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Austin Chamber Music Festival 2010

Making that social connection

By Michael Kellerman, Fri., July 30, 2010

Michelle Schumann
Michelle Schumann

By the time the 2010 Austin Chamber Music Festival wraps up, its audiences will have encountered a chamber opera, a live film score, a jazz trio, a piano trio, a ragtag sextet of virtuoso tango enthusiasts, a group of budding musicians paired with Austin's songbird, and four string quartets. Woven like a fine golden thread through the four-week festival, the piano talent of festival Artistic Director Michelle Schumann serves as the inspirational anchor to such diverse and exciting performances.

So what then is chamber music, exactly? When posed to Schumann, the question hangs in the air for a moment before the answer comes: "Chamber music is somewhere at the crossroads of the art form and the environment. It is fundamentally about proximity, both of musician to the audience and musician to musician. Making chamber music is really a social connection. In my life, I've found there's no better way to get to know someone you've just met than to play music with them."

Essential to the growth of the festival from year to year are the relationships built with the musicians who take up residence in Austin. The festival is a vital part of an ongoing cycle of citywide investment in Austin's growing status as an artistic destination.

Together, the budgets for the festival and the regular season for the producing organization Austin Chamber Music Center amount to around $400,000. When you consider the breadth of performance and educational opportunities it offers for that amount, the center comes off as an amazingly lithe organization and an efficient endeavor by any account. ACMC is earning cultural capital for an emerging cultural capital.

It's one thing to include Austin as a stop on a tour that includes Tanglewood, Aspen, or Spoleto. It's quite another to see our city pop up on the list of cities lauded in the bios of the world's finest chamber groups. It's starting to happen, and this is a testament to the hard work of many arts organizations, the Austin Chamber Music Center a leader among them.

Featured at the festival during this final week:

Escher String Quartet, Friday, July 30, First Unitarian Universalist Church: Fresh from a residency at Lincoln Center, the Escher String Quartet has been in Austin throughout this year's festival as artists-in-residence, teaching students, performing around Austin, and meeting the public. For its official festival concert, the quartet will perform Haydn, Beethoven, and Bartók.

Festival Finale With Kelly Willis and Austin Chamber Music Summer Workshop Students, Saturday, July 31, Brentwood Christian School: To remind festivalgoers that the ACMC is as much about the future of chamber music as about the best of today's performers, the students of the center's summer workshop will team up with singer-songwriter Kelly Willis on a selection of songs that they have been rehearsing over their two weeks of instruction.

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