Posts Tagged ‘Vermont Mozart Festival’

2010 – conducting the arts in vermont

January 3, 2011

If there is one word that decribes the performing arts scene in Vermont (particularly Burlington) this past year, it must be ‘transitional’.

Here’s the overview:

  • The Vermont Mozart Festival hired Gil Shohat as their new Artistic Director this past summer, replacing founding director Mel Kaplan (who then – less than consenting – was moved into an emeritus advisory role). Then, less than a month ago, the Festival announced it was closing the score after 37 years of summer concerts. Insurmountable financial deficits were cited as the reason.
  • The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts said goodbye to its 30-year founding director Andrea Rogers, and welcomed John Killacky as the next Executive Director.
  • Jane Ambrose retired in June after 23 years as the Director of the UVM Lane Series. She was succeeded by the Series’ former manager, Natalie Neuart.
  • The Vermont Youth Orchestra emerged from a year of interim conductorship with Andrew Massey to hire a new permanent Artistic Director. Ronald Braunstein arrived from New York City this summer to assume the role. In early October, the VYO’s Executive Director Caroline Whiddon unexpectedly announced her forthcoming departure in the end of January. On December 8th, WCAX-TV reported that Braunstein would also be leaving his new post in the end of January. The circumstances of the situation remain unclear to the public. To date there has been no public statement from the Orchestra or its board about the decision, though (apparently inconclusive) closed meetings have been taking place to discuss the situation. At this moment, Braunstein remains in his position as the VYO’s Artistic Director – for how long is a good question. (Here’s a Burlington Free Press article about Braunstein’s performance with the VYO at Burlington First Night.)

Now that the foundation has been recreated and reshaped for many of these important organizations, let’s hope for a prosperous, creative – and stable – 2011!

vt mozart festival – finale.

December 21, 2010

Press release:


Burlington, VT (12/21/2010 at 3:20pm)

After 37 summers, the Vermont Mozart Festival will be closing its doors on or before January 15th. Since 1974, the Festival featured world-class performances in beautiful and historic locations around the state. Countless generations of family and friends came together for three weeks each summer to enjoy enchanting classical music under the stars. In recent years, though, the organization began to incur debt from which it simply could not recover.

“In spite of the fact that public support has increased dramatically over the past six years, we have not seen a continuing interest in programming,” said Executive Director Timothy R. Riddle. “The audience has been steadily decreasing. We engaged a wonderful new artistic director to revamp programming, in the hopes of increasing ticket sales. Unfortunately, due to lack of financing, the Festival was unable to continue to move forward with these plans long enough to allow these changes to have an impact.”

Riddle was hired on as Development Director in 2005 and promoted to Executive Director in 2007, leading efforts to increase individual and corporate donations and put the organization back into the black.

But as fundraising improved, ticket sales dropped. After two years of heavy rain and economic recession, the Festival’s ticket sales had sunk well below expected revenues. Riddle and Board President Richard Parlato announced during August 2009’s Grand Finale concert that the Festival was running a deficit of greater than $400,000.

The announcement prompted a swift response from Festival supporters, which helped reduce the deficit by half. The Festival aimed to further reduce debt in 2010 through increased publicity and accompanying ticket sales, by ramping up media coverage and announcing a talented new artistic director, Israeli pianist and composer Gil Shohat. Even the notoriously unpredictable Vermont weather cooperated, with Festival patrons enjoying some of the nicest midsummer evenings in recent memory.

However, 2010 ticket sales still remained lower than expected. The Festival was left with a deficit that had crept back up to more than $325,000. Several months were spent pursuing financing with longtime presenting sponsor, People’s United Bank. Vendors patiently waited for payment, but when it became evident that the bank loan request was declined, the organization had no choice but to cease operations.

“I want to thank all our friends and partners for their years of support. The music played a major role in my life and I know in yours. I can assure you this has been neither a simple nor easy decision for the Vermont Mozart Festival board. I will miss all the wonderful summer nights and the magic of the music in our beautiful state,” said Parlato.

The Festival consistently had been named by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce as one of Vermont’s Top Ten Summer Events, and was regarded by its attendees as one of their favorite summer rituals. The Festival was also voted 2010 Best Outdoor Concert Series by Seven Days Magazine and was listed as a Top-Rated Arts Nonprofit by earlier this year.

it ain’t over

August 24, 2009
Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Violinist/Artistic Director Soovin Kim

Summers here are all the sweeter for the outdoor music. Right? It starts with the big bang of the Discover Jazz Festival just after Memorial Day. From there on out every restaurant, park and tent-able space erupts in sound, happily for weeks on end.

