The New Century Chamber Orchestra: Modeling Excellence in Music and Beyond
Centre College is dedicated to giving students the skills to become leaders in a global society. Critical thinking, resourcefulness, independence, and a willingness to try new things are all fostered throughout the campus. The New Century Chamber Orchestra, which performs without a conductor, offers a model of the self-reliance and peer collaboration for which Centre prepares students.
During their visit to campus, Music Director Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and members of the NCCO will offer Centre music students a workshop on how to make the most their musical intelligence and take leadership roles from within an ensemble. Students will learn how to moderate disagreements and build consensus, skills that are important for any team-based working environment. Learning from world-class musicians will be a singular opportunity for the Centre students that participate in the music program, whether or not they are pursuing music careers. In all musical activities at Centre, we work to develop students’ abilities to lead by giving them both musical and administrative responsibilities. Our new chamber music program, for example, forms groups of two to six players and charges them with scheduling and running their own rehearsals, making decisions about repertoire, and making decisions about what performance opportunities to pursue. As in other programs at Centre, students are supported in their efforts by faculty coaching as they develop new skills. But, they are given the freedom and responsibility to make their own decisions. The self-reliance and self-direction they learn in these contexts will serve them throughout the rest of their lives.
The New Century Chamber Orchestra is an exciting musical model of a balance between independence and communal support that all Centre students can learn from and perhaps identify with. The group performs without a conductor, the traditional single authority in an orchestral setting. Instead, the NCCO makes musical decisions as a group, with each member bringing their best ideas and musical excellence to bear. Each member must take full responsibility for their work and for the progress of the group, rather than simply following directions or meeting expectations. That spirit of initiative and drive is one that Centre works to foster in its students in the classroom and around campus. The NCCO has a Music Director (Ms. Salerno-Sonnenberg) as well as a traditional governing board structure to ensure that the organization runs well and can reach as wide an audience as possible. So, while the musicians that perform in the New Century Chamber Orchestra have the the independence and freedom to make musical decisions, they also have the support of people focused the over-all welfare of the organization. That balance creates an environment where musicians, like students at Centre, can take risks and try new approaches without being limited by a fear of failure.
Critical thinking skills and the ability to work with limited instruction are qualities that today’s employers value highly and are crucial to our students’ ability to contribute to global society as citizens. As a musician-run ensemble, the New Century Chamber Orchestra embodies these traits and their broad importance. As is evidenced by its work here at Centre and at schools around the country, the NCCO is committed to educating young musicians not only in the techniques of advanced music making, but also in the types of leadership abilities they need to succeed in an increasingly competitive world. We thank them for sharing their musicianship and artistry with the Centre community and the region at large, both on and off the stage.
by Jaemi Blair Loeb
Centre College Orchestra Director and Director of Chamber Music
Visiting Assistant Professor of Music
Jaemi Blair Loeb joined Centre’s faculty in 2012 as a visiting assistant professor of music and Music Director of the Centre College Orchestra and Centre Brass. Before coming to Centre, Dr. Loeb was the founding Artistic and Music Director of the Houston Heights Orchestra, an innovative neighborhood orchestra in Houston, TX. Other conducting work in Houston included: Music Director of HaZamir Houston, Music Director of the jTunes, Music Director of the Lone Star College -Montgomery Symphonic Band, Choir Director at Congregation B’rith Shalom, Assistant Director of the AURA Contemporary Music Ensemble, Assistant Conductor of the Moores School Orchestras, and Music Director of the Opera Vista Competition for New Opera. Dr. Loeb’s performing interests include music by living composers, various folk musics, and standard symphonic repertoire. Her academic interests include Marxism, critical theory, and the politics of music.
Loeb holds a B.A. in music and modern culture media from Brown University, an M.M. in orchestral conducting from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, and a D.M.A in orchestral conducting from the University of Houston. For more information, visit www.jaemiloeb.com.