Violinist Courtney Gillett is back from a two week training programme at what’s consider the finest music school in the USA, Julliard. And she’s also getting ready to tour Central America with the Youth Orchestra of the Americas (YOA). And more than that, she’s also a coach for the National Youth Orchestra and Choir of Belize comprising 30 youths and 13 Teachers.
Today, this former winner of the open scholarship told us what the experience at Julliard was like and how she will translate it into useful instruction.
Courtney Gillet - Belize Youth Orchestra Teacher
"Really really fantastic and inspirational, so we learnt a lot about Violin teaching for upper level students and how to move beyond playing the notes to looking at sound production and that is what you're looking for as you advance in music, how to create different sounds to create different emotions. I hope to teach that to my students and as much as I can, I want to work with my other teachers - Cindy Burgos and that others at Pallotti and see if we can raise the level of awareness about what is needed to be professional musicians and to build a culture of professional musicianship in Belize."
"How do you incorporate into children who - a) don't come from a tradition of excellence, nothing against them - that's just a cultural reality and b) perhaps are not able to grasp the infinite level of perfection that is required to perform at the highest level?"
"It all stems a lot from exposure so as much as we can we try to encourage them to go to concerts, I went to Julliard - I came and tried to shared with them what I learnt, exposure is a big part of it. Especially with this National Youth Orchestra and Choir of Belize - they've been getting in some coaches the Youth Orchestra of the Americas to come in. Through there entry here, they've been able to perform for us, you get to hear a different level of sound."
Colville Young Jr - Music Instructor
"Part of our problem in Belize is that it's been mainly trial and error for quite sometime. We do have people that go abroad and study and come back but basically we don't have a system in place whereby they can get any great deal of knowledge right here in Belize. So her having the opportunity to go abroad to study or learn something new, that's always big especially at a school like Julliard."
"What's happening with the Belize Youth Orchestra?"
"The Belize Youth Orchestra has just recently been formed. We started about September/October last year and we're trying to create a National Youth Orchestra where it's not just students from Belize City playing strings but also wind instruments, brass - a full fledged orchestra throughout the country."
Colville Young Jr
"The goal that we do have for the NYOCB is really to work with young people. What has been happening is that young people today spend a lot of their time idling in non-productive and at times - dangerous lifestyle, hanging out and not doing anything and our objective is going to be to try to get them to refocus back and acquiring skill and education. If you go right along the Americas - Colombia, Panama they all have right now been using the orchestra as a social tool to get young people back into the concept of acquiring skill and education."
"This upcoming tour with Youth Orchestra of the Americas - is it intimidating so far as that they have a high level of musicianship and performance and we don't want to go their and look 'simple' and it is hard to take a crash course in excellence."
"Since I went away to study, I know what it is to perform and what you need to do to perform at that level and it's not easy. So my fellow teachers and parents at the music school, my parents - they all know the aches and pains I'm going through right now with my hands in keeping up the practice time. But it is something that psychologically you have to prepare yourself for because I've been told about 9 hour rehearsals when I get there for my residency - so it's just something you have to prepare yourself for, mentally. Excellence as you said, it's not overnight and I've been prepping myself for a long time, I've never been one to take under excellence so I try to hold myself at a high standard and also try to encourage my students to try to do the same."
Courtney has been a music teacher at Pallotti since 2007 and has acted as the conductor of its Junior and Senior Orchestras. She also holds a Master’s of Science in Democracy and Democratization from University College London.