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!

Despite the pressure, the process worked well, so when Deborah took over from Nancy in 2011, she kept it much the same but now begins planning for the next year’s concerts during the fifth week of camp. Following the Bidlack method, Deborah takes the slips of paper submitted by faculty and tallies up the players needed. At the end she organizes the eighteen to twenty pieces onto a flip chart divided into the five concert weeks. Then she starts moving things around, a not-so-simple matter of stitching everything together into five programs of the right length and number of musicians. Once she’s balanced concert length, number of performances for each musician, and weeks off, Deborah invites faculty to choose their pieces. “By the time we leave camp each summer, everyone knows what they’re going to play the next summer,” she said.

Long-time cello faculty Adam Grabois said the concert programming is integrated into the curriculum. “We think about what students should be exposed during the summers they spend with us,” he said. “Over the course of a few years we’ll try to include composers whose works are essential to the chamber music canon – Beethoven, Brahms, Haydn, and Mozart, among many others.” Adam said these are often the composers students are studying in their own chamber groups or in orchestra. He added that it is also important for students to experience new music, such as the works performed this year by Jennifer Higdon and our composer-in-residence, Nicolas Scherzinger.

from l. to r.: Deborah Buck, Michelle Abraham, Tomoko Fujita, Adam Grabois, Aundrey Mitchell peform the Schubert String Quintet in C major

With a year to prepare, faculty arrive at camp each summer knowing their parts and ready to rehearse. The approach is very connected to the way they work with students. “We strive to bring out the essence of the music, just as we encourage students to do. This is something we work on during coaching sessions. It’s not just about technique; it’s about how you want the audience to feel,” Deborah said. While accuracy and technique are important, “our aim is to serve the music and the audience.” She added, “It feels good to be able to prepare these huge works like we would do for any other professional engagement.”

The preparation has contributed to the quality of the concerts, and as the  Kinhaven name and reputation for delivering superb chamber music performances have grown among Westonites and visitors, audiences have grown concomitantly. It’s not uncommon to see a full house at Saturday evening concerts. 

As a consequence of this success, Kinhaven is seeking to expand the capacity of the Concert Hall to offer a more comfortable audience experience, add practice rooms, improve green rooms, and add storage capacity.

For Everybody Gives Day this September, Kinhaven has an ambitious goal of raising $75,000. If successful it will allow Kinhaven to begin the renovation of the concert hall and fully funding the purchase of the Steinway B concert grand that debuted this summer. The funds raised will be matched by a group of generous donors and a challenge grant from the EHA foundation. For more information or to make an Everybody Gives Day donation in advance, please reply to this email message or log on to www.kinhaven.org/everybody-gives-day-2019

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