Park’s ICM Orchestra: A hidden gem close to home

Park University prides itself on creating a family out of the culturally diverse community at the school. Its students come from all over the world, and many cultures are mixed together, resulting in much diversity and a unique community.

Many international students have come to campus to join Park’s International Center for Music. These individuals are taught by world-renowned instructors, also from all over the world. As a part of the ICM, each string student is required to join the orchestra program, which shows off the very talented players at Park.

One player, Gus Fernandez Agreda, who is pursuing an MBA and graduate certificate in violin performance, speaks to the success of his peers and the prestige of Park’s orchestra program.

“We have kids that are so talented that they could have gone to Juilliard or to Paris or Moscow, and they decide to come here to Park, because we have a lot of attention from the faculty. Each one of them are amazing, amazing teachers, and we receive a lot of education from them,” said Agreda.

Director of Orchestral Activities Steven McDonald, Mus.D., also explains the high level of the orchestra.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that among many, if not most of the students, we have quite a Juilliard level right here in Parkville, Missouri, which is pretty amazing,” he said.

As Agreda and McDonald share the successes and details of Park’s ICM Orchestra, it is important to see how the community interacts with the orchestra and what type of recognition the orchestra receives.

The Parkville community has a vague idea of what the ICM is, McDonald explains.

“They know it’s very high quality, they know that it’s mostly Russian teachers here. But other than that, is kind of like the mythical Land of Oz. You know, we produce these incredible students who go on to win international prizes,” he said.

As the ICM produces great individual players, the ICM Orchestra allows the players to collaborate with each other and put on various concerts. These concerts take place in the chapel on campus each semester where many Park students, staff and faculty have attended. Yet COVID-19 has put a halt on most activities.

During this pandemic, players have to adhere to social distancing while both rehearsing and performing, which adds much difficulty for a program that relies heavily on hearing one another.

“It was almost impossible to hear people six feet away from you,” said McDonald. “You can imagine that leads to tremendous frustration, great sense of pressure and stress, and there’s no reason for good players to have to undergo that.”

The orchestra had a live-streamed Valentine’s Day concert, but the rest of its events are canceled for the spring semester due to COVID-19. The ICM will have a chamber music concert on April 30 at 7:30 p.m., also livestreamed.

“We believe that music is something to share,” said Agreda.

The orchestra will continue to rehearse during the pandemic and help to prepare individuals for international competitions. They hope to return to normal concerts in the future, continuing to share their talent and music with the Park community.