The River Charles Ensemble

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About the RCE

The River Charles Ensemble at Harvard University (RCE) is a student-run conductor-less chamber orchestra dedicated not only to performing at the highest caliber but also to providing a fun, supportive, and nurturing environment for the developing student musician. RCE is a community of interesting personalities and interesting musicians who believe and understand that music is one of the few forces that can powerfully move the human soul and can be used as an elemental force in social change and innovation. The structure of the organization and the orchestra is built on several strong musical principles, all of which are inevitably linked to chamber music, encompassing the active discussion and development of leadership skills, musical intuition, cooperation, and collaboration. Founded in January 2012 and officially recognized by Harvard University in November 2012, RCE has quickly evolved into one of the most emotionally perceptive, exciting, innovative, and spell-binding orchestras at Harvard today.

The River Charles Ensemble at Harvard University develops a high caliber of musical performance through strong collaborations and dedicated hard work in an academic university setting. RCE is a music program that has adopted musical and teaching principles from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra of New York, The Perlman Music Program, The Juilliard School, New England Conservatory of Music, as well as the Cavani String Quartet, the Juilliard String Quartet, and the Cleveland Quartet. Other notable models include the El Sistema program in Venezuela and the Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra.

Mission and Philosophy

In the busy schedules of university students, it is difficult to find a time and place for musical development at an institution so strongly committed to academia. The River Charles Ensemble believes that the highest level of musical and personal development in the academic musician requires a blend of circumstances that build upon selflessness, generosity, and sincerity. Interdependency within the ensemble is a fundamental feature that requires every member to be active leaders in the music-making process. Expectations for the highest quality of performance is driven by a demand for intense creativity and a strong commitment to standard as well as innovative performance traditions.

But that is not all. The musical world is quickly changing and surviving the cultural dynamics of modern times. Engagement requires focus, concentration, and commitment, but none are important as the enjoyment and revealing experiences that come from the concert hall and the rehearsal sessions. The River Charles Ensemble is committed to providing and evolving the environment and atmosphere that strives to enrich quality musical expression in the lives of Harvard-affiliated students, allowing them to make a strong musical impact on all audiences around the world.

Musicians are not the only people who deserve this high level of arts engagement. Audiences, too, deserve to experience the quality performances of musical culture that has developed over the past few centuries into the contemporary era. RCE has a commitment not only to its members but to its audiences to deliver the thrill of discovery and reflection in its musical programs. Increasing accessibility and evolving concert experiences are equally important in the RCE mission.

What characterizes a RCE member?

Just as basketball players are jumping higher and baseball pitchers are throwing faster, without a doubt, the level of expertise amongst modern day musicians is at an incredibly high level and is continuing to grow at an extremely fast rate. The members of RCE cannot be categorized as “he or she who plays perfectly.” Any musician can play as well as the one before or after, but RCE is comprised of players who are interested and are interesting. RCE celebrates engaged musicians who are resourceful and creative in their musical performance and understanding.

The Core System

The RCE Core System is adopted, adapted, and inspired from the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra of New York.

The RCE System functions on a belief that, fundamentally, all musicians must take part in the ensemble performance by always contributing in some capacity of leadership. There is no fixed seating process in RCE – all musicians rotate seating, an exercise that promotes leadership development and heightened artistic development for every individual. Rotations occur for every piece, resulting in a different set of musicians leading the ensemble as principals of their respective sections. This set of principal players form the ‘Core.’

The ‘Core’ is crucial to the rehearsal process. RCE rehearses tutti (all musicians) once a week with additional rehearsals at the beginning of each concert cycle by members of the ‘Core.’ Members of the ‘Core’ learn the score for their piece and develop artistic interpretations to bring to the tutti rehearsals. This development of ideas leads to discussions during tutti rehearsals, which run similarly to chamber music rehearsals. All student musicians are encouraged to participate and thus learn about the music they are preparing to perform as well as develop skills to verbalize and communicate their musical ideas.

Seating in RCE is a randomized process. The incredible sensitivity and musicianship of all RCE members is reflected in the masterful understanding and ensemble performance of the prepared repertoire. The expectation that the generous contributions of all the members creates an environment that is enjoyable and productive. And it works.