Did I mention the berry patches? Those too. One of my favorite places to kick off the shoes and enjoy some live tunes is the Owl’s Head Blueberry Farm in Richmond. Tuesdays and Thursdays through July and August offer live musical accompaniment to pick a few quarts. It’s great. And hey – it’s almost over. This is the last week, check out the schedule and by all means get there if you can. July’s rain has made for some of the biggest, fattest, sweetest berries in years. The 8 brimming quarts in the freezer can back that one up. I’m hoping to go for 16 before the week’s over. It’s a long time before next summer.

This year we even had the extra bonus of the Lake Champlain Quadricentennial events to keep things exciting through the end of June and start of July, before the “real” festival season fired up later in the month with the annual Vermont Mozart Festival, Marlboro, the Killington, Manchester, and Central Vermont’s Chamber Music Festivals, and … on.

So we come to late August and it feels a little empty. Like the day after Christmas, or that odd quietness in the house the morning after hosting a really great party.

Enter the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival. I first heard about the plans around a year ago when Soovin Kim visited us at Vermont Public Radio. He came that day to play violin, and he mentioned his role as Artistic Director in getting the first plans for this summer’s LCCMF off the ground. It all seemed so far away then. Now it’s here: a new music festival starting in late August just as so many others are wrapping up.

The events began today as artist-in-residence David Ludwig led the first of the week-long “Listening Club” sessions (today’s subject: Shostakovich’s Op. 127 songs on poems by Alexander Blok). Schubert’s lovely song cycle Liederkreis is tomorrow’s discussion subject, and then you can hear soprano Hyunah Yu singing the Blok song cycle in the first of the Festival concerts on Weds. night, at 7:30. Two more concerts follow on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon.

Summer’s not over yet. It’s just rounding third now, fueled by the afterburn of an already very fine live music season.

Festival details (all concerts at the Elley-Long Music Center on the St. Michael’s campus):

the complete schedule, with the Listening Club workshop information

schedule information for concerts only


vermont mozart festival @ the radiator, event #3

August 4, 2009
8/3/09 - Andrew Schwartz, as viewed through a segment of his own bassoon.

8/3/09 - Andrew Schwartz, as viewed through a segment of his own bassoon.

Even the largest orchestras, while they may may have a few dozen string players, rarely employ more than one or two full-time bassoonists.

“It has to come from a place of passion,” were the words of long experience from bassoonist Andrew Schwartz, when I asked what advice he gives his students on how to rise to the top as a performer on such a specialty instrument. He also emphasized the hard work, practice and tenacity aspects (oh, that!) of his own successful career.

8/3/09 - VT Mozart Festival Exec. Director Tim Riddle & bassoonist Andrew Schwartz

8/3/09 - VT Mozart Festival Exec. Director Tim Riddle & bassoonist Andrew Schwartz

Schwartz visited the Radiator yesterday for the grand finale in a series of three “Mondays with Mozart” this summer, in partnership with the Vermont Mozart Festival. He’s a regular performer with the Festival, and has a featured role in the concert coming up this Friday (playing Mozart’s only remaining Bassoon Concerto).

As the Burlington Yoga Studio filled with listeners and late afternoon sunlight, Schwartz opened the session by handing out pieces of his bassoon. Yes, segment by segment, the instrument was dispersed throughout the room to amused audience members who hesitantly accepted them, turning the burnished pieces over and over and glancing at each other with some puzzlement.

Schwartz explained, “I always like to hand out the pieces of my bassoon. It really shows people, it’s just a bunch of sticks!” Then as quickly as he had distributed them he collected the parts, assembled them, and launched a lively and entertaining session that included famous bassoon highlights from Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Stravinsky’s haunting opening to The Rite of Spring, and – of course – “Grandpa’s” voice from Peter and the Wolf.

Just a bunch of sticks? So are chopsticks and pencils. And toothpicks, for that matter. They sure don’t sound like that.


(“World of Music” returns from summer hiatus on Monday, August 17th, starting at 3pm EDT. Listen online at The Radiator, or in Burlington, VT at 105.9FM.)

community radio

August 1, 2009
@ the Radiator: impromptu mic repair

@ the Radiator: impromptu mic repair

A  couple of weeks ago when I arrived at the Radiator for my show I found the main mic dangling from a neatly tied piece of twine. Must have been some failure in the mic stand over the weekend. It happens occasionally with some of the well-loved, mostly donated equipment in the studio. Also typical is the obvious care someone took with the limited resources at hand, to install a temporary fix. Sure, it made it difficult to adjust into any fixed position, making for something of a moving target for talking. But it worked. Likewise with the clear packing tape holding the headset together – peeling away on one side, assuring the extraction of a few hairs with each use, but carefully mended and completely functional if not too pretty.

