TŌN Alumnus Update: Andrew Borkowski

Over the summer we caught up with one of The Orchestra Now’s first musicians, Andrew Borkowski TŌN ’18, who returned to perform in the 2019 Bard Music Festival (BMF).

Are you excited to be playing in the Bard Music Festival again? How does it compare to playing in other concerts?
I’m excited because the energy surrounding the concerts is always electric. The concerts are very well attended and the anticipation surrounding each one of the programs is palpable. Playing in the Fisher Center is always a joy, and this year’s Korngold program is particularly fun to play and not too challenging!

How did TŌN help prepare you for life as a working musician?
By teaching me that in order to be successful one must hone many skills in addition to playing well, including good communication skills and effective time management. The program schedule, in addition to audition preparation, requires you to plan your practice time as efficiently as possible, as well as planning for much needed rest and time away from the instrument. TŌN requires all musicians to speak publicly before many concerts, and this is a skill that is extremely important to a musician’s ability to connect with an audience. Effective programming is derived from context, and being able to clearly communicate context and meaning to an audience will significantly improve a musician’s ability to build trust in an audience.

Tell us about how your time playing with TŌN and in the Bard Music Festival gave you added experience that you couldn’t get through conservatory training.
Playing in TŌN and BMF builds on conventional conservatory training in a number of ways. First, the experience of playing in a section with largely the same players over the course of 2–3 years is indispensable, and is even more so given the consistent rotation of section/principal playing. The myriad guest conductors is a very valuable learning experience, and along with that comes an expectation of high-level playing at all times. The unorthodox repertoire provides for a diverse learning experience and challenges the musicians in unforeseen ways.

What does it mean to be a classical musician in the 21st century?
Classical musicians today need to be unbelievably well-rounded. Conservatories aren’t doing a good enough job of training musicians to perform well in every context, from orchestra playing to improvisation to recording session work, and its up to the musician to remain open to being flexible, versatile, and unwavering in their commitment to playing at a high level. Building a vast network of musicians for one to rely on for work is equally important, and this comes from taking all work seriously and with a commitment to quality.

Photo by David DeNee