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Caltech Chamber Music FAQ

Q: How advanced do I need to be on my instrument(s) to participate?

A: If you can read music on your instrument(s), we will most likely be able to find a spot for you.


Q: How are groups formed?

A: After annual auditions, Maia Jasper White and Robert Ward place all interested students in appropriate groups. While our priority is musical ability, we try to pair students of similar ages and, when possible, temperaments. 


Q: What kinds of ensembles can I play in?

A: Believe it or not, Caltech Chamber Music has between 65 and 110 participants per year. These enthusiastic students vary widely in skill level and in the instruments played. We can almost always create just about any type of ensemble, from woodwind quintet to piano duo to string quartet to piano trio. 


Q: Do I have to re-audition to participate in the future?

A: No. Once you've auditioned once, we have a clear enough sense of your playing to put you in an appropriate group in the future.


Q: When do ensembles rehearse?

A: Once groups have been assigned, a mutually agreeable time is selected within the applicable coach's availability. 


Q: How long are coachings?

A: Coachings occur for one hour each week. Some weeks may be canceled or rescheduled due to illness or other commitments. We ask that all participants make their best effort to honor their scheduled coaching time. Out of respect for undergraduates' mental load, coachings pause during Undergraduate Finals Week. They resume once Finals are over.


Q: Are we expected to rehearse or practice outside of coaching?

A. While we of course welcome and encourage additional rehearsal time, it is by no means a requirement of participation. 


Q: Can I take private lessons through Caltech?

A: If you are enrolled in one of Caltech's music ensembles, then yes: you may apply to take a limited number of lessons at the Institute's expense. Ask Maia Jasper White (mjasper@caltech.edu) for more information about this. Otherwise: no, you cannot. You must be enrolled in one of our music ensembles to take advantage of this opportunity.


Q: Can I choose who to play with, what to play, and who my coach is?

A: Within reason, yes. We make our best effort to honor students' requests. Before making placements each year, we will always ask you about your preferences for ensemble type, repertoire, and personnel, should you have any friends you'd like to play with. We want you to have the most fun and fulfilling experience possible.


Q: Can community members participate in Chamber Music?

A: If the need for a certain instrument arises, this may be a possibility. Generally speaking, we do not have room to accommodate anyone who is not currently enrolled at Caltech. 


Q: Where can I practice at Caltech?

A: You may practice in the Music House at 305 South Hill Avenue. You'll need card access for this. All students who wish to have access need to email Cindy De Mesa (cdemesa@caltech.edu) their University ID along with their request for access. The turnaround time is usually 24 hours or less. As of now, you do not need to make a reservation to use the Music House.


Q: Are there pianos I can play?

A: You are welcome to use any of the pianos in the Music House, including the one in the Steinway Room. Ask Cindy, Maia, or Robert (rward@caltech.edu) for the access code. 


Q: Are there instrument lockers on campus?

A: No. You are welcome to leave instruments in the Music House and Frautschi Hall at your own risk. The Music House's Steinway Room has an additional code required for entry. 


Q: Do you have to perform to participate in Chamber Music?

A: Yes. The vast majority of our students are hungry to perform. It gives them something concrete to work towards. It is not fair to them to deny any of them this chance because of the rare person who does not want to perform. For those who do not care to perform publicly, we encourage reading music more casually with friends. 


Q: What's the COVID protocol for Chamber this year?

A: We're lucky that chamber music, by definition, involves very few people at a time (i.e. "reduced occupancy"). As you know, Caltech has instituted a vaccine mandate. Everyone besides wind players must wear a mask at all times. Everyone must maintain at least 3 feet of distance from others. To ensure adequate airflow, coachings will occur in Hameetman's Frautschi Hall, with an adequate time buffer between groups. 


Q: When and how will the Chamber Music performances happen this year?

A: Typically, Chamber Music produces 5 concerts the last weekend in January/first weekend in February, and 2 more in May. It is our goal to honor this same rhythm of preparation and performance this year. At the end of last year, Chamber Music produced this virtual concert, which was live-streamed from Hameetman. While we certainly hope to be able to perform in-person for our enthusiastic audience community, the live stream experience worked well in a pinch. Stay tuned for more details; as we all know, the COVID situation is incredibly dynamic, and asks for flexibility from us all.