Where I Realized What Music Could Be

It is not unusual for a person to identify a space in their lives that has been “flagged,” a moment they consider essential and pivotal. These moments are not just life changing, but have become so deeply tied to our core being that an entirely different person would exist had the initial moment not occurred. Bill Quillen, recently named Dean of the Oberlin Conservatory, instantly points to his time at Kinhaven as one of those pivotal moments. “Had it not been for Kinhaven, my life would have gone in an entirely different direction.” 

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A Conversation with Sarah Whitney:

By: Karl Grohmann

Sarah and I grew up attending Kinhaven Music School together in the1990s. I recently had the privilege of reconnecting with Sarah and talking about our Kinhaven memories and our continued musical journeys since our childhood.

“As a young kid going to a camp like Kinhaven, I don’t think I realized how special and unique it was to learn dances and madrigals together until later in life. It’s those special traditions that were magical.” Sarah has many fond memories from her summers. I listened to her talk about folk dancing, madrigals, Wally Wampus, and chamber coaching with Ken Kwo, and could hear her excitement while revisiting these memories. As we spoke, our pasts were coming back to life, and we agreed that the magic that we experienced as young students is very much a part of who we have become. We carry snapshots of these moments that bring back such joy. Sharing these stories of how Kinhaven served as such an integral part of our development really spoke to one truth, that there really is no other place quite as special as Kinhaven.

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“It’s very possible that if I never went to Kinhaven I never would have started writing music.”

Listening to the eclectic and marvelous music of composer Jon Russell is a pleasure quite apart from his Kinhaven connection—but remembering the connection provides a delight of its own. At Kinhaven, there was very little Jon did not do. He played clarinet and wrote his first compositions (senior session 93-95), washed pots (95-98), and baby-sat then little Isaac Shultz, son of Peter Shultz and Mary Watt (1998). Between and beyond his Kinhaven summers, he graduated from Harvard with a degree in music, got a master’s at the San Francisco Conservatory, where he later taught theory, and completed his PhD at Princeton with a dissertation on Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

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The Kinspirit Ethos: A Deep Optimism and Idealism

We all had something to offer. That’s something that – especially at that age – was formative and important. I’ll always be thankful to Kinhaven for that.”

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A Balancing Act: Designing the Faculty Concert Series

When Deborah Buck joined the Kinhaven faculty in 2001, she and her colleagues would hand then-director Nancy Bidlack slips of paper on Thursday during Staff Week (the week before camp opens), listing works they’d like to perform. Nancy would invite them in by instrument group the next evening to choose which parts of which pieces they wanted to play, with the first of five faculty concerts scheduled for a week later. Faculty members would perform three to five times, “so it would be a massive cram session to prepare a lot of repertoire for the rest of the summer,” Deborah said. Faculty would digest the music as fast as they could, while teaching all morning, practicing all afternoon, and rehearsing at night. Deborah said she remembered one summer having to learn Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du soldat” and Tchaikovsky’s “Souvenir de Florence” in less than a week!

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A Space that Valued Us

I went to a large, elite, suburban, and competitive public high school. While I excelled, the culture wasn’t “deliberate,” the way Kinhaven’s was. It didn’t feel okay to be as smart as I was, particularly as a girl, and jealousy and competition were excessive. In my class of four hundred I was an unknown – and I didn’t want to be known. I didn’t know my principal and had never seen her. (Some of us joked she didn’t exist outside of the disembodied voice on the intercom.) The school promoted a narrow vision of what it meant to be successful, and I hated it for that.

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Kinhaven Is Home for Me

The US Army announced this March that Staff Sergeant Nicole Daley of the 82nd Airborne Division Band will represent US Army Music Careers at the International Women’s Brass Conference in May in an all-women brass quintet. Read More

Every Village Has a Different Swing on Its Dances!

“To dance is part of being a musician,” says viola faculty Kenneth Kwo. “If you can feel a rhythm, you can dance.” As Kinhaven’s resident folk-dance teacher, Ken can tell whether it will be a good year for the orchestra by listening to campers’ feet: “If they listen, keep time, and not get too caught up in things, it’s going to be good.” Read More