I’ve worked in a lot of different situations over the last couple of decades in radio. From low-power and college-affiliated radio stations to independent, community licensees; from stations built on little more than a mission to those with stable funding and strong budgets. It’s made for a wide range of differences in facilities, equipment, and engineering capacity. I’ve found though, regardless of the externals, the people I meet in radio do it for the simple reason they love the art. That goes for those on both sides of the mic, the hosts and the support staff, as well as the unseen/unheard volunteer forces that have been an important part of the experience at EVERY station where I’ve worked.

This Monday you’re invited to come on over for a visit and meet some of the folks behind the eclectic mix on Burlington’s all-volunteer,  low-power community station. The Radiator will be hosting the last of the three “Mondays with Mozart” events planned this summer, in partnership with the Vermont Mozart Festival. Bassoonist Andrew Schwartz will be in the Burlington Yoga Studio for an open house live performance starting at 4:15pm. (We might even get a preview of the rare work Andrew’s playing with the Festival later in the week: Mozart’s only bassoon concerto.) If you’re in the area – stop by for the live music!

(The Burlington Yoga Studio is on the 2nd floor at 215 College St. downtown. The Radiator’s on the floor above it.)

vermont mozart festival @ the radiator, event #2

July 27, 2009
7/27/09 - Jennifer Grim

7/27/09 - Jennifer Grim

World of Music is taking a short summer break, we’ll be back in business later in August with a fresh collection of tunes from every corner, with the usual unusual assortment of  jazz, poetry, blues and world sounds.

‘Til then, “Mondays with Mozart” on The Radiator feature visiting performers from the annual Vermont Mozart Festival. Last week we talked with oboist Marc Schachman. This week the spotlight turned to another veteran wind player, the Festival’s principal flutist Jennifer Grim. (Next week we’ll complete the trio with bassoonist Andrew Schwartz.)

At the start of the conversation she remarked that it’s especially nice to come back to New England to work with the Festival now that she’s moved away. I wasn’t sure quite how to take that, but she quickly explained herself. As an associate professor at UNLV (“a place where they still look forward to rain”, noted Exec. Director Tim Riddle), Dr. Grim’s landscape has changed much since she moved from New York City to Las Vegas. Summers in Vermont, rainy or not, are a welcome change of scenery.

Change of pace? Well, probably that too, but maybe not in the expected way. With around 10 concerts in the three weeks of the Festival (and no repeated programs!), the schedule is demanding, performers are chosen for their deep experience with a wide variety of repertoire, and precious rehearsal time is spent “coming to a concensus about dynamic and tempo markings,” Grim said, “we don’t have time to spend hours discussing it.”

As the studio’s temperature and humidity escalated in the late afternoon sun, the audience questions dwindled and Grim offered to play a Bach Partita. It was elegant and lovely – light, while the day hung heavy and hot. She performed standing. Sort of. The lilting Partita was accompanied by Grim gracefully and naturally moving with the music: raising up on her toes in the high register, leaning in (as if listening, or encouraging listening) to the pianissimo passages, and dipping and swaying to dig into the arpeggios.

Executive Director Tim Riddle and Jennifer Grim

VT Mozart Festival Executive Director Tim Riddle and Jennifer Grim

“Do you have training as a dancer?” asked one audience member in the short followup q & a after the performance “Yes, I do,” Grim admitted shyly, “I took ballet lessons from four years old to college.” Though she also confessed that it often took observers to let her know afterward she’d been moving with the music she was playing.

Along with the work she does in the full Festival Orchestra, Grim often takes on solo or ensemble work over the course of the summer’s programs. Like the all-Bach and Prokofiev concert coming up on the 31st. She’ll be seated for that performance, I’m guessing, but that won’t keep you from enjoying the dancing lightheartedness she brings to her music.

Listen to the final “Mondays with Mozart” event next week, starting at 3pm. It’s 105.9FM in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator.

vermont mozart festival: ying quartet

July 22, 2009
the Ying Quartet at Bolton Valley

the Ying Quartet at Bolton Valley

Second concert of the season for this year’s Vermont Mozart Festival was last night, with the Ying Quartet visiting the newly built “Ponds” at Bolton Valley.

As the (mostly – keep reading) sibling quartet moves into their second decade together now, they’re doing it with some big changes.

