Thanking teachers and mentors in this 2024 season of school graduations.

A 21st Century Approach to Live Performance Music

Teacher and mentor point of view

In this season of school graduations, let’s take a moment and thank all the teachers and mentors out there.

Roger Kalia (Symphony NH Conductor and mentor) and Elliott Markow (SNH concertmaster and music teacher) have worked together since Kalia arrived in New Hampshire. Both played pivotal roles in the creation of the New Hampshire Concerto. More than a dozen student composers across the state of New Hampshire participated in the process. Four had their work included in a world premiere. What follows are conversations that continued to occur long after the concert ended.

Roger Kalia posted this note on Instagram back on 4-22-2024 after the concert:

One of our student composers, @simonfurze , asked me to share this with you about his experience:

“Having a composition of your own, played by such talented musicians, is truly a gift. Not only did you provide me with an experience I will never forget, but you brought humanity and emotion to my music. It is every young composers dream to be a part of something like this, and you’ve made mine come true. Thank you Symphony NH for your hospitality, and diligent work towards representing the music you play. Bravo!! “

a photo of Keene State senior Simon Furze. photo by Keith Spiro.
Simon Furze composition was part of the NH Concerto. photo | Keith Spiro

Said, Kalia, “Bravo to you and the next generation of composers!”

Wow, right? Such powerful impact and recognition of the opportunity created. The New Hampshire Concerto was a project conceived and executed by Symphony New Hampshire and required total buy in, from the professional musicians to the executive director and music director. The teacher mentoring students aspect is an important one.

Ink Link covered the series of how four college music departments across the state participated in a process rarely available. Instead of electronic playback, their musical creations were tested and performed by professional musicians using wood and metal instruments on human hands rather than electronics. The difficult transitions were swiftly smoothed out in real-time interactions between composer and orchestra.

Here now are the teacher perspectives on what is believed to be the First in the Nation collaboration of a professional orchestra with college undergraduate music composition majors.

Roger Kalia is a changemaker who embraces the transformative power of art to heal and empower communities.

Elliott Markow just ended his 24-year tenure as Symphony New Hampshire’s concertmaster. He still performs and teaches at community music schools which is where I first met him more than 25 years ago.

teachers and mentors Roger Kalia and Elliott Markow in a photo by Keith Spiro at Symphony NH's 2024 finale.
Symphony NH Concertmaster Elliott Markow (R has been here throughout the tenure of Conductor Roger Kalia. Photo | Keith Spiro

Teachers and Mentors – point of view

  1. What was it like going through a live read with student composers? 

ROGER KALIA:  It was a very rewarding experiencing for all of us on stage to bring the student compositions to life during our reading session with Symphony NH.  None of us on stage knew what to expect, but each piece was unique and different in terms of the overall sound and mood.  As musicians, we enjoyed the variety of musical styles that each composer brought to the table.

ELLIOTT MARKOW:  For me, being introduced to a new musical composition, new or old, is a lot like meeting a person for the first time.  I like to meet people new to me – you never know what to expect and you’ll always learn something from them.  It’s exciting and gratifying to be trusted by a composer to work one-on-one with them to bring their considerable efforts to performance.

  1. What did you think was the most impressive or exciting part of the NH Concerto project?

KALIA: For me, the most exciting part was the interaction that I had with each composer.  Having the composer present at the readings and rehearsals was helpful for not only me, but the musicians as well.  We were able to ask each composer specific questions relating to dynamics, rhythm, sound concept, etc.  How to interact with a conductor and professional musicians are important skills for composers, and I was very pleased with the professionalism and energy that each composer brought to the orchestra.

MARKOW:  I feel the level of accomplishment of the composers is impressively high which allows for clear and effective musical expression.

  1. What worked particularly well from your standpoint?

KALIA: The compositions themselves were excellent.  There was a certain cinematic quality to almost every piece, which was enjoyable for not only the musicians, but the audience members as well.

MARKOW: Having the excited and enthusiastic composer with us.  It is always helpful, informative and often enlightening to have the source and final authority with you in the room to answer questions of concern or confusion.

  1. How will this experience impact your teaching or mentoring and other roles going forward?

KALIA: Providing opportunities to young musicians and composers is something that we pride ourselves on as an organization.  I can see us continuing this project for the years to come given how successful it was.  I see it as my responsibility to encourage and help the next generation of young composers as much as I possibly can.

MARKOW: I have always encouraged my students and colleagues to pursue the unexplored.

  1. What advice would you give to a music student or young professional  looking to enter the field as a musician or composer?

KALIA: Absorb as much music as you possibly can and don’t be shy to reach out to your mentors and other professionals in the field.  Keep an open mind and always be prepared when an opportunity comes your way.

MARKOW: Always try and try your best.  No matter what your field of interest, always pursue excellence.  Every endeavor of excellence and a high level of accomplishment requires a strong sense of commitment and dedication.  Be confident and contented that you have always done the best you can at that moment.

  1. The performance and audience response were outstanding. Any comments on that? And how does that influence future projects?

KALIA:  I can see us making this an every other year type of project.  The audience loved the compositions, and it was very special for me to interact with the young composers after the concert.  I told the composers after the concert that I’m here to help them in anyway that I can moving forward.  I look forward to staying in touch with them and following their musical journeys.

MARKOW: What is presented in any performance is the culmination of years of preparation.  Audience enthusiasm is a validation of one’s considerable investment of time, money and effort.  However, no-one can reach their highest level of accomplishment without some setbacks.  Seek to maintain a strong determination to strive for improvement.

I also asked Elliott, as concertmaster and member of Symphony New Hampshire for 24 years if there was anything he might want to add in for comments about the Electric Harp composition which was another premiere that took place in the same concert:

MARKOW:  Few, if any, of my colleagues had ever even heard of the electric harp.  I had not, and we were all curious about and looking forward to becoming acquainted with it, the composer and our soloist.  I thoroughly enjoyed the entire event.  The instrument is expressive and intriguing, and it was a memorable and enlightening experience.

In the Markow home, both Elliott and his wife Debbie Markow are known throughout our communities as music teachers as well as performers. They shared in the milestone recognition of Elliott’s tenure as Symphony NH’s concertmaster.

teachers as well as performers Elliott and Debbie Markow in a photo by Keith Spiro
Teachers both, Elliott and Debbie Markow celebrated backstage. photo | Keith Spiro


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