A Brevard Diary, Part 2: This Was Brevard
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Just like that, my summer at the Brevard Music Center comes to a bittersweet close. In my last blog post, I reflected on the first part of my summer at the institute, in which I contemplated what would happen in the second half of my summer. Nothing could have prepared me for what was ahead. Somehow, I knew it was coming. But it was still unexpected.
First off, it rained a whole bunch. When I got to Brevard, the weather was primarily sunny. The first few days were nice; clear skies and comfortable temperatures were commonplace. Then all of a sudden, it rained. And the next day, it rained again. This cycle repeated for the rest of my time at Brevard. Sometimes, the it would rain without warning and I would be caught in it without my umbrella.
After the initial blog post, everybody at Brevard got busy. I imagine the orchestral players and the composers had it the worst; the orchestral players had a lot on their plates, including rehearsals, chamber music coachings, sectionals, concerts, composer readings and concerts, etc. The composers had several projects to complete, including large ensemble works, small ensemble works, etudes and art songs. It wasn't so bad at first with the art songs, and the first concert in which we could present old works. There were three of those concerts (called ITCH concerts) and they were in close proximity to each other so we had a limited amount of time to write the works then rehearse them. We can't say we weren't warned; sometime earlier in the festival, faculty Greg Simon said something to the effect of, "The point of Brevard is to write a TON of music in a short amount of time." He was not kidding.
It was the large ensemble works that took the most out of us. Some of my colleagues had started the work before the festival started and were still working on it by week 4. Others (myself included) wrote them quickly, and a majority of them pulled all nighters to write these things. We's spend all day in the composition studio located at stables, which was a block located near the center of campus. Our studio was a two room classroom type setting, including keyboards and a printer just for us. I can't say it was the most comfortable of settings, but it allowed us to get the job done.
We essentially lived in this place for about 6 weeks. It became kind of like a pseudo dorm away from the actual dorms we were living in. Some people would even sleep in this place.
Based on some of the items we found in the studio (including card games, office supplies, textbooks) we guessed that the studio functioned as a school building during the year. However, that didn't stop us from having a little fun with the items.
Between all the fun, we stayed hard at work. The goofing off usually happened during nights, after we had worked all day. We all maintained a sense of discipline and got what needed to be done, done. By any means necessary.
It wasn't all individual though. We had a mutual interest, and we did everything we could to share what we knew with our colleagues. Some of them had brought their instruments with them and held small classes on how to write for them, or they would sight-read some passages we had written and then offer advice. The process of composition and learning here was not internal, but external. A place like Brevard encourages collaboration like this, and we ended up learning a lot from each other whether we knew it or not.
Between all this, we still had seminar. During the last few week we brought in several of the artist faculty to talk to us about their instruments (such as bassoon, horn, guitar, etc.) and do sight-reading sessions. We even had some of the distinguished guest artists (such as Conrad Tao) pay us a visit.
On top of all this, we had start choir rehearsals for the Bernstein mass, which we performed on August 5. Every piano, composition and opera fellow had to be in the chorus. Needless to say, it took some time from our already busy schedules (and the rehearsals were miserable), but we had a glorious performance.
Then the big moment arrived: the readings! The composer's works were read and recorded by three of Brevard's large ensembles: the Symphonic Winds (high school band), the Brevard Concert Orchestra (high school orchestra) and the Brevard Sinfonia (collegiate orchestra). It was very interesting to hear what my colleagues came up with in a short amount of time. The level of musicianship was insanely good and we got amazing results in no time. I actually got to conduct the Brevard Sinfonia and was very impressed with the professionalism of the orchestra.
It was a very busy, but extremely memorable rest of the summer here in Brevard. It was a learning experience from all perspectives, and taught me the real meaning of discipline and collaboration. The level of musicianship here was really high, and so that aided the collaboration process immensely. The one takeaway from all this? Let me end with a quote by the great Leonard Bernstein, whose centennial we celebrated this summer:
To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.