Building The Four Seasons with Collaboration

May 28, 2015

This week the Des Moines Symphony Youth Symphony finished learning Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons for a concert incorporating dance, visual art, and science.  Music and collaboration are at the core of this performance.  The students started their journey last fall by collaborating with one of the world’s most accomplished violinists, Anne Akiko Meyers.

As Akiko Meyers leads a workshop in a Des Moines concert hall, 17-year-old Destry Klein from Newton is playing from the Spring section of Vivaldi’s, The Four Seasons.  She compliments his tone, then offers constructive criticism about transitioning from playing with the orchestra to soloing.  “You don’t have to play every note,” says Akiko Meyers as she demonstrates on her violin.  “That’s just a lot of work to do.  It’s already hard enough playing this very virtuosic work."

45-year-old Anne Akiko Meyers has been playing professionally since she was Destry Klein’s age.  She says when helping a new performer learn, there is a danger to imitate and emulate.  “I really try to stay away from, try it like me,” says Akiko Meyers.  “There is no right way.  You can experiment as much as you can, and I just think it’s really important for the student to play the best that they can, you know and I’m there to try to bring that out.”

Seven months after this workshop, Destry is playing his solo during the Spring concerto, accompanied by the Youth Symphony in a concert at the Temple for Performing Arts.  Destry says his lesson with Anne Akiko Meyers helped him overcome technical challenges.  “How to use your bow to the best of its ability, use your body to make the music better, how to frame your mind as you’re playing this music,” says Destry. “I remember her saying it’s like you’re going on a journey as you play this piece.”

Des Moines Danzarts Studio members perform ballet movement with dry ice as the Des Moines Youth Symphony performs Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons at the Temple for Performing Arts.
Credit Photo by John Pemble

Vivaldi’s music represents a year long journey through four distinctly different seasons, making it conducive to storytelling.  Managing director of the Des Moines Symphony Academy, the organization running the Youth Symphony, Joshua Barlage collaborated with other Iowa organizations to expand the story of The Four Seasons.  “We all know that there is infinite connections between music and art, music and movement, and finding all kinds of connections between this work and these kind of cross disciplines,” says Barlage.

The concert is billed, The Four Seasons Project.  As the Youth Symphony plays, dancers from Danzarts Studio perform ballet movement, artwork from Des Moines Art Center students surround the concert hall, and between concerti, students from the Science Center of Iowa explain the science behind seasonal changes.

Barlage says, this is the first time the Youth Symphony has worked with so many people and organizations for a concert experience.  “They will walk away having known this piece having had a relationship with their piece far more than anything that we would have done before because of that collaboration.”

Soloist Destry Klein says the experience of combining his vision of Vivaldi with his fellow performers helps him be a better player.  “We had an idea.  What is this going to sound like when we’re done?  And, we all of us, work together to make it sound that way.  So music has done great things for me, it’s taught me how to be a responsible person, and music does that for everybody.”

Barlage says they don’t have a project like this planned for next year, but if they find the right donor and right piece of music, they’re eager to do more collaborations like this in the future.