Avaloch Farm Music Institute—A Unique Laboratory for Performers and Composers

 Avaloch Farm Music Institute, New Hampshire

Avaloch Farm Music Institute, New Hampshire

It was a week of blazing intensity working with Sierra Ensemble, an ensemble of terrific San Francisco Bay Area musicians. We were in residence at the beautiful Avaloch Farm Music Institute in New Hampshire, preparing the ensemble's world premiere of my horn trio that they  commissioned from me.  

 Sierra Ensemble: Randall Weiss,violin; Marc Steiner, piano; Janis Lieberman, French horn

Sierra Ensemble: Randall Weiss,violin; Marc Steiner, piano; Janis Lieberman, French horn

Avaloch Farm is a unique musical environment created by Founder Fred Tauber and Executive Director Deborah Sherr to be an artist colony for performers. There are numerous artist colonies for composers and writers, but none dedicated to performers. However, as Deborah explained to me, right from the beginning, one of the performing groups asked if they could bring a composer along. The rest is history, as they say. 

 Deborah Sherr, Executive Director of Avaloch Farm (with her amazing dog Sylvie)

Deborah Sherr, Executive Director of Avaloch Farm (with her amazing dog Sylvie)

Now their standard residency is for a composer and performing group. What a unique experience! I was able to try new ideas and changes with Sierra Ensemble and hear instantly what worked and didn't. We rehearsed together all day,. We praised. We argued. We tried things one way and then the other. I learned how much there was to learn still about the French horn! I penciled in hundreds of changes small and large. At dinner—did I mention the gourmet meals prepared by their master chef?—we socialized with the other residents. I had a chance to ask some of the other pianists about contemporary notation conventions inside the piano. It was a blast. Late at night, I entered all the revisions on my laptop and printed new parts for our next morning.  

Minus the computer, this was how Mendelssohn, Schumann, and Brahms surely polished their own chamber works. Normally, a composer gets very little time to make comments to performers before a performance. What a luxury to have this time to interact in our era. Avaloch Farm Music Institute is an visionary idea.

By the end of the week, my four movement horn trio was really taking shape. Sierra Ensemble previewed the whispery scherzo movement both at a community outreach concert and for the other residents at Avaloch. I'm very excited for their premiere of the trio next month in San Francisco. It will be light years beyond what it might have been without this meaningful week together.

Musicians interested in applying to Avaloch can find info at: https://avalochfarmmusic.org
 

 The Avaloch Farm music studios are on the first floor, and residence units above. Demand has been so high that they had to construct an entire other building in back.

The Avaloch Farm music studios are on the first floor, and residence units above. Demand has been so high that they had to construct an entire other building in back.

 Walker pond near Avaloch Farm. Did I mention idyllic?

Walker pond near Avaloch Farm. Did I mention idyllic?

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