I recently heard from a dear friend I met at Marlboro Music Festival many years ago. I haven’t seen that friend for over 25 years, but the message triggered an avalanche of memories of that special place – a truly magical, quirky utopia of music-making in the mountains of Vermont. To say that the first of my four summers at Marlboro was an eye-opener would be an understatement.
Marlboro is a place with no bells and whistles, no big marketing office, no fancy programs, no hoopla. It’s a rustic campus with several old buildings, a dining hall, dirt pathways, and lots of trees. Having heard about the legendary festival long before getting to go there myself, I remember thinking as I drove up for the first time, “This is it?” But in these twenty years since my last summer there, my understanding of Marlboro’s magic has become quite clear. The point of Marlboro has nothing to do with boosting your résumé, networking or even performing, although you may do all those things while you’re there. Instead, Marlboro is where you steep, absorb, acquire a reverence for chamber music and begin to understand what it means to make music that reaches a little higher. Most musicians probably have a memory of an “aha” moment when they said to themselves, “ohhhhh, so that’s what INCREDIBLE sounds like.” For me, that moment happened at Marlboro. I think of those summers often when I practice, when I’m deciphering a phrase or looking for ways to lift a passage to the next level. The learning curve was steep at times, but my years at Marlboro were a tipping point and many of the lessons I learned there have informed my approach to performing, teaching and even life.
The outward trappings that surround a musical career are necessary if you want to perform somewhere besides your living room, but they really have little to do with music. The real stuff – the heart, the inner world, the passion, the very personal quest for better – well, that’s pretty much just between you and the wind. And if my memory serves, there was always an open breeze at Marlboro.
This touching post from world-renowned harpist Yolanda Kondonasis, who came to Marlboro for the first of four summers in 1986, captures so beautifully the sentiments of so many of the three generations of artists who have spent formative summers in Vermont and who have gone on to become leaders in all areas of music.
Coming two days after the joyous closing performance of the Beethoven Choral Fantasy, with our whole community – musicians, staff, family members, and even the inn keeper from down the road – playing in the orchestra or singing in the chorus with Artistic Director Mitsuko Uchida and Leon Fleisher conducting….it seems such a fitting exclamation mark for what was a truly remarkable summer.
Hope you can be with us next year and/or at some of our Musicians from Marlboro concerts in the coming season.
Greetings from all of us at Marlboro (before the movers arrive on Friday),
The summer’s programs and more at marlboromusic.org