gave two performances of Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat at Philharmonic performances for Firstworks Providence at Providence City Hall.
He has served as concertmaster of the Simon Sinfonietta on Cape Cod, Stephen Simon, music director, since it was founded in 2004. With that group, he has performed the Bruch Double Concerto for violin and viola, the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (both with Consuelo Sherba, violist), and opened the 2010 season with a performance of the Bottesini Grand Duo Concertante for violin, bass and orchestra with the renowned guest bass soloist Richard Fredrickson. Henry Duckham of the Cape Cod Times reported “…both soloists negotiated the difficult passages with aplomb, infectious joy and ease, to the delight of the sold-out house… “ and the soloists were called back to perform the rousing ending of the Duo a second time.
He is a founding member of Aurea, a performance ensemble incorporated in 2004 and dedicated to exploring the interface between music and the spoken word. With Aurea he has performed War Music by Christopher Logue with music by Paul Phillips, Dangerous Dan McGrew on a poem of Robert Service by Gerald Shapiro, Verklarte Nacht by Arnold Schoenberg, String Quartet No. 4 (“Amazing Grace”) by Ben Johnston, Iglesia abandonada for violin and voice on a poem of Lorca by Stephen Hartke, Oracion del Torero by Turina, Ferdinand the Bull by Alan Ridout, Seven Songs for Voice and Violin by Rebecca Clarke, the Sonata for violin and piano by Ravel, the Sonata for violin and cello by Ravel, the Sonata for violin and piano by Debussy, the Sonata for solo violin BWV 1001 in G minor by J.S. Bach, A/B by Paul Phillips, Quartet for oboe and strings by Benjamin Britten, Sonata St. John’s by Anthony Burgess, the radio play Hommage to A.B. by William Boyd featuring music by Anthony Burgess, Cavatina for solo violin by Barbara Kolb, Serenade for string trio by Dohnanyi, String Trio by Webern, Piano Quartet Op. 47 by Schumann, Piano Quartet No. 2 by Fauré, Providence String Quartet by Arnaud Petit, Quartet Op. 132 and Grosse Fugue Op. 133 by Beethoven, Five Pieces for String Quartet by Anton Webern, Op. 5 String Quartet by Alban Berg, Five Sonnets to Orpheus for String Quartet, Harmonica & Reader by Bill Barclay (with translations by Galway Kinnell & Hannah Liebmann), the String Trio (1946) by Arnold Schönberg, and many other works.
Aurea opened its 2010-2011 season at the Pawtucket Arts Festival with a tribute to Pulitzer Prize winning poet (and Rhode Island native son) Galway Kinnell titled How Many Nights, featuring the Clarinet Quintets of Brahms and Mozart with RI Philharmonic principal clarinetist, Ian Greitzer; and returned to the FirstWorks Providence Festival with a performance at the RISD Museum titled The Search, based on a series of 23 serigraphs by artist/designer Morris Nathanson conceived as a continuous narrative and allegorical journey. Music for the program included works by Bartok, Schonthal, Shostakovitch, Milhaud, Pärt, and Mendelssohn. The season wrapped up with a July performance celebrating the work of composer David Amram, at Trinity Church in Newport, Rhode Island.
With the group’s three other founding members, actor Nigel Gore, harmonica virtuoso and reader Chris Turner, and artistic director and violist Consuelo Sherba, Aurea has collaborated with many guests, including actors Gabrielle Sherba, Elena Araoz, Kim Dilts, Charles Weinstein, Rudy Sanda, and Bob Colonna; violinists Katherine Winterstein, Alexei Shabalin, Megumi Stohs, and Jesse Holstein; violist Kate Vincent; cellists Emmanuel Feldman, Jing Li, Raphael Popper-Keiser, Mathias Naegele, Ted Mook, Miguel Rocha, and Catherine Strynckx; pianists George Lopez, Judith Lynn Stillman, and Virginia Eskin; flutists Susan Thomas, Peggy Friedland, and Rachel Braude; oboist Cheryl Bishkoff; clarinetist Ian Greitzer; singers Diana McVey, and Gigi Mitchell-Velasco; harpsichordist Fred Jodry; composers Paul Phillips, Bill Barclay, David Amram; and others.
Aurea has performed at the First Works Providence Festival, the Chicago Humanities Festival, the New York University Humanities Festival, and around New England. During the summer of 2009, they performed twice at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts. Aurea’s performances have been supported by the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts, the Rhode Island Council on the Humanities, the Cogut Center for the Humanities at Brown University, the Brown University Creative Arts Council, the City of Pawtucket, the City of Providence, the City of Chicago, the Poetry Foundation (Chicago), the Rhode Island Foundation, Ocean State Charities, New York University, the Friends of Aurea, the Brown University Department of Comparative Literature, the Brown University Department of Music, The Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra, and others. Aurea’s numbered limited edition recording of String Quartet No. 4 (“Amazing Grace”) by Ben Johnston can be found in the Orwig Music Library and in the special collection of the John Hay Library at Brown University.
