2015 Chapel Hill Chamber Music Workshop

Spending the first week of June each year in Chapel Hill with chamber music enthusiasts from various parts of the country (and around the world!) has long become an essential part of my summer. Catching up with the phenomenal faculty colleagues as well as exploring a vast number of chamber music literature with highly dedicated participants are among the most inspiring moments I get to enjoy. It was also fun to be joined by the Larchmere String Quartet, this year's young artists ensemble, and we had great time performing Mozart's Clarinet Quintet for an incredible group of audience on the first evening of the workshop

with LSQ at the reception - intentionally looking upset for no reason...

Each year, I am both amazed and invigorated by what our participants manage to achieve. Mostly comprised of highly successful individuals in their own fields (and many who are retired), they display not only an impressive degree of technical and musical proficiency but a true understanding of the intrinsic communication through chamber music. The long hours of coaching, rehearsals, and of course our famous "marathon" concerts are exhausting, but I always end up wishing that the week did not end. 

Working with adult amateur musicians poses many different challenges than what I normally encounter with my own students. Serving past six years as a faculty member at the workshop enlightened me various ways to articulate musical ideas without being too technical and creative means to overcome problems and mediate differences. My aspiration of helping our participants (many of them now good friends) through musical journey is always realized by their hard-work and positive feedback. Below is an excerpt from a truly gratifying email I received a few days ago from one of the participants whom I share a great deal of mutual respect:   

"I have always enjoyed both listening to you – your extraordinary musicianship is complemented by a beautiful sound that truly exemplifies the “open inner embouchure” Don [Oehler, also my formal teacher] is fond of talking about – and your coaching.  You always wish to get the most out of the players you work with (even when constrained by the most rudimentary of performance problems such as those I have been plaque with, certainly in past years) yet you never give up trying to make everyone do their best.  You apologized one day for not wanting to make the sessions like a conservatory, but that is exactly what makes you so effective: you just have only one high standard."

One of the participant ensembles I coached at the workshop

More than ever, I am fully convinced at the immense power of chamber music to connect people and bring the best out of our collective mind. I am thrilled at the prospect of continue sharing this experience with many people I will meet through performing, teaching, and listening.  

Each year, I discover several hidden gems in our repertoire. This year, my dear friend and mentor Freddy Arteel, brought this marvelous work by the Flemish composer Piet Swerts.