summer chamber music workshops/festivals
This has been touched on in some other threads but wanted to dedicate a whole thread to it.
Im looking for recommendations for summer music workshops in either the US or Europe, that cater to both serious/advanced amateurs, and music students. I want there to be a mix of ages as I am 34 and find I'm older than most music students, and younger than most amateurs. I am a "returner", currently practicing 2-4 hours a day and taking lessons, I am trying very hard to improve and I think making good progress. I'm working on Bach's A minor unaccompanied sonata right now (sonata #2), the Grave and the Allegro. I am also about to start working on the Franck sonata. I haven't delved into major concertos but my teacher thinks I am ready for Bruch in a couple months if I keep practicing as I am. I really want to challenge myself with a high-level course this summer and my passion is chamber music so I want it to be all or mostly chamber music (a bit or orchestra is ok...but not so keen on solo as I can get that year-round with private teachers! finding other people to play with is much harder). I'm looking for the "intensive" experience--less repertoire, more in-depth and detailed rehearsal. If anyone knows of something that fits this description, I'd really appreciate tips!! Last year I waited too long to start looking and so I really want to start earlier this time, and have plenty of time to prepare an audition recording.
I'm flexible with my location so US and Europe are both fair game.
Thanks in advance!
Hi Sylvie! If you join the "Associated Chamber Music Players" (acmp.net) there is a listing of I think hundreds of chamber music programs and you might enjoy trying to find one near you to connect with like-minded musicians. I attended the Bennington chamber music conference (Vermont) last year which I really enjoyed although the amount of repertoire was somewhat extensive/overwhelming. I have never been to the Kent program (upstate NY and Washington State locations) but they will spend the entire week on a single string quartet which is probably as intensive as you will ever find. My understanding is that both of these are among the most serious as far as the music goes. Having not heard you play I can't say whether or not these are the right programs for your playing level--those Bach pieces are very difficult to play well, perhaps harder than Bruch but they tend to stay in low positions and generally only involve on the string bowings. I think for both of the programs I mentioned you probably need to be comfortable playing multiple types of bow articulation (on and off string) and up to 7th position.
Thanks Isaac! I have joined ACMP, looked at their lists and done lots of internet research myself, but after a few disappointing experiences with such summer programs I realize that unfortunately looking at a program's website does not always give an accurate idea of what the program is really like, so that's why I'm trying to discuss this with some real people this year. The Kent program sounds right up my alley... thank you and I will definitely look into that one!
Maybe you should let us know what specifically disappointed you about the programs you experienced. That way it might be easier to recommend something.
Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music (in NH) may appeal to you. It's all chamber music (hence the name). There are 5 10-day sessions to choose from throughout the summer. It's all-ages (13 - 90), and there are some fantastic players in every age group. Participants are grouped by ability as opposed to age. The repertoire is really interesting. Feel free to PM me if you want to know more about it.
Sylvie, could you name the programs you previously attended? And provide more details about what you did and didn't like about them? It'd be both useful for making recommendations, and for everyone else trying to make summer-camp decisions.
Hi Karen, I'd love to know more about Apple Hill, I saw their website and thoought it looked good, would be great to hear of someone's real experience. Couldn't figure out how to PM--could you write it on this thread? The one thing I thought I might not like about Apple Hill was it looked like there wasn't much rehearsal time (3 hours a day I think?) I'd prefer more.
Sylvie, Apple Hill assigns each participant to two (or sometimes three) groups, and each group has a 90-minute coaching each day. That's just the coached-rehearsal time, though - people can (and do) practice and rehearse a lot more than that, especially if coaches ask for improvements (and they do). I would say that Apple Hill seems a lot like your description of Summer Music West, except it's not just high school students.
Thanks Sylvie, that's useful information.
Hi Lydia, it wasn't that I was "concerned," I just noticed that players there had a different mindset than mine and would like to find a workshop with more like-minded people. In that workshop, people were prepared in that they had learned the notes, could play without missing notes or getting lost, etc. But there were still some things that could be better--intonation, tone, musicality, etc. Not that anyone was playing badly, but even for professionals, there is always more polishing work that can be done, right? This has always been my attitude towards my own playing--that it could always be better, even after I "know the music". I enjoy polishing things and especially if I'm going to perform the piece, would rather spend my spare time on polishing so that I can have a better performance, rather than sightreading completely unrelated things "just for fun." I found the attitude of those at the workshop was different, that past a certain point they didn't seem to care about playing their part better, for them it was "good enough" (the coaches also didn't push all that much to get to a higher level) and sightreading new music was more enjoyable for them than polishing. I'm not criticising that mindset at all, it's just a matter of different preferences. In my experience so far, I find music students are more "kindred spirits" in this mindset than amateurs are, even though I've met some amateurs playing at very high level, much better than me, but this is more about mindset than ability. Does that make sense?
Oh hm. That's interesting. Coaches that are not materially improving the group are a problem. But my guess is that you are going to find it very challenging to find amateur programs where people lock themselves up at night to practice rather than doing something social like reading works. Especially if there are a few minutes in the day when you can snatch 5 minutes to fix a spot.
haha, Really? which camp was that?
I'd recommend checking out the SoCal Chamber Music Workshop, which meets at the end of July at Scripps College in Claremont, CA: http://www.socalchambermusic.com/
I have heard really good things about the SoCal workshop but I do think there's a fair amount of evening freelancing there as well.
Sylvie, I was at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra's Academy. I really loved the people there -- very much my tribe. Lots of very high-achieving, driven professionals with wide-ranging interests, including a love of music and often a diligent devotion to getting better. The program combined amateurs with pros (mostly music educators, which would include some freelancers). Many of the amateur string players were still taking lessons. The 2nd violinist in my quintet there was a Peabody performance graduate and professional symphony player; when they took ill, they were replaced by someone who studied at Juilliard Pre-College and was a highly accomplished violinist.
In Norway the chamber music society arrange two week-long courses with the Maggini Quartet. The vast majority of people going there are preformed groups - some formed just for the course others play together regularly. Each group get their own room and there are daily sessions with one of the instructors, who alternate between groups. Each group get sessions with all of the instructors so you get different perspectives. Most groups focus on one work, some bring two. And there is time as well for socializing, sight reading with people from other groups if you like etc.
I have done Kent Music several summers. A little quirky— you get assigned to different groups every day, and get different coaches in morning and afternoon. But you do get a lot of serious work on one piece (this year it will be Op 95), and faculty/assignments are good. Generally really nice people, too, and some seriously good ones.
I really resonated with what Katie B wrote. That rings true to me.
Thanks very much for the thoughts and suggestions, everyone! Very helpful :)