The NMS Ensemble program has an outstanding national reputation in the community arts world. Each week (pre-Covid) we ran 100+ different ensembles ranging from duos to large orchestras, steel pans to ragtime, from Bach to rock. Beginning musicians have opportunities to play music alongside professionals, while also sitting side-by-side with people from diverse backgrounds. As our own Grace Feldman says, “ensemble means together.”
The NMS Premier Ensemble program offers students an opportunity to receive pre-professional training while being mentored by leaders in their field. Students may audition for one of our tuition-free Premier Ensembles (Strings, Jazz, Wind and Dance). Each Premier ensemble member intensely develops their craft in rehearsals, while the groups frequently perform throughout the community. As NMS ambassadors, these experiences in performance and community-building are invaluable and unique to our school. Two years ago, our Premier Jazz Ensemble performed more than 20 times, instilling a high standard of professionalism in its members while also helping prepare the seniors for successful college auditions.
Below you can learn more about our Premier Dance Company, and hear from Jeff Fuller, coach of Premier Jazz.
Naomi Gitelman credits NMS with helping her believe in herself as an artist.
“No matter who you are and what you look like and where you come from, you can still dance and do music,” said Naomi.
Over the last ten years, Naomi has studied ballet, pointe, modern, jazz, Broadway, and hip-hop dance styles at NMS with Tracey Albert, Suzanne Sepe, Hanan Hameen, Stacey Richetelli, and Danielle Rathey. A sophomore at the Sound School in New Haven, Naomi is also a DELTA participant at NMS and the Captain of NMS’s Premier Dance Company (PDC).
The PDC coach, Hanan Hameen, shared some history about PDC, as well as her reflections on Naomi’s leadership as Captain:
PDC, Premiere Dance Company, is an award-winning company that I am the proud director/coach of. It is composed of a special group of dance professionals in the making who are near and dear to me as my dance daughters and mentees. Their dedication, enthusiasm, and engagement is of the highest caliber and they are the embodiment of the reason we started this company at NMS.
As a gifted and talented dancer who grew up in the NYC professional dance world from childhood, I achieved many successes and I’m living my dreams due to my pre-professional training experiences. As I looked around New Haven, I did not see any programs similar to what I experienced in New York. Determined to create a space in New Haven for the serious dance student who aspires to be a choreographer, dance teacher, company director, or professional dancer, I presented the idea to Tracey Albert, Director of Dance & Wellness, and she helped tremendously to bring PDC into existence.
For several years, we have been creating and developing serious dancers who have been accepted into the top arts high schools in New Haven and are able to choreograph, think critically, problem solve creatively, and lead dance classes. One of our standout PDC members is Naomi G., or NayNay as we call her in PDC. Nay is a blossoming force to be reckoned with. Naomi joined PDC a few years ago as a shy dance student and has grown to become a confident, outspoken leader as PDC Dance Captain.
Naomi’s rise to become “Cap” wasn’t easy and it took a lot of hard work and dedication beyond our weekly classes. Even through the pandemic, Naomi has led her dance sisters through black screens, no audio, and wifi that wouldn’t connect. Taking the lessons learned from my mentorship, Nay found her voice and has now restructured the class warm-up and CCI (Collaborative Choreography Initiative), assisting me with PDC’s participation in virtual performances for Yale University, the Peabody Museum, the New Haven Museum, and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Using WhatsApp videos through our PDC group chat to share choreography and resources, Nay and PDC have been creating fully choreographed pieces to share with the world. I’m a proud dance mom and honored to be a part of the journey of Naomi and all the members of PDC.
This past fall, Naomi and PDC were invited by the Yale Dance Lab to participate in a performance project called “Transpositions: Dance Poems for an Online World.”
In the words of the producers: “Knitting together local, national, and international communities of dance, ‘Transpositions’ explores the continuous and interrupted transmission of embodied dance practices in digital life.”
PDC worked with choreographer Renee Robinson, who danced for 30 years with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, to create their piece. As Naomi feels that one of the purposes of PDC is “to use your art to speak out about global issues,” creating and performing this piece was a perfect fit for PDC. Please enjoy:
NMS Strings and Jazz faculty member Jeff Fuller appreciates how NMS brings people together.
“There are many things I like about the Neighborhood Music School, but at the top of my list is that we are open to people from all communities, all ages, and all economic backgrounds.”
Jeff has taught at NMS for more than 20 years. He teaches individual lessons on upright bass and bass guitar and also works with students on jazz improvisation and theory. He is the coach of the Premier Jazz Ensemble and is on the faculty of our Summer Jazz program.
In this video, Jeff introduces himself and speaks movingly about NMS:
Here, Jeff teaches a fascinating mini-lesson on how to build a walking bass line: