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If cellos could talk

I have an abiding fondness for programs for individual adult amateur musicians. They focus on the participatory element of classical music, something that often gets lost in the mainstream side of the industry (audiences, after all, are generally encouraged to buy tickets and sit still -- without coughing or, heaven forfend, clapping between movements). The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s “Rusty Musician” enterprise earlier this year demonstrated the kind of interest that exists. So does the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's annual "Community Side-by-Side" event. So do the dozens of “Messiah” sing-alongs every Christmas. So do a whole range of programs, from Kneisel Hall's Adult Chamber Music Institute to the Berkshire Choral Festival -- and the BSO is itself starting the BSO Academy in June (it is already sold out). There seems to me to be an increasing emphasis on making art rather than simply "consuming" it, and I think these programs are helping to develop something that's often missing for classical music audiences. I hope that more and more larger organizations continue exploring expanding avenues for active amateurs.

Here's a plug for one such program: “Cellospeak," an annual, intensive, week-long workshop for cellists. This weekend, the organization is celebrating its 10th anniversary with a fund-raiser in Alexandria featuring four cellists from the National Symphony Orchestra (whose cello section is one of its signal strengths): 4IN CORRESPONDENCE, playing everything from Bach to Apocalyptica. The concert is Sunday at 3 p.m., and tickets are $30; students under 18 can attend for free.

Does anyone have direct experience of participatory programs for adult amateur musicians that have been particularly noteworthy?

By Anne Midgette  |  May 14, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Washington , random musings  
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I agree, there's nothing like making music oneself. Here's a link to a local, Washington, DC opportunity, this summer, for people who want to sing some early music. I'm going to the one in June, wish I were able to go to the one in July; I've been to ones in past years, and have enjoyed learning about renaissance choral music by performing and studying it. The enterprise is called Chorworks. I have no connection to this enterprise, other than participating in them, and growing to know and like the people who run them:

Posted by: c-clef | May 14, 2010 12:34 PM | Report abuse

4IN CORRESPONDENCE were great! The program had something for everyone. The afternoon included selections from Bach, Brahms, Casals, Mark O'Connor, Toppinen (Apocalyptica), Stravinsky, and a few shorts from "The Godfather" and "The Simpsons"! Also a piece they commisioned from Paul Moravec.

Last summer I had a wonderful time at Princeton Play Week in Lexington VA. About 70 amateur musicians from all over the country had a chance to play together and receive great coaching. I'm going back again this year.

Posted by: jfitzpatrick | May 17, 2010 10:06 AM | Report abuse

One of my favorite places to meet, hear, and play with other adult amateur musicians is the monthly chamber music seminar run by DC-area composer and pianist Jessica Krash. The seminar has been meeting for 20 years (I have only participated for the last 14). Anyone who would like more information about the seminar could contact Jessica at or come to our next free recital on Sunday, May 23 at 1:00 pm at the Hand Chapel on the Mount Vernon Campus of GWU at W St and Foxhall Rd NW.

Posted by: NancyElla | May 20, 2010 10:38 PM | Report abuse

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