I remember being in the Harmony Road class on St. Patrick’s day as a preschooler and eating green bagels in the courtyard after singing the “Goodbye” song at the end of class.
At what age did you begin our toddler program at Cornerstone Music Conservatory?
At age three.
Do you remember anything special about that period of time?
I remember thinking how amazing it would be to become a musician when I became older, and I’m so glad I’ve continued with music to this day!
I decided to switch from piano to a string instrument when entering middle school because piano was not offered as part of the orchestra program. I was tall for my age, so the cello was a good fit. And there was something about the deep, mellow, alluring sound of the cello that persuaded me almost instantly to take it up.
Teachers you have had along the way.
Ann PIttel (Miss Annie) was my piano teacher for seven years, from age 4 to 11. After that I studied with Dr. Stephen Reis on cello for seven years until leaving for Brown University this fall. I also am indebted to Joni Swenson and Jason Aiello, directors of the Santa Monica High School Orchestra Program.
What has made studying music so special to you?
Music represents a chance for me to stretch the mathematical side of my brain while also exploring my creative and interpretive abilities.
How do you feel the study of music has influenced you and how has it affected your ability to do well in school with your academic studies?
I feel that music has instilled in me a greater level of focus and discipline that I can apply to all endeavors, academic and otherwise.
You are headed off to Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Why did you choose this university to attend?
For me, Brown is a place where I can freely explore all of my varied interests—from academics to music to sports and so much more—and discover new passions and fields of study. The open curriculum at Brown is what really attracted me the most.
What musical groups did you participate in during high school?
I played cello in the Santa Monica High School Orchestra program all four years, was a member of the California Orchestra Directors’ Association Honor Orchestra all four years, performed in small ensembles as a part of Junior Chamber Music program in 10th and 11th grade, and participated in the Idyllwild Arts Symphony Orchestra for a summer in 10th grade (I could only go once because of summer school).
Have you won any musical prizes?
I have won Superior and Superior-Command Performance awards for my solo and chamber performances at the yearly SCSBOA Solo and Small Ensemble Festival in Santa Monica.
Do you have any funny stories to tell about your music life or music education at Cornerstone?
I remember how I used to receive glass animals as prizes for every so many stickers I would get in my practice book. I always would make sure to work hard in order to collect as many as possible!
Did you have any worst moment? If so, how did it work out?
At times I really, truly did not feel like practicing, especially when younger, but I eventually learned to overcome that resistance with age and now derive pleasure from playing of all types.
Who are your musical idols?
My two favorite cellists would have to be Yo-Yo Ma and Pablo Casals.
How have your parents supported your love of music?
My parents have always been supportive of my musical interests and have fostered and encouraged my talent by signing me up for special programs and coming to all my performances. Thanks, Mom and Dad!
What is your advice to music students at our conservatory?
Always remember that music is something you should enjoy first and foremost. There is so much knowledge and satisfaction to be gained when you put in the time and effort and your hard work pays off.
How do you organize your time so that you have time for all your music activities and your regular schoolwork too?
Balancing music with other activities can be a challenge at times, and sometimes you have to be willing to make sacrifices on both ends. There is no one answer to this question as everyone’s schedule is different.
Do you have other things you do as well? (sports, hobbies, community service, other classes)
In addition to the cello, I play the piano, was a member of my high school Academic Decathlon team and Varsity tennis team, and have worked for the last three summers as an intern at the Getty Villa museum in Malibu. I am currently interested in majoring in art history or a related field in college.
For Mom and Dad:
What thing or things do you feel marked the beginning of Alex’s realization that music was really important in his life?
Alex always enjoyed taking music lessons and playing piano on his own, but it wasn’t until he joined the middle school orchestra and started playing cello with other student musicians that he realized the joy of performing in an ensemble. As an 8th grader Alex was selected to be principal cellist of the Los Angeles Middle School Honors Orchestra, and knew that he wanted to make music an important part of his high school education. He was fortunate to attend Santa Monica High School (Samohi) with its renowned music program, and benefited greatly from participating in the orchestra program throughout high school. One highlight of his musical career would be performing Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony with the Samohi Symphony Orchestra in New York City as part of the National Festival of States. He also performed with the Samohi Symphony Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall for two years in a row as part of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Youth Orchestra Festival. And to this day, Alex continues to play piano for relaxation and enjoyment.
Do you feel you did anything special to encourage this enjoyment of music? Do you feel that Alex’ talent for music is hereditary or environmental or both?
Alex was exposed to music starting at an early age. His parents and grandparents played all kinds of music in their homes, took him to concerts, and sang and danced with him. We encouraged him to take piano lessons, knowing that would give him a strong musical basis for whatever other instrument he might choose to pursue. He showed a natural affinity for music, so I guess you could say that his musical talent is part nature and part nurture. His great, great grandfather was a cellist in the New York Symphony, so who knows…
What made you choose Cornerstone Music Conservatory as the place to take Alex for music lessons when he was very young?
A parent from preschool recommended the toddler program to us. The music school was in our neighborhood and the class met on Saturday, which was very helpful for working parents.
Why did you decide to enroll Alex in a music class at such a young age?
We were looking for opportunities for creative enrichment for our toddler, and the class allowed us to meet other parents with young children and share the musical experience in a fun learning environment.