Or, at least one big one: this past April it was announced that first violinist Timothy Ying was leaving the ensemble for more time with family and new business ventures in Canada. Replacing his role meant finding just the right player to fill the musical void and complement the sound of the group. Given the intimate nature of quartets, it’s always a challenging situation for an ensemble to endure. Add to this particular situation the fact that it wasn’t just a first violinist who had to be replaced, but one of the four original members of the group…who also happened to be a brother to the remaining three members.

Big shoes? Sure. And Violinist Frank Huang is just the person to fill them – quickly! His first public appearance with the Ying Quartet was a mere three weeks ago, at the Bowdoin International Music Festival in Maine. Last night he fit in seamlessly in a diverse program of Haydn, Dvorak  and a delightful set of short Chinese classics.

It was just right that the rain began as the program’s first half  closed. The last sounds of Chen Yi’s Shuo were accompanied by the soft pattering of raindrops on the deck just beyond the room’s open doors. It felt like a recital taking place in the artfully designed acoustic of a Zen water garden.

Going into the night’s concert, I was most looking forward to the Dvorak “American” Quartet. David Ying’s gorgeous cello solo was a highlight of the second movement, luxurious and roundly warm. A little less satisfying, but still thrilling, was the exceptionally peppy finale. The vivace non troppo of Dvorak’s score was instead more of a prestissimo, as the famous steam engine ‘locomotive’ rhythm at the opening of the 4th movement came across a lot more like the Eurorail breaknecking through the countryside. Sleek, all the moving parts working together, but a little fast for comfort.

Coming out of the concert, I had to give the best of show to the perfectly crafted, delicate yet sumptuously substantial collection of Chinese classics.

At last I understand why the Ying’s newest recording of these little self-contained treasures is called Dim Sum.


Performances with the Vemont Mozart Festival continue through August 9th at various locations in the region.


The program:

HAYDN Quartet in B-Flat, Op. 33/#4

TAN DUN: Drum and Gong; Cloudiness; Red Sona

ZHOU LONG: Song of the Ch’in



DVORAK: “American” Quartet in F, Op. 96

vermont mozart festival @ the radiator, event #1

July 20, 2009

oboist Marc Schachman

I mentioned that I’ve (cheerfully!) given over my weekly World of Music timeslot on the Radiator to allow the station to feature a series of interviews and performances with visiting musicians.

For the next two Monday afternoons (3-5pm EDT), the Radiator’s airwaves will resonate with the lyrical sounds of guests from this year’s Vermont Mozart Festival.

Apparently the opening concert yesterday evening at Shelburne Farms was just about picture perfect, with a gorgeous sunsent  over Lake Champlain and a program including the dark Don Giovanni Overture, and – one of my all-time fave classics – the Brahms Variations on a Theme of Haydn. Wish I had heard it! Ah, for the want of being in two places at one time.

The first event in the Radiator series took place this afternoon with guest artist Marc Schachman. He’s played oboe with the Festival since its inception 36 years ago(!) and has recently assumed the position of principal oboe in place of Festival founder Mel Kaplan, who’s taking a more background role this season. Look for Marc as one of the four featured soloists in the Haydn Sinfonia Concertante (for violin, cello, oboe and bassoon) in the Stowe concert this Sunday.

“Music is communication”, Marc explained in the q & a session in the downstairs Burlington Yoga Studio, “it’s why were here.”

And communicate he did, graciously agreeing to play a bit of the Mozart C major Oboe Quartet acapella (and stopping to laugh at himself when he accidentally slipped into playing the violin part at one point!)

Next week’s Mozart Festival event features flutist Jennifer Grim, listen in to 105.9FM (3-5pm EDT) in Burlington, VT or online at The Radiator.

world of music – update for 7/20/09

July 19, 2009

Radiator Summer vacation time.

If you tune in tomorrow (or any Monday for the next three weeks) and wonder what’s up, I’m taking a little break with World of Music.  I’m temporarily relinquishing my regular Monday show time (3-5pm) to allow visiting guests from the Vermont Mozart Festival to perform live on the air from the Burlington Yoga Studios downstairs. (Hey, now. What’s classical music if not one of the FIRST  ‘world’ musics?)

These special performances will be broadcast live at 105.9FM in Burlington, VT and you can  listen to them live online as usual.

In the meantime, I’m collecting, I’m listening, and when World of Music resumes on 8/10 we’re going to have some FUN(K) for the rest of the summer so get ready for it!

And enjoy the VT Mozart Fest performances, they’re great musicians every one.

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