Classical music incubator New World Symphony is hitting all the high notes for musicians, for the local community, and for the world.
Story by Rachel Watkins
The Miami-based New World Symphony (NWS) attracts some of the best emerging talent to its fellowship program, serving as a direct conveyor for musicians into the top orchestras in the world.
We recently sat down to chat with Marci Falvey, NWS’s Senior Director of Communications, who gave us some insight into the innovative experience that NWS delivers for its musicians, the community, and beyond.
We have really enjoyed working with everyone on the NWS team, and we’d love to know a little more about your background. Are you also a musician?
I am; it’s kind of a funny, odd story. I’m a horn player with two performance degrees, and I spent time playing music abroad after graduating. While away, I started a travel blog, basically to keep my family and friends updated. But, I found that I really enjoyed writing. When I came back to the U.S., after a year in China, I felt called to do something else besides just performing. My horn player husband was auditioning at NWS, and I noticed they were looking for a writer who knew classical music. My husband sent me the job application with “I Dare You” in the subject line. So, I applied and got it and have been here for 11 years.
For those of us who are unfamiliar with NWS, can you give us a little overview?
I think the number-one thing to clarify is that NWS is not a professional symphony. It was co-founded 32 years ago by our Artistic Director Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) and Lin and Ted Arison, who wanted to create an orchestral academy — something between an educational college conservatory or a real-world symphony experience. NWS is America’s Orchestral Academy.
Our mission is to prepare highly-gifted graduates of music programs for leadership roles in orchestras and ensembles around the world. We do that by making the fellowships a wonderful and unique experience, and we have more than 1,100 of our alumni working around the world. We also strive to reimagine and reaffirm the traditions of classical music while revamping the musical experience for both the musicians and the audience.
"NWS is America’s Orchestral Academy"
NWS is referred to as a fellowship. What does that mean?
Yes, NWS really is a laboratory for the ways in which music is taught, presented, and experienced. We have 87 young musicians who are granted fellowships lasting up to three years. The program offers in-depth exposure to traditional and modern repertoire, professional development training, and personalized experiences working with guest conductors, soloists, and visiting faculty. There are roughly 35 positions open each year for Fellows — and we are proud to collect music graduates from all over the world!
What’s a performance like at NWS?
At the New World Center, our campus in Miami Beach, we have seating around the entire stage. There are just over 700 seats in the hall, so it’s a very intimate space. And, that’s what the audience takes away from the experience. However, what I love is that we also expand our audiences significantly through WALLCAST concerts - live projection of the concert on the outside wall of the center. We’ll stream the performances several times throughout every season, so that many people of all backgrounds and ages can come together to enjoy music in SoundScape Park that’s adjacent to New World Center.
NWS not only specializes in performance training for the Fellows, but you also encourage Fellows to go beyond the concert hall. Tell us about that.
NWS mimics that of a professional orchestra in terms of the performance schedules and demands, but there’s a strong community engagement and curriculum aspect, as well. We work on projects that reach and benefit the South Florida community and beyond.
The Fellows participate in our NWS BLUE projects — Build, Learn, Understand and Experiment — a program that allows them to pursue musical activism based on their personal interests while guiding their continued development and demonstrating music's ability to have a positive impact on the community. For example, one of our first-year Fellows, Stephanie Block, hosted two different events last season to connect with cancer patients and help raise awareness for histiocytosis, a rare cancer she had as a child. A number of our Fellows joined her in performing chamber music at these events.
And, then we also do a lot of work with young musicians. For example, last summer we hosted the National Youth Orchestra NYO2 for a six-day residency in partnership with Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute.
NWS is one of the few symphonies we know that hosts yoga classes…
Yes! Our wellness partners provide free yoga classes in the park outside our building. We've also hosted yoga in our performance hall, which is special because it features orchestra members actually playing a concert of soothing music to accompany the yoga practice. It breaks down barriers of what you think a classical music experience is or could be.
" Our partnership with Coregami is a natural fit, as the brand is also reimagining the performance experience for musicians on stage. "
Coregami is thrilled to be working with NWS and outfitting its musicians.
We are equally thrilled! Our partnership with Coregami is a natural fit, as the brand is also reimagining the performance experience for musicians on stage. Our Fellows have really embraced and enjoyed the benefits that these innovative shirts offer to them; they really are a game-changer.
Coregami was also delighted to chat with second-year Cello Fellow Nicholas Mariscal about his whole new world at NWS.
Tell us a little about your background.
Well, I grew up really loving art. When I was about 9, I was taking a lot of art classes after school. But, my dad wanted me to try playing piano. Of course, I didn’t want to, because it meant that I would have to give up an art class. But, I quickly fell in love with music, and three years later, I decided to learn another instrument and cello it was. As for where I grew up, I am originally from Tucson, Arizona. I received my bachelor of music degree at Indiana University in 2014 and, from there, I went to University of Southern California (USC) for my master’s before joining NWS.
NWS is one of the most distinguished fellowship programs in the world. Has it been a big transition? And, what’s a typical day like for you?
I didn’t totally know what to expect when I joined! NWS definitely lives up to its orchestral academy name, though. As I came to NWS essentially right after I finished school, I had never really had such an intensive orchestra schedule that includes three-hour daily rehearsals along with our own personal practice after that. But, we are basically preparing for a weekly performance, and that’s why it requires so much.
What has been a surprise to you at NWS?
I wasn’t expecting how much involvement we would have in chamber music as well as the various community outreach efforts. The fellowship has been more rewarding than I ever could have anticipated.
I know you probably don’t have a lot of downtime, but what do you like to do in Miami when you’re not practicing?
It has been great to be close to the beach. Although I spent the last four years in Los Angeles, before that, I never lived anywhere near the water. So, I’m taking as much advantage as I can of that. It’s also great to take in the culture of Miami Beach, but I still haven’t done as much exploring as I’d like!
I understand that NWS performed at Carnegie Hall earlier this summer, with Michael Tilson Thomas as conductor and Yuja Wang the piano soloist. What was that experience like?
It was a great time, performing with the full orchestra as well as with a smaller group. And, of course, Yuja is so talented and inspiring. In Carnegie Hall, you can almost feel the history of the building around you [since it was built in 1891]. It’s quite different from the New World Center in Miami, which was built in 2011 and is far more modern.
" As a cellist, it’s all about upper-body clothing for me, so I’m so grateful for the shirt that’s made life more comfortable in that way. "
Classical music is much like a precision sport. But, traditional formal wear tends to pull the body away from the performance. Has Coregami changed the performance experience for you?
For sure! Before Coregami, I was wearing Calvin Klein dress shirts and I guess I managed to get by. But, I can’t imagine going back to those. When we received the Coregami Coltrane shirt, I was amazed at how different it felt. It was so breathable and flexible and made playing much easier. It opened up such freedom of movement. As a cellist, it’s all about upper-body clothing for me, so I’m so grateful for the shirt that’s made life more comfortable in that way.
Coregami is always looking to improve. Is there anything that you can think of that would make it better or easier for you?
An issue that I’ve occasionally run into as a cellist — and it is perhaps related to way I hold the cello with the neck of the instrument close to shirt — are shirt collars getting in the way. So, I like mandarin-style shirts. And, I think you actually recently introduced that style. So, you read my mind! A performance-based suit jacket or tuxedo jacket would also be stellar — I’m sure you hear that a lot from string players.
If you weren’t a cellist, what do you think you’d be doing?
When I was younger, I really loved visual art like drawing, sculpting, and more. I would always make my parents take me to Michaels for art supplies. So, maybe something in the visual arts.
" Music is an experience, and one you really have to embrace and explore. "