|Q&A with Cellist Leland Ko|
Thirteen-year-old cellist Leland Ko, a student at The Rivers School Conservatory, has been invited to participate in the Winter Residency of The Perlman Music Program in Sarasota, Florida. This two-week program accepts students of the highest level to immerse themselves with mid-winter coaching and performance opportunities with some of the world’s most distinguished pedagogues. The Sarasota Winter Residency is a continuation of the Summer Music School, a six-week program that Leland attended for the first time last summer.
The Rivers School Conservatory: What is the process for admission to the Perlman Music Program?
Leland Ko: Admission to the Perlman Music Program is based on videotaped auditions, which are reviewed by the Program faculty. There are no limits to how much you can send in, so we sent three DVDs of what I consider some of my best live concerts. The number of openings in each section varies year to year, and unless you know one of the campers personally, you probably won’t be able to find out how many openings there will be for that specific year. However, once you get in, you are part of the program until you graduate from high school, provided that you return every year, which I plan to do.
RSC: How does it feel to return to Sarasota for this winter’s residency?
LK: To be honest, I cannot remember a time when I was looking forward to something more than Sarasota, and I’m not alone; every other camper feels the same excitement each time. For the longest time after my departure from the summer program, I felt like there was a large part of me that was missing. It is not only the music that I miss deeply, but the people too. It feels like being separated from my family for almost half a year.
RSC: What’s your daily schedule at the Program? How many private lessons do you receive while you are there?
LK: From Monday to Saturday, you wake up at 7:00 or earlier and head straight to breakfast, followed by stretching. Starting at 8:30, you have four 50-minute practice hours where you are required to stay in your practice room. At 12:30, you eat lunch, followed by a rotating schedule of chamber rehearsals, chamber coaching, lessons, or chorus. Dinner is at 6:00, followed by a student concert, orchestra rehearsal, or nighttime activity. On Sundays, you can sleep all day if you want, but there is always a fun activity planned, like going to the beach. It may seem strenuous, but it is actually quite the opposite. You usually get two private lessons a week. The cello studio teacher for the winter session is Paul Katz; for the summer session I study with Ron Leonard. The viola teacher can vary, and the violin studio teacher is Itzhak Perlman.
RSC: What other non-music related things do you do?
LK: Apart from immersing myself in hours of musical bliss, there are many fun activities to take up my free time. The two most competitive things students engage in are ping-pong (can’t have a music camp without ping-pong) and pool. The summer camp is on Shelter Island in New York, so I can always go down to the beach and swim. Other activities include playing cards, attacking people with water balloons, or going off campus to the athletics field or into town for the pharmacy or market.
RSC: What are some of the highlights from the Summer Program?
LK: If I proceed to name some memorable moments from this camp, it would probably take me three hours. From lessons to ultimate Frisbee showdowns to chamber music to epic ping-pong matches, every moment is one to cherish. However, it is the concerts that stand out. There are two to four student concerts every week, and students perform whenever they feel prepared. The level of playing is phenomenal. I remember being blown away by the first two weeks of concerts. I was thoroughly inspired. By the end, the concerts just got even better. I do not feel that it will bring justice to this camp if I even attempt to describe it in words any more than I already have, so if you really want to know what this place is like, I recommend you come see for yourself at the Work in Progress concerts.