Photo by Nereide Ellis
Now in its sixth year, the Artist-in-Residence (AIR) Fellowship at Collington, a harmonious partnership with the University of Maryland School of Music (SOM), is hosting two new graduate-level musicians who are enriching Collington’s already robust music program.
Receiving free room and board at Collington through August of 2024 in exchange for curating and performing a chamber concert series and orchestrating other noteworthy endeavors with and for residents, Joshua Rhodes and Yuhe Wang are forging intergenerational bonds through a universal love of music.
Feeling at Home with Residents
“I’ve never felt so at home as I do here,” said Joshua, a second-year master’s student in classical double bass performance who feels like a “superstar” in the community of appreciative, musically attuned older adults.
“I am building relationships with 300 different ‘grandparents’ all at once,” quipped Joshua, a Fayetteville, NC, native whose real grandmother lived to be 103 and was a major influence in his life.
Earning his undergraduate degree at the prestigious Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, Joshua demonstrated his interest in community relations by serving as communications director on the college student senate. This position helped connect music students with the larger body of liberal arts students.
Also in Oberlin, Joshua volunteered at Kendal at Oberlin, where he helped residents living with dementia create memory boxes and formed the first ties to the Kendal family. When he applied to the University of Maryland, Joshua already had the Collington fellowship in mind.
“The AIR program is directly in line with my goals as an artist,” he said of its dual appeal of performance art and bringing people together.
Making Music, Forming Connections
“My main goal in life is to connect with all people I come into contact with,” said Joshua, who enjoys fostering human communion as much as playing the instrument he chose for its imposing physicality. “It fits my personality,” said the 25-year-old who loves being part of an orchestra but also relishes leadership opportunities.
While his dream is to one day be part of a world-renowned symphony (stopping along the way for another two-year degree, hopefully at the likes of Juilliard), Joshua is currently hard at work with Yuhe and residents on the AIR committee planning 18 multi-genre concerts at Collington over their year in residence. These concerts will feature their own talents as well as those of other SOM students.
Sharing the Love of Music
As for Yuhe, her journey playing the piano began at the tender age of four and a half.
“My parents took me to a music store several times, and each time I stayed at the piano and refused to leave,” she said. “I was mesmerized by the sound.”
While her short-term goal is to get her Doctor of Musical Arts degree and earn a living using her musical skills, said Yuhe, “My lifetime goal is always to share my love for music with as many people as I can.”
Behind the Performance
Like Joshua, Yuhe appreciates the opportunity the Artist-in-Residence program presents to explore music beyond performing. “At school, I am always the performer; everything else is taken care of by the school.”
However, said Yuhe, the Collington experience offers the chance to be behind the scenes recruiting, promoting, programming, scheduling, recording and much more.
“Moreover, I have the opportunity to know the residents here and learn from them, including several who are esteemed musicians themselves.”
Residents Tune In
The Collington AIR committee, run by residents, has been hugely instrumental to the program and the artists-in-residence themselves. In fact, the idea for the fellowship was sparked by a Collington resident.
The committee assigns each student a resident ambassador, who acclimates them to the Collington community, answers their questions and helps them establish communication and relationships with other residents.
This year, the committee hosted a special reception for Joshua and Yuhe to introduce them to the community and arranged a photo session with photographer Nereide Ellis for concert promotional purposes.
Another key role of the AIR committee is liaison between the artists and the music school, ensuring that the program has a cohesive, standardized system of operation and enabling future AIRs to better understand expectations, responsibilities and the Collington community as a whole.
Joshua credits Collington residents not only with their pivotal work on the AIR committee and their enthusiasm for music, but also the valuable life lessons he’s learning from them.
“They have all lived very different lives and done so many amazing things. Being able to talk with people who’ve realized their dreams gives me a sense of reality and excitement for the future.”