I spent this summer at the Chautauqua Summer Music Festival in NY State. The Chautauqua Institution is a very unique place with a rather complex structure. Founded in 1874, the Institute was the location where Franklin D. Roosevelt gave the “I hate war” speech. Chautauqua is one of the oldest and most historical gated communities in the country, which combines art and intellect to form an extremely stimulating culture and environment. Chautauqua is “dedicated to the exploration of the best in human values and the enrichment of life.” The Music Festival is a program of the Chautauqua Institution, and consists of an Opera Program, a Ballet Program, and the Festival Orchestra/instrumental program, the latter of which I attended.
Chautauqua is primarily an orchestral training center, so I had a fantastic and rigorous orchestral experience. The Festival Orchestra performed 7 concerts over 7 weeks in the 5,000 seat amphitheater. We performed Pictures at an Exhibition, Tchaikovsky Symphony no. 4, Dvorak Symphony no. 7, Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, Shostakovich Symphony no. 5, Strauss Alpine Symphony, and Verdi’s Rigoletto, a collaboration with the Opera Program. My two favorite concerts were Pictures at an Exhibition, which was my first love in music, and the opera collaboration – the singers were amazing. We had a wonderful, perceptive conductor, Timothy Muffit, whose guidance and support throughout the summer was invaluable.
It was really great to have the opportunity to continue private studies with the Mr. and Mrs. Vamos who teach at Chautauqua during the summer. I began the long project of learning the repertoire for my conservatory auditions which I will be undertaking this year. This includes the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, several movements of Bach, and a Paganini Caprice. As always, lessons with the Vamos’ were transformational and insightful. I worked very hard on legato – an unbroken, singing sound – and ease and flexibility of technique, as well as developing my artistic voice.
The chamber music component of the summer was also quite intense. Chamber music was organized into 2 phases, with a performance at the end of each phase. For the first phase, our group learned the Fauré Piano Quartet no. 1, and for the second phase, Schubert String Quartet no. 13 in A minor. We had just one week of preparation for each concert, and the rehearsal/coaching process was expeditious, yet thorough.
The Music Festival also has a wonderful program where they connect each student up with a family living at Chautauqua for the summer. My connection was a lovely couple whose support and encouragement provided a well-appreciated break from the demanding regimen of rehearsals. We shared some great dinners of excellent food and delightful conversations.
In conclusion, I had a very worthwhile, exhausting, and enjoyable summer. Most of the other participants were undergraduate or graduate students, so I was definitely on the younger end of the spectrum. I was very grateful to receive a scholarship to be able to study at Chautauqua this summer, and I thank Chautauqua for this experience.