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Luke Cissell, Director of Strings, Music Faculty
Luke Cissell

For the violin, viola, cello and double bass players in our Strings ensembles at Calhoun, it’s about so much more than learning the notes and playing a part: music is joyful, cathartic, powerful, healing, urgent, and perhaps most often, just plain fun. Music gives us another way to feel and to be. It has the power to express the otherwise inexpressible. Music is, I firmly believe, a necessary facet of our humanity – an indispensable way of experiencing, knowing and engaging with the world around us. 

In our Strings ensembles at Calhoun, each student brings their own unique experience, interests and perspective to the group, and there is a particularly nourishing kind of community that is forged through making music together. For me this is one of the most rewarding aspects of working with Strings ensembles at Calhoun: really feeling these invisible threads and connections being made around the shared goal of rehearsing a piece, performing a concert, or digging into new music for the first time and making discoveries together.     

My highest aim is to create a space in the classroom where the joy of making music together can be experienced by all. In the classroom we work together to nurture an atmosphere that values play, inquiry, experimentation, deep listening, differing points of view, and highly individual ways of engaging and connecting with music. I challenge students to stretch their ears beyond the familiar and at the same time to dig deeper into their favorites and to think about what it is that draws them to a particular piece of music. Technique building and tone development emerge as natural parts of an ensemble curriculum that values curiosity and discovery, with students having a big stake in determining and guiding the repertoire that we choose. Whether we’re performing the latest blockbuster film score, a Calhoun student-composed piece, collaborating with the chorus on a Bill Withers tribute, or digging into Baroque or Classical repertoire, there is always something new to discover and lots of fun to be had in the process as we grow together as musicians. 

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