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New music is born at Leicester camp

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Posted on June 13, 2011 |
By John Flowers



musiccamp6980.jpg
TRISTAN RAIS-SHERMAN works on his cello with Herine Koschak in a practice room at Camp Point CounterPoint on Lake Dunmore in Leicester. Independent photo/Trent Campbell

LEICESTER — Since the founding of the Camp Point CounterPoint music school in 1963, Lake Dunmore residents have grown accustomed to the soothing tones of classical music drifting across the water on a warm summer’s day.

Those residents are currently enjoying a dazzling preview this year with the inaugural season of “New Music On The Point,” a new camp offering through which aspiring composers, vocalists and instrumentalists are refining their respective crafts under the tutelage of some of the nation’s most renowned chamber music instructors and performers.

Jenny Beck is in her fourth season as owner and director of Point CounterPoint. She purchased the scenic, Lake Dunmore property in 2008 and has re-built it into a successful camp for aspiring youth and adult musicians hailing from 15 states and four countries.

“Things have gone very well,” Beck said. “It has grown every year, not only in numbers but in terms of programming.”

The camp recently began offering sessions for adults to supplement its youth programs, which mix traditional summer recreation with a curriculum for folks who are serious and dedicated to playing an instrument and classical music.

Lake-area residents get to hear the students as they hone their skills during sessions ranging from one to five weeks. The big payoff is a series of concerts at various local venues during the summer.

Joining that musical rotation this year is the new camp, New Music On The Point, at which new chamber music compositions will be born and performed by a talented crop of up-and-coming — and already established — musicians and vocalists.

“It is entirely different,” Beck said of the new program, geared toward undergrad and graduate composers and performers, ages 17 to 26.

THE NEW PROGRAM

The composers, Beck said, were chosen back in February and assigned a piece to write specifically for performance by the cadre of instrumentalists and vocalists at the camp. The campers arrived on June 6 and began a two-week process of refining their budding creations with composers-in-residence Kathryn Alexander of Yale University and David Rakowski of Brandeis University. Alexander is also music director for New Music On The Point.

Also providing guidance to the composers, instrumentalists and vocalists are members of the innovative ensemble-in-residence 5th House Ensemble of Chicago, Philadelphia-based mezzo-soprano Jennifer Beattie and Jillian Zack of New York City, the camp’s resident collaborative pianist and alum.

Finished pieces will be performed with 5th House Ensemble on Saturday, June 18, at 2 p.m. at the Salisbury Congregational Church and on Sunday, June 19, at 2 p.m. at the Town Hall Theater.

Campers will leave with professional recordings of their compositions and make connections with fellow composers, performers and instructors that will undoubtedly serve them well throughout their careers.

“The real draw for composers is to be able to walk away with a professional recording,” Beck said.

New Music On The Point has 26 campers and nine faculty in this, its inaugural season. Half of this year’s campers are composers, the other half is a mixture of instrumentalists and vocalists. The camp only had room to accept half of those who applied. Beck attributed the demand to the “high level of faculty” and the creative nature of the offerings.

“This is a program that focuses on new chamber music; it is stuff that is being written today and performed in a few weeks,” Beck said. “It is real-time, it is dynamic. Here are these kids who are in their early 20s and they are working with these professionals. It is very exciting.”

Melissa Snoza is executive director of 5th House, a large, mixed-instrumentation ensemble that performs, educates and does arts entrepreneur work in higher education. Five of 5th House’s 10 members are at camp this session, providing guidance to the students.

“We love new music,” Snoza said. “We also love the fact that this is a brand new program … It is exciting for us to come in on the ground floor of something and help shape it. And it is really great to do it here (in Leicester). The lake is so inspiring.”

She called the level of talent at the camp “phenomenal. We have been learning as much as we have been teaching here.”

David Gottlieb is a composer studying at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is writing an original composition called “Where To?” that will be performed by clarinet, cello and piano and a song for mezzo-soprano.

“I was drawn to this program because it offered the combination of a retreat and opportunity to study with two composers I wouldn’t have a chance to study with,” Gottlieb said. “It was an exciting opportunity to work with professional musicians.”

Campers put in several hours of music-related work each day, sprinkled with some social time, meals and conventional camping activities, such as swimming and canoeing.

Alexander said she is enjoying her time at New Music On The Point, and like Snoza, is finding a lot of talented campers. She is an accomplished composer as well as being a Yale Music Department faculty member.

“The quality of work here is very high,” she said during a brief break from her mentoring. Her charges include doctoral students from Yale, Northwestern and the University of California at Berkley.

Alexander and Snoza are confident New Music On The Point will strike a positive and successful chord for many years to come.

“The thing is to try and have an environmental that is professional enough to be challenging and intimate enough to be collaborative — which you don’t always get in a more formal program that is much larger,” Alexander said.

Looking at the sweeping lake vista, Alexander asked rhetorically, “How could you not be inspired?”

Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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