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Mendy Smith

Interlochen Adult Chamber Music

August 26, 2008 at 3:52 AM

I am back and have "recovered" from a full week of chamber music at Interlochen. My teacher recommended this program to me last winter when I asked him about summer programs for adults.


(My teacher Joel, and Ines)

The whole experience started with one VERY long trip: from Hong Kong (from a business trip) to SFO, to Portland, home for about 6 hours, back to the Portland airport the next morning to fly out to Michigan. The next afternoon the real fun began. Before signing in, I was approached to join a "dis-organized ensemble". These were apparently the norm that I looked forward to during the week.

How this works is someone decides that they want to play a particular piece (or just play), then go off recruiting for the instruments needed. Everyone meets at an agreed upon place and time. These ensembles can last anywhere from one hour to several hours. I never quite knew what I was going to be playing at any given time.

There was one "dis-organized" ensemble that I enjoyed tremendously. We ended up dubbing ourselves the "Dvorak Quartet" after playing from 10pm until midnight, ending up on the American Quartet.


(The "Dvorak Quartet")

However, the core of the program was not these dis-organized groups (although at times it seemed that this was the other way around). Each morning began with a large ensemble learning new chamber pieces. During the week we played several Brahms quartets, Beethoven's Grosse Fugue, and had the opportunity to attempt Bartok's 3rd Quartet - a piece that I never even dreamed of picking up under normal circumstances. After this, we headed off to our assigned ensemble group for the remainder of the morning for a coached session. The group, piece, and coach changed every day. It was a great way to get exposed to alot of new music, different musicians and coaches. I never did get my teacher as a coach, however on the last day I did get his wife Ines as a coach.

After lunch in the cafeteria with several hundred band camp teenagers, the afternoons had various activities scheduled, from master classes to concerts, with free time for those dis-organized ensembles.

The Chamber Music Master Classes were quite interesting. It started with a group playing a piece of their choosing. Often the group was from one of the organized ensembles that took the brave step to be critiqued in front of their peers. The master class coach would then work through everything from where to sit on the stage, how to balance a piano with strings, how to "communicate" as a group, to style and technique. After two of these master classes, my head was spinning with all the new information I was trying to absorb.

At the end of the week, I had played more new pieces that I had never even heard of before, with more musicians and coaches than I had in the past two years. It stretched my sight reading skills to the limit.

After making it back home, I re-joined my quartet group for an evening of chamber music. I had found a substitute violist while I was away, so that night we played Mozart Viola Quintets. After our break, we started talking about the Brahms' quartets. The second violinist mentioned his sextet - which I happened to have with me. Much to my surprise, the first violinists knew of another cellist close by and called him! Soon afterwards, he showed up and we started playing the Brahms Sextet in Bb Major.

On the drive back home, the cellist said to me, "That week at Interlochen did wonders for you!".

Mission accomplished!

From Paul Grant
Posted on August 26, 2008 at 11:11 AM
What a wonder experience. I really enjoyed reading about it. I would like to try that program next summer!
From Karen Allendoerfer
Posted on August 26, 2008 at 11:35 AM
How fun! I'm envious. Sounds like you learned a lot and took your playing to a whole new level!
From Mendy Smith
Posted on August 27, 2008 at 4:33 AM
Paul - I'd love it if you would come next year! I think I could convince my teacher to release some of his viola quartets (ALL viola) for us :)
From Ray Randall
Posted on August 27, 2008 at 4:24 PM
Sounds great.

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