Brittany Gelb ‘21, a native of Allentown, has been practicing musical instruments for eleven years. On campus, she has played the violin for the chamber orchestra, the choir and the wind ensemble. This semester, Gelb is dedicating her time to the viola da gamba as part of the historical music group Collegium Musicum.
Upon speaking with Gelb, it was clear that she is someone driven by a desire to accomplish and a motivation to succeed. She is always looking for her next challenge. Unsurprisingly, taking up a new “challenge” was how she found herself in the world of music.
“There was a program in my elementary school where you could choose to play any band or string instrument,” said Gelb. “When I was trying to choose an instrument to play, somebody said that the violin is the hardest instrument to learn…I wanted a challenge.”
Indeed, it was a challenge conquered. Gelb’s proudest musical achievement was a result of a years-long goal. As a middle schooler, she told herself that she would learn to play Hillary Hahn’s Mendelssohn Violin Concerto before high school graduation. Fast forward several years, at a school concert three days before graduation, Gelb successfully played the piece. After experiencing that pride and satisfaction, Gelb pushed herself to keep succeeding and keep accomplishing.
Her next musical challenge? Collegium Musicum.
Collegium Musicum specializes in music of the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Gelb began learning the viola da gamba, a renaissance instrument, during her freshman year at ‘Berg. Since then, she has advanced to playing the instrument as part of the special historical group.
Gelb described the group as a “very relaxed kind of musical group…It is pretty unique because of its historical performance.”
The ensemble meets to practice once a week. Gelb stated that collaborating with her peer musicians is her favorite aspect of the musical experience.
“I love the collaborative aspect of playing with other people and the challenge of learning new music and improving my technique.”
The group is currently preparing for their concert set for Nov. 9th in the Egner Chapel. Gelb, as well as the entirety of the Muhlenberg Collegium Musicum group, is very excited and highly anticipating the performance.
When Gelb is not learning new music with Collegium, she is challenging herself as a mathematics major. At surface level, this is seemingly unrelated to her musical passion. However, Gelb believes that music and math share several meanings and qualities in her life.
“Both math and music demand a kind of mental persistence,” said Gelb. “Often with math, it takes a very long time to understand a hard problem or gain insight about some mathematical concept. The same thing is true of practicing music in any sense.”