Soloist Peter Mellinger and Conductor Eric Lindholm
Last Night the Pomona College Orchestra performed Fauré’s Pavane, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto, and Brahms’ Fourth Symphony at Sunset Center in Carmel. It was a class act. Since it is not often that the Monterey Peninsula receives a visit from a touring college orchestra, the two concerts in Salinas and Carmel given by the Pomona College Orchestra this week provided an opportunity to observe at first hand serious music making in academia. Although the majority of its members are Pomona College students, the orchestra also has players from Scripps, Harvey Mudd, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer colleges, as well as from the greater Claremont community.
Pomona College Orchestra’s conductor Eric Lindholm is a former child prodigy in mathematics, taking college calculus at age 10 and completing a year of college physics by age 13. He switched to a music major while in the middle of an undergraduate physics degree program at Princeton, going on to earn advanced degrees in conducting from Boston University and the Yale School of Music.
Would it be surprising to learn that the majority of players in the Pomona Orchestra are non-music majors. Why? Well, let’s start with the old joke, “There were two men walking down the street. One was a musician, and the other didn’t have any money, either.” To pursue a career in music has always been a difficult way to make a living, and it is not getting any easier.
Observing another university orchestra, the Stanford Symphony, we know that 95% of the students performing in its orchestra are non-music majors pursuing degrees leading to careers in such fields as medicine, law, engineering and the sciences. Like the Pomona College Orchestra, the Stanford Orchestra players are students pursuing two paths in their lives, with musical skills on such a high level they would be welcome in any professional orchestra anywhere.
One of the reasons the Pomona College Orchestra is performing here is that the orchestra’s featured soloist in the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto on this occasion is Peter Mellinger, a 2014 Carmel High School graduate who last November entered Pomona’s Concerto Competition and won. His winning the competition is all the more remarkable since Mellinger is a freshman at Pomona and thus was competing against older students.
Mellinger, a pupil of Rochelle Walton for ten years, covered himself with honors as a high school student on the Monterey Peninsula. He was concertmaster of the YMMC Honors Orchestra, appeared several times with the Carmel Bach Festival Young Musicians Showcase and appeared as soloist in the Bruch Concerto with the Monterey Peninsula College Orchestra under the direction of David Dally in 2014.
Tonight’s concert began with a lovely performance of Fauré’s Pavanne (composed in 1887), which contained many lovely moments with rich sounds and textures and elegant ensemble. There was a lot of subtlety is this performance.
When Peter Mellinger walked out on stage out to play the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, you could tell from the enthusiastic greeting he received from the audience that family and friends were there in force. And, he did not disappoint them. It was easy to forget he is an 18-year-old college freshman, because we were hearing mature and artistic playing of a very high order. In addition to elegant and dynamic phrasing, he dazzled us with his superb technical mastery, fabulous harmonics and his natural modesty on stage. Wow!
The concert ended with a richly detailed and exciting performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 4. In this work we heard more of what the Pomona College Orchestra is capable of. Youthful enthusiasm and instrumental mastery is a great combination. Let’s hope for a return engagement.