Merit School of Music

Students “Make Magic” with Enrique Mazzola of Lyric Opera of Chicago

enrique mazzola

“We make magic, and we send the magic into the audience.” – Enrique Mazzola

Something felt different at Merit School of Music on Saturday, November 19. Like most other Conservatory Saturdays, students chattered in the halls of our Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, rehearsal spaces swelled with sound, and from double basses to piccolos, instruments large and small made their way through the doors of our building. But, when Maestro Enrique Mazzola, Music Director of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, walked into Merit’s Gottlieb Hall with a smile on his face, the energy of our vibrant community seemed to double!

This fall, Maestro Mazzola spent several Saturdays and weeknights conducting Conservatory students on works by Handel, Mozart, and Purcell, preparing them for a performance of opera excerpts at this month’s Winter Concerts. After weeks of rehearsals and planning, Maestro Mazzola, members of Merit Philharmonic and Conservatory choirs met for an open rehearsal, demonstrating the magic that can happen when pre-eminent arts organizations partner with youth music programs like Merit. This rehearsal was a crucial step in the learning process, where Maestro Mazzola demonstrated the power of partnerships in music education for parents, students, community leaders, and friends of Merit:

“Collaborations between big institutions and community organizations are absolutely important because we exchange our feelings – our artistic feelings and our human feelings – staying and living in the same city. I think this exchange between institutions is vital for the future music life of a big city – and an international city like Chicago. The cause/effect of this relationship – you can’t find it in weeks or months, but really in terms of years,” shared Maestro Mazzola.

The value of this relationship was just as evident in the hallways of Merit beforehand as it was during the rehearsal itself! Refrains of “Good afternoon, Maestro!” and “Maestro, Maestro! Can I ask you a question?” echoed from students as soon as Mazzola entered the building. Students greeted Maestro Mazzola with big laughs and smiling faces, sheet music and pencils in hand. Their questions ranged from “which bar in my solo should I be emphasizing more?” to “How was last night’s performance of Le Comte Ory at the Lyric?!”

Charlie Grode, President and Executive Director of Merit shared, “For our students, these opportunities to work with world-class artists provide incredible experiences to learn and grow as individual musicians and as a part of a unified ensemble.” Maestro Mazzola added, “I came here to teach, and I learn.” A musical win-win all around.

Click here to view Merit students’ Winter Concerts performance of works prepared with Maestro Enrique Mazzola.

Photography by Jaclyn Simpson

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