Dear Phi Betas,
My sincere thanks to the Phi Beta National Council for awarding me the 2017 Esther Kellogg-Schultz Alumni Grant. It provided me with the opportunity to coach chamber ensembles, perform with the staff ensemble, and work individually with several brass players at the Humboldt University Brass Chamber Music Workshop in Arcata, California. The opportunity was a huge professional boost to my career because I live in New Jersey and had never even been to California, let alone been called out there to perform. This grant money went a long way toward paying for my travel to and from the workshop.
I was able to make professional and personal relationships with people from all over the world who came to be part of this workshop. Additionally, having the opportunity to peruse the largest library of brass chamber music in the world every day for a week informed me about the current state and variety of brass chamber music and allowed me to find several hidden gems among the literature. I even found a piece that was written for the workshop’s composition competition by a young Jan Bach, on whom I wrote my doctoral dissertation. Because of the unique atmosphere of the workshop, it was no trouble to put together a septet to read through it!
Every day at the workshop, I coached two ensembles of various ability levels and sizes. As a group of coaches, we put participants in different chamber groups each night. I was responsible for knowing about the members in each group and picking about ten pieces that they used for sight-reading and learning. Then, near the end of their five daily hours of rehearsal, they chose their piece to be performed that evening. Each participant was in an entirely different group with a different coach each day. This was a workshop setting, and so the pieces each evening weren’t perfectly prepared, but that wasn’t the point. The point was to learn about the repertoire, learn about playing in a chamber group, and bring great music to the attention of others. I also played in the staff chamber ensemble and we premiered a new piece written for the group by Ron Goldstein.
Because the workshop is a learning environment, photos and videos were pretty strictly discouraged most of the time. The workshop also encouraged everyone to get away from the online world and just focus on music for the week. Having no wireless Internet certainly helped! I would like to share a few photos from my time in California, including my trip there and back. I’m already discussing going back to the workshop next year and this project has opened up connections in the area for further future gigs. I’d like to sincerely thank Phi Beta for helping me to make this project possible!
Thanks and Phi Beta love,
Amy Schumaker Bliss