Indian Hill Music School 2018 Student Concerto Competition winners Margaleet Katzenblickstein and Alexander Zhang (below) will perform Vivaldi’s Concerto in G Minor for Two Cellos with the Orchestra of Indian Hill at the upcoming January 26 concert.
Margaleet, 15, is a homeschooler from Westford who is dual-enrolled in the honors program at Middlesex Community College. She is a member of the Lowell Youth Orchestra, and has been studying with Cynthia Forbes for the past five years. In addition to playing cello, she also enjoys photography, reading, and writing.
Alexander, 14, is an 8th grader at Stony Brook School in Westford. He plays in his school’s orchestra as well as the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra. Alex placed first chair in the Massachusetts Music Educators Association Junior District Festival for Orchestra (Eastern District) and has also been a student of Cynthia Forbes’ since 2014. In addition to playing cello, Alexander loves animals and volunteers at an animal shelter.
The two young musicians took a few minutes to talk to us about music, performing as a duo, and more!
What was your first introduction to music?
Margaleet: Ever since I can remember, I’ve listened to music. We’ve always had CDs or the radio on in the car and at home.
Alexander: I started playing the piano around the age of 5, but I stopped when I started playing the cello in 3rd grade, and it has been about 5 years.
How often do you practice and what is your favorite time to practice?
Margaleet: I don’t practice as often as I’d like. My current goal is to get to the point where I am practicing every day for at least two hours. Currently, it varies from not at all on days when my activities go from early in the morning to late in the evening, to two to three hours. My favorite time to practice is in the morning because then it helps you have a fresh start to your day.
Alexander: I try to get in about 1 – 1.5 hours everyday, but I practice more on the weekends. My favorite time to practice is probably during the afternoon when I get home from school.
How did you choose the piece you performed at the concerto competition?
Alexander: I had listened to a lot of different concertos, but then our teacher, Cynthia Forbes, presented the idea that I play a double concerto by Vivaldi, with Leetka (Margaleet), and I was instantly hooked.
Margaleet: We ended up really loving this piece and we all decided this would be the right piece for the competition.
What is it like practicing and performing as a duo?
Margaleet: It’s so fun! We get to make beautiful music together. It feels so different to play with someone else, and it makes the piece come much more alive. It’s also really challenging. You have to match your pitch absolutely exactly, and you have to blend in to each other. You have to arrange the bowing to some extent so that you play certain passages with the same bowings and always end together on the same bow. And you have to play exactly at the same speed. It’s absolutely worth the work, since it makes the piece sound so much better!
Alexander: It’s a lot of fun and I think we connect really well through the music. Playing the slow movement together especially sounds really beautiful.
What is on your Spotify or iTunes playlist?
Margaleet: I like everything from classical to pop to fiddle. Recently I’ve been listening to more fiddle music. I also love acoustic covers of pop music and I listen to that sometimes.
Alexander: I have been listening to a lot of different recordings of the concerto we are playing as well as many different musicians such as Cremaine Booker, Yuja Wang and Ray Chen.
See Margaleet and Alexander perform with the Orchestra of Indian Hill on Saturday, January 26 at 7:30pm. Get your tickets here.