VC INTERVIEW | Violinist Ann Setzer on Choosing the Right Summer Program
Ann Setzer serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School's Precollege division, the Mannes College of Music, Killington Chamber Music Festival, DePaul University School of Music, and the Meadowmount School of Music.
Being held from June 25 to August 13, 2022, in Westport, New York, the Meadowmount School of Music was established in 1944 by pedagogue Ivan Galamian and offers a 7-week summer program in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York for aspiring professional string players.
How does a student go about choosing the right summer program? What should a student look for? And what should they factor in their decision?
The Violin Channel talked to Ann Setzer to find out:
If summer brings to mind deliciously lazy summer days free of cares and responsibilities, you are probably not thinking about attending a summer music program. For most musicians, the summer offers a terrific opportunity for personal introspection and professional growth. The freedom from academic and daily commitments allows us the time and mental space for deep concentration and hard work — fortunately, alongside other musicians who are also working hard. Whether you’re looking for a place to focus on your solo repertoire and performance, chamber music experience, or orchestral playing, there’s certainly a summer program suited to your interests and level.
Before applying to a summer festival, make some decisions about your goals, the amount of work you’re willing to do, your financial commitment, and the setting where you do your best work. Teachers in serious programs are wholly dedicated to your improvement and will push hard to ensure you achieve your goals, expecting five or more hours of daily practice. Your festival friends