About summer festivals and workshops

Me, in rehearsal with Bent Frequency at the 2016 Charlotte New Music Festival (photo by Peter Marshall)

Late spring semester is a stressful yet exciting time for college musicians. People are hearing about acceptances to grad schools and jobs, and people are trying to finish theses and put on recitals. This is also a time when applications for summer festivals are due.

Summer music festivals are essential experiences for musicians. Not only do they give you a chance to live and breathe music for a few weeks, but you get tremendous networking out of this. You’ll meet potential professors for your next degree, and you’ll meet composers and performers from all over the world. You’ll potentially make some lifelong friends.

These festivals can be very expensive, though (especially ones overseas). If you can swing it (try having some family pitch in, or do a fundraiser), try to get to at least one during your studies.

I have attended three festivals and run one. All of these were centered around new music, so my experience may not be the same as those who have attended festivals focusing on music from the common practice era (Baroque, Classical, Romantic). I should also note that one festival features student performers and composers, while the others had professional ensembles play student composers’ works.

A daily schedule may look something like this:

  • Morning presentations by participating (student) composers
  • A lecture/presentation by a faculty composer or performer
  • Private lessons or small masterclasses with faculty composers and performers
  • Rehearsals of student composer pieces, often coached by faculty
  • Downtime for relaxing or working on a “speedwriting” composition
  • Concert
  • Dinner and/or drinking!

There may be some big collaborative event. For example, during my time with the Charlotte New Music Festival, our final concert featured new works to which choreographers created dance pieces. At the soundSCAPE festival, our last event was a musicircus-style performance of John Cage’s Song Books. Other pop-up events might happen – at CNMF we had a “new music open night” and on another night went out for karaoke.

Some of my favorite memories are from these summer festivals, so I hope you’ll go make wonderful memories, too.

Me, performing John Cage’s Song Books on a rooftop in Maccagno, Italy at the 2012 soundSCAPE festival

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