Q&A with Alexa Ciciretti, cello
Every week we continue to dive deeper and deeper into what drives a person to a life of music. This week we spoke with cellist and five time Festival participant, Alexa Ciciretti. Speaking with Alexa was a real treat; after five years she has a richly earned and wonderfully diverse perspective on how the Festival has evolved over the years. An avid advocate for Baroque and Contemporary music, Ms. Ciciretti has performed with the Oberlin Baroque Orchestra, Eastman Collegium Musicum, Rochester Christ Church Consort and Eastman and Oberlin Viola da Gamba Consorts. She performed with Oberlin’s Contemporary Music Ensemble at the DiMenna Center, Eastman’s Musica Nova on a concert featuring Irvine Arditti, and at the Bowdoin Gamper Festival of Contemporary Music.
Ms. Ciciretti received her master’s degree and orchestral studies diploma from Eastman School of Music (2015) and her bachelor of music degree with a minor in historical performance from Oberlin Conservatory (2013). Principal teachers include Steven Doane, Amir Eldan, and Ronald Lowry. When not playing cello, Alexa enjoys cooking, eating chocolate, watching movies, and enjoying the outdoors in her native New England.
BIMF: How has your family supported your growth as a musician?
Alexa: My family was always very involved in music and my parents stressed upon my sister and me the importance of the arts. My mom grew up playing piano and both my parents attended orchestra concerts even before they had children. I started playing piano when I was six, and around that same time, my sister started the cello. I always watched her practice and I knew I wanted to play cello too. I played in band and orchestra in middle school, and even back then, I knew that I wanted to make music for the rest of my life.
My family has always supported me and my dreams. My mom spent countless hours driving me back and forth from Boston on the weekends so I could take lessons at NEC Pre-College. Even though I am the only family member pursuing music as a professional career, I owe my musical beginnings and continued enthusiasm for it to my parents and sister.
BIMF: You’ve been attending the Festival for over five years, how have you seen things shift and change in that time?
Alexa: The neatest thing I noticed about the Festival over the five years was the range of fantastic performances I saw. Each year, there were different musical highlights of the Festival, whether those highlights were student performances or faculty/guest artist performances.
My first year at Bowdoin, I didn’t know many of the faculty members. Over the years, I came to know members of the faculty better. By returning I was able to find continuity in my summer study and cultivate relationships with professional musicians who were able to see my progress throughout the years. My first year at Bowdoin, I was about to be a freshman at Oberlin, studying with Amir Eldan. The past few summers I attended Bowdoin, I didn’t study with Amir but I had solidified my relationship with him through my time at Oberlin, so during the summer I was able to interact with him on a new level (both musically and personally).
In terms of the Festival itself, I have noticed that the playing level of the students is increasingly high, and that there is more emphasis on chamber music as shown by the increased number of professional quartets who have visited the Festival in recent years.
BIMF: What was one nonmusical highlight of the past five years with the Festival?
Alexa: I’m a very outdoorsy person, so I always took the opportunities that were offered to go kayaking, hiking, etc. My trip to Monhegan Island was definitely a highlight. Maine is one of the most gorgeous places in the United States, so I was really happy to experience that beauty every year. Also, eating lobster is always a highlight for me.
BIMF: How did your time with the Festival influence your goals and perspective?
Alexa: I’ve always had the simple goal of making music professionally. Learning from world-renowned musicians who have such diverse careers was really inspiring for me. For example, David Ying and Phillip Ying are members of the Grammy winning Ying Quartet, teach full-time at Eastman School of Music, are Co-Artistic Directors of the Festival, AND have time to have families! It was always great to see such dedication to music close-up, and it certainly inspires me to keep at it.
BIMF: If there was a movie produced about your life, who would play you and why?
Alexa: Emma Watson! She’s a strong woman who’s funny, captivating, and always speaks her mind. Also, I identify with her nerdiness in the Harry Potter movies (and her frizzy hair).
BIMF: What’s one place in the world you are dying to travel to?
Alexa: Most places I’d like to travel to involve yummy food, beautiful scenery, or both. So, I’d say Italy, Japan, Iceland, and New Zealand.
BIMF: Why do you love music?
Alexa: Answering this question in words is difficult. The reason I love music is because it expresses what words cannot say. It can make my heart feel like it’s about to explode with happiness, or break with loneliness. It can be a catalyst for social or political change, or it can simply bring people together to enjoy a shared experience. It can be whatever you need it to be.
BIMF: What advice would you give to an aspiring cellist?
Alexa: Score study, listen, and pursue other interests! In my opinion, being well-rounded is extremely important for musicians. Practice hard, live life, practice more, become frustrated, put your cello down, remember what drew you to music and to the cello, and keep going.
Check back soon for more student interviews…