Listening to this urban soundtrack

Ciana Meyers chats with students studying classical music in three countries

New York, Paris and London are capitals that leave you dreaming or perhaps screaming as you struggle to decipher public transport. Personal associations aside, the city remains a timeless setting for artistic creation and performance. This creative aspect is enabled by educational and financial support, concert attendance and the brilliant engagement that comes with urban life.

New York based Kaela Glaser plans to double major in political science and violin performance when an undergraduate. Currently she’s a violinist at New York Youth Symphony, a Grammy award-winning youth orchestra. ‘‘NYYS is a nonprofit funded almost entirely through donations,” Glaser explains, “Students are charged an application and initial fee, but we’re not responsible for tuition once accepted to the programmes…The relatively low cost of the programme makes NYYS unique from other music programs for teens in New York.” Glaser appreciates New York for opportunities beyond NYYS. Likewise, NYYS violist Alma Esser acknowledges the complex learning environment. Esser shares, “I would say, because of the interlocking of various cultures, you not only get exposed musically to different and unique styles but also to different people. Being a musician in New York City isn’t easy. It requires hard work, tons of discipline, and passion to achieve something incredible. The competition is extremely rigorous.”

Across the Atlantic, London has been the address for some of history’s most prolific writers and artists who have composed the city to be eternal. Today, The Royal College of Music is home to violinist and first-year master’s student Josh Jia. Speaking to Trinity News,  Jia offers us another perspective. “As a musician in London, I have the privilege of being part of a vibrant music scene. I study and absorb knowledge and skills from talented peers and other musicians in the city daily. Immersing myself in a melting pot of musical styles, genres, and cultures allows me to expand my horizons and evolve as an artist.” Jia reminds us that the quieter oases within a city are captivating, stating “One of the most remarkable moments at RCM was the privilege of performing in the school museum, surrounded by a treasure trove of musical artefacts and history.” Jia notes that although conservatories can provide scholarships and financial assistance for students, there is considerable stress and various accompanying pressures. Additionally,  Jia says, “the competitive nature of the music industry and academic settings can pose challenges in terms of standing out and excelling among talented peers.” It seems that in cities there is increased competition, but recognition within this environment is what allows for greater personal achievement. 

In Paris, France there is a colourful, creative bloom that is not exclusive to the style and promises of spring. Swiss cellist Emile Trælnes is a student at the Paris Conservatoire. He reflects on his first year as an undergraduate, “I come from Lausanne, a medium-sized city in Switzerland, so coming to Paris was a big change. Everything is bigger and faster, but I immediately felt it was right for me. Indeed, the advantage of living in a big capital is that you can do a lot of things, especially with music; lots of meetings, new perspectives and, above all, concerts of all styles and at any time.” Trælnes clearly appreciates the organic, social nature of living in Paris which mandates constant adaptation. There’s constant social interaction and dialogue, which Trælnes believes has the power to inform individual growth, “the thing that’s [most] difficult with music in a big city is to find one’s rightful place. There are a lot of people and a lot of competition, and you can quickly feel drowned out by the others. But I think it’s good for your ego and helps you to constantly question your work and your actions.”

“After speaking with this global representation, it is obvious that music education has a powerful affiliation with place, one that is undying in potential.”

A train ride away from Paris, in France’s Champagne region, first year student Nestor Greene shared, “The campaign for the BDA (le Bureau des Arts) culminated with our victory, which means a horizon of artistic possibilities has emerged to offer to the Sciences Po campus of Reims… as France stands tall as a cultural monolith, the amount of artists and intellectuals that are available to contact makes our task a little easier.” Planning on featuring film and fine art, along with a trip to Florence, it’s clear the board is thinking collaboratively and internationally. Greene hopes to also highlight the Irish music scene, noting that he may bring his bodhrán with him to France from his home in Dublin, Ireland. The Sciences Po BDA, elected April 15th 2024 has representatives from The United States, Canada, The Philippines and France. Trinity students on exchange at French universities including Sciences Po and the Sorbonne should learn from and appreciate this hard work and creative mastery in its full capacity. After speaking with this global representation, it is obvious that music education has a powerful affiliation with place, one that is undying in potential. 

Ciana Meyers

Ciana Meyers is a Deputy Arts & Culture Editor and is currently in her second year of English Literature.