Recent Aurea projects include Darwin at Sea, featuring music of Haydn, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn, with the words of Charles Darwin; Reflections on Rilke, featuring music of Beethoven, Berg, Webern, Ravel, and a new work written for Aurea by composer Bill Barclay, music director at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA., with the words of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, including translations by Galway Kinnell & Hannah Liebmann; Moby Dick, featuring the words of Herman Melville with music of Beethoven and Webern; as well as New and Dangerous Opinions of Roger Williams, which was performed in 2012 at Providence First Baptist Church (founded by Roger Williams), with performances planned for Newport and other places in Rhode Island in 2012-2013. Tour concerts to Falmouth, MA, Woods Hole, MA, and the Maverick Festival in Woodstock, NY, are planned for the 2012-2013 season. For more information on Aurea’s activities, including a short video about the group, visit www.AureaEnsemble.org.
Some of the other major repertoire Sherba has performed includes the Brahms Violin Concerto, the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, the Mozart A Major Violin Concerto, Elegy for Violin and Orchestra by David Amram, the Kurt Weil Violin Concerto, Concerto for Violin and Chamber Ensemble by Lou Spratlin, the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, the Bach Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, the Bruch Concerto for Violin and Viola, the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante, the Bottesini Grand Duo Concertante for Violin and Bass, the Brahms Double Concerto, the Bach Double Concerto, the Ten Sonatas for Piano and Violin of Beethoven, the Three Sonatas for Violin and Piano of Brahms, Swan Lake by Tchaikovsky, the Mendelssohn Octet, the Schubert Octet, Souvenir of Florence by Tchaikovsky, the Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen, Contrasts by Bartok, the Soldier’s Tale Trio by Stravinsky, Black Angels and Eleven Echoes of Autumn by George Crumb, the complete String Quartets of Beethoven, the String Quartets of Bartok, the String Quartets of Zemlinsky, the songs for violin and voice by Ralph Vaughan Williams, and many others works.
In addition to his appointment to the applied music faculty at Brown (where he has taught since 1986), he also teaches at the Rhode Island Philharmonic Music School. In the spring semester of 2011, he was awarded an individual artist’s grant to perform recitals in Rhode Island by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, and during the spring semester of 2010, he gave a recital at the Cape Cod Conservatory, including Sonatas for violin and piano of Ravel and Mozart with pianist Virginia Eskin, as well as the G Minor Sonata for unaccompanied violin by Johann Sebastian Bach. Past teaching appointments include: Smith College, Connecticut College, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, Cape Cod Conservatory, Greenwood Music Camp, Haverford College, Emory University, Eastern Music Festival, Southeastern Music Center, Shorter College, Columbus College, University of Charleston, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Agnes Scott College, and master classes at the Longy School in Boston, and L'École Nationale de Musique in Chambery, France.
He was chosen as one of 16 participants at the first Starling-Delay Symposium on Violin Studies at the Juilliard School in 2001, where the topic explored was "How to teach the exceptionally gifted young violin student." Dorothy Delay, Itzhak Perlman, Midori, Robert McDuffie, Cho-Liang Lin, and others led discussions at the Symposium
He has performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Symphony, the Boston Classical Orchestra, the New Hampshire Symphony, and was concertmaster of the West Virginia Symphony, the Atlanta Ballet, the Atlanta Chamber Orchestra, and the Boston Festival Orchestra (for performances with the Chorus of Westerly). He began his professional career as the youngest member of the first violin section of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, where he served as a tenured first violinist for 9 years. Over the years, he has worked with some of the world's pre-eminent musicians, including James Levine, Kurt Mazur, Bernard Haitink, James Conlon, Itzhak Perlman, Isaac Stern, Nathan Milstein, Henryk Szeryng, Igor Oistrakh, Ruggiero Ricci, Yo Yo Ma, and others. He was first violinist of the Charleston String Quartet from 1983-2000, and has performed at the Monadnock, Carvalho, Grand Teton, Aspen, Colorado, Music at the Meeting House, and Buzzard’s Bay Music Festivals. About a dozen of his students have won the concerto competition at Brown. Some have gone on to study music at Yale, Harvard, New England Conservatory, and other institutions. Some have professional careers with orchestras and chamber music groups. One of his former students, surgeon Calvin Lee (‘93/ MD ’96), performed in 2009 with the YouTube Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall under conductor Michael Tilson Thomas, and another, Sebastian Ruth (’97), won a MacArthur Award in 2011 for his work with the Providence String Quartet and Community Music Works.
