With the 2010 Conference theme being TEAMWORK, it is quite fitting that the weekend’s chamber music offerings are being expanded. Chamber music, defined as one on a part, is truly a spirit of collaboration both musically and socially. This unique learning experience requires interdependence, yet individuality. Each part is so vital to the whole, and the interaction amongst players, young or old, is crucial to success. The process of problem solving and decision making (including “agreeing to disagree”!) builds respect and empathy within an ensemble. What incredible life skills to instill in any human being.

Chamber music, being intimate in form, is often described as “music of friends”. At the Conference, such friendships will be strengthened, as well as created anew. Duos, trios, quartets, quintets, and sextets will be featured in various cross instrumentation. Preformed groups (high school or younger) of the beginning, intermediate or advanced level will have the opportunity to perform on a chamber music masterclass, led by SAA members and/or the Claremont Trio. New this year is the option for students ages 12-15 to join a non-preformed group. Such groups will rehearse with a SAA member prior to performing in a chamber masterclass. Some chamber masterclasses will be led in a side-by-side manner. This unique format, with multiple coaches leading the hour, will truly demonstrate that “the most effective teamwork is produced when all individuals harmonize their contributions and work towards a common goal” (Wikipedia). Please refer to the Student Events Audition chamber music criteria for application information.

Part of the weekend’s chamber music expansion will include special lectures on starting a chamber music program, picking appropriate chamber repertoire, identifying efficient rehearsal techniques, locating funding opportunities, preparing for gigs and outreach opportunities and the logistics of scheduling. If your program or private studio currently does not include chamber music, we hope to provide you with a toolbox of ideas on how to start such an offering. And if chamber music is already part of your curriculum, we aim to provide you with some new techniques and strategies to further develop your situation. Conference Chamber Music Co-Coordinators Susan Gagnon and Melinda Daetsch are excited about what lies ahead for May of 2010. Read below for further testimonials on the benefits of making chamber music. We encourage you and your students to apply for this special learning opportunity!

Christie Felsing, Conference Coordinator

The Value of Chamber Music

Musicians everywhere know that one of the greatest joys in life is playing chamber music. The experience of making music with friends can be the inspiration needed for students to strive for the next level of accomplishment on their instruments. In a chamber music ensemble, students learn a sense of responsibility to the music and to their peers. They support each other and learn respect for each other’s abilities as they work cooperatively.

Many of the skills we hope that our students will acquire take on a greater importance in chamber music then in their solo endeavors. A basic sense of pulse and rhythmic accuracy are refined as the puzzle pieces of a chamber work come together. Listening skills are also refined as there are many more layers of things to listen for – the balance of the parts; matching articulations; blending tone; matching vibratos, and of course tuning. Harmonic tuning is usually required rather than the melodic tuning to which most string players are accustomed; this requires slow, patient work building from the bottom voice up or tuning carefully to the piano as the case may be. Dynamics need to be lead from the most important voice in the passage, so an ear for balance is also required here.

Suzuki students are particularly well suited to working on chamber music since they have highly developed ears and listening skills and have been working on ensemble skills since their first group classes.

Some of the greatest music ever written was written for chamber music ensembles. No musician working on these great works of music can help but be touched by the power of the music. Isn’t this what we want for all of our students?

Susan Gagnon, Chamber Music Co-Coordinator

There is so much to say about the value of chamber music! Musical skills are undoubtedly deepened and strengthened through the process of working together to bring a piece of chamber music to life but beyond the development of musical skills, working on chamber music can cultivate the “beautiful hearts” that we so desire for ourselves and for our students. I have seen both in my students’ lives and in my own life how the experience of playing in a well matched chamber ensemble can ignite passion for music-making like nothing else. Also, there is something about the connections one makes with musical partners while working together in a chamber group that gives rise to the deepest kind of sensitivity to others. Delving into a piece of music together can bring the members of the group to a point of communication and connection well beyond words as they work to bring the music to life at ever more profound levels. Musical discoveries are made together rather than in the solitude of the practice room and often lasting friendships form as a result.

I am excited about the inclusion of more chamber music opportunities at the SAA conference in 2010 and throughout the SAA at large!

Melinda Daetsch, Co-Chamber Music Coordinator

“Nothing teaches musical communication, independence, listening and preparation as effectively as playing chamber music. It’s a mutual admiration society expressed on musical instruments. Chamber music is the spotlight that highlights each player against a beautiful background of sound. Each player has his moment to speak, to respond, and to contribute to the whole. And the final result is bigger than the sum of its parts.”
Catherine McMichael, composer, pianist and chamber musician

“Chamber Music has been my constant activity since I was in elementary school and played continuo with my father, who played recorder and piano; my brother, who played flute; my mother, who sang; my sister, Deborah Barrett Price, who played violin; and the numerous friends who came over to join us for Sunday afternoon meals, bridge games, and musicales. Almost forty years later, we still play chamber music—and bridge—at family get-togethers.

The point of playing chamber music is the joy of making music together, whether it is the great quartets of Beethoven, Mozart, or Bartok, or improvised chamber music which starts with us picking a mode and a rhythm and evolves from there.

As an orchestra teacher, I know that playing chamber music improves musicianship for all. Unlike solo music, we’re required to be particularly aware of intonation and pulse while we fit in with our colleagues. Unlike orchestra music, we’re the only one playing our part! The point is the joy and fellowship we share in the communication of music with our friends and family.”

Constance Barrett, cellist, orchestra conductor and chamber musician

“Chamber Music math involves being infinitely stronger together than apart. Our strengths combine, our weaknesses are supported, and we become better as a result of being with others. It is in this way that music can change the world.”
Gabe Bolkosky, Director of PhoenixPhest and violinist of the Phoenix Quartet

“Democratic in essence, chamber music demands that each individual engage in a close musical dialogue with the other performers. Their collective musical instinct, experience, knowledge, and talent guide the process of interpreting, rehearsing, and performing.”
Chamber Music America

“Chamber music provides a safe environment in which an individual can let go of any inhibitions and experience music making more fully. Thus, it encourages the artist in a person to emerge. The growth of the individual in an ensemble spurs on greater artistry from other members as well as from the group as a whole. Chamber music, then, is a never-ending source of growth.”
Julie MacLean Tehan, cellist and chamber music coordinator at Wheaton College Community School of the Arts