Sierra Lutheran alumna going solo in Point Loma concert
Siera Lutheran High School
Going solo, regardless the venture, can be a scary thought. Add a violin, a complex classical piece, and an audience of a couple hundred music enthusiasts, and a whole different kind of focus is required.
Such isn’t a new experience for 2018 Sierra Lutheran High School alumna Aleyna Gilson, who will find the spotlight on her again on Friday when she performs Mendelssohn’s concerto in E minor at the Orchestra Concerto Concert at Point Loma Nazarene University, in San Diego.
The opportunity presented itself when the Carson City native was approached by PLNU orchestra conductor Philip Tyler before the academic year to audition for another piece for a concert earlier in the year.
“Before starting the year, I was contacted by Dr. Tyler, my conductor and violin teacher, and he asked my if I would like to audition for the Scheherazade solo,” Gilson recently said. “In the end, the small solos in the piece were split between myself and another student.
“Last semester, I started working on my Mendelssohn concerto and Dr. Tyler asked when I would like to perform it. I tentatively asked if I could do it in the spring and he ecstatically agreed.”
This popular piece, written by renowned German musician and composer Felix Mendelssohn (1808-47) stands as one the most frequently performed of all violin concerti. And a challenging piece for the most accomplished violinists.
“I have put in hours of practice and listening,” the freshman Computer Science major shared. “I have listened to recordings of professionals to figure out my favorite techniques and characterization for my own performance.
“In my practice, I have had to break the piece down to individual notes, phrases, bow techniques, and vibrato techniques, and then make it all as loud and emotional as possible. The 15 minute piece will also have to be memorized for the concert.”
The ritual of memorizing long pieces, intense rehearsal, and impeccable performance is nothing new for Gilson, who has been playing the violin almost since she can remember.
“I started violin when I was 5 because my mom played and I wanted to be like her,” Gilson recalled. “And ever since then I’ve practiced 6 days a week, increasing the amount of time as I got older and more advanced. In college, I put in around 8-10 hours a week between orchestra, quartet, and personal practice time.”
This commitment to her craft launched her career into some impressive performances, and venues.
“In high school, I was part of the Reno Philharmonic Youth Symphony Orchestra,” Gilson reflected. “I had the opportunity to play for a tour to Seattle and Vancouver, and later on the chance to play at Carnegie Hall.”
The road to Gilson’s success wasn’t strictly paved with talent and dedication, but also with the desire to work collaboratively to create beautiful music.
“Fall semester of my senior year I was concertmaster of the orchestra and got to lead, which was a growing experience,” Gilson stated. “I was also part of worship at LifePoint Church and the Applied Christianity class at Sierra Lutheran. In both of these places I learned how to work together with others and make music for something much more important than fame and attention.”
When she’s not in class, rehearsing, performing, and playing intramural soccer, Gilson has also begun to record some of her work. Included in her recordings are violin and viola tracks for Dave Morris, a Point Loma alum whose song, Different Now, is now available on iTunes and Amazon. But for as talented a violinist as she is, Gilson’s long term goals are trained on graduate school, then a career in either artificial intelligence or machine learning.
“I am interested in them because of the amount of data that there is on the Internet right now that is being tracked,” Gilson explained. “We have barely scratched the surface of machine learning, usually using algorithms for things like ad preferences.
“But now we have started using the technology for things like facial recognition and other security, and I wonder how much we could use computers to think and solve puzzles for us in the next few decades.”
What is far from artificial or mechanical is Gilson’s authentic talent as a musician. And come Friday, upwards of 200 arts patrons at the Crill Concert Hall at PLNU will experience a virtuoso performance — solo.