Sherba’s violin studies were with Zinaida Gilels, Burton Kaplan, Samuel Magad, Sidney Harth, Leonard Sorkin, Abram Loft, Julian Olevsky, Phillip Naegele, Edward Mumm, Francois d’Albert, A.G. Sheasby, and Raymond Albright.
He has had chamber music coaching with the Juilliard Quartet, the Fine Arts Quartet, the Cleveland Quartet, the Chicago Symphony String Quartet, Eugene Lehner, and Earl Carlyss.
He attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where he served as assistant to his principal professor, violinist Leonard Sorkin; the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where he was a teaching associate and first violinist in the university’s first graduate string quartet; the Chicago Conservatory College, where he was a special student and, at the age of 15, performed the first movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto with members of the Chicago Symphony in Orchestra Hall, Chicago, as winner of the annual commencement competition. He also studied at the Aspen Music School, as a Fellowship student and a first violinist in the Aspen Festival Orchestra; and at the Aspen Institute for Advanced Quartet Studies, which he attended as first violinist of the Charleston String Quartet.
His wife is violist Consuelo Sherba, who serves as Artistic Director of Aurea, and also teaches in the Applied Music Program at Brown and at Wheaton College. She was a 2008 winner of the prestigious Rhode Island Pell Award for achievement in the arts.
His younger brother is violinist John Sherba, the long-time second violinist of the internationally acclaimed Kronos Quartet, which has been in residence at Carnegie Hall, served as ensemble-in-residence with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under music director Gustavo Dudamel, and wrote a new chapter the history of the string quartet with their superlative performances and recordings of music of our time. In 2011 Kronos Quartet was honored with the Avery Fischer Prize, and the Polar Music Prize (Sweden).
Teaching Violin in Brown’s Applied Music Program
In my teaching in the Applied Music Program at Brown, emphasis is put on the importance of the latest research in the study of “deliberate practice” as a means to develop the creative, interpretive and technical skills necessary for violin performance.
Creative experimentation and accurate self-evaluation play major parts in the ability to sustain continued skill development in any field, as does an organized program of interaction with the most important achievements, and achievers, in the field. Applying these concepts to the study of the violin naturally leads to an emphasis on the study of exceptional music, ground-breaking practice material, great performances, and outstanding performers.
Students are encouraged to develop effective practice habits that include time for reflection and self-evaluation. They are expected to work on the touchstones of the violin repertoire appropriate to their developing skills (for example, the Scale System of Carl Flesch; the etudes of the Paris Conservatory canon including the 42 Etudes of Rudolph Kreutzer; the important Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary violin concerto and sonata repertoire; and other important works for violin).
In addition, each student is encouraged to spend some time on an “easy” piece, i.e., a work that does not tax the technical skills of violin playing in the same way as other repertoire. The function of the “easy” piece is to allow the student to explore the tonal and interpretive side of musical performance, develop skills not exercised in the process of working through technical difficulties, and ultimately, to prove conclusively that there really is no such thing as an “easy” piece.
Students are also encouraged to attend performances, work with other performers, attend masterclasses, and develop their understanding of music beyond violin playing, within the context of their other interests at Brown.
While many students at Brown have exceptional musical talent, not all of them will become professional musicians. All students are encouraged to integrate their talents and interests. How does intonation relate to mathematics? How does French Literature impact violin music? How does the discipline of violin practice inform the discipline of computer programming? What is the impact of US Copyright law on your choice of a recital piece? What is a viable economic model for a symphony orchestra? How can you effectively manage time spent in a string quartet rehearsal? How can you practice for 3 hours if the average human attention span is about 8 minutes long? How does violin bow technique impact carpal tunnel syndrome? At what age is brain plasticity optimal for learning to read music? How does music education affect inner-city public school standardized test scores? All of these topics and more have come up at violin lessons, and are a part of the study of the violin.
For students who are contemplating the life of a professional musician, a very rigorous approach to the study of the violin is essential in order to be competitive in the job market. There are about 300 applicants for every job opening in a major symphony orchestra today, and many of America’s orchestras are in serious financial trouble. Public school music programs are being eliminated across the country. The future increasingly belongs to the performers who can create and manage their own performance activities, develop an economic model to sustain their work, and at the same time maintain the highest musical standards.Effective practice, informed by the latest research, is more important than ever to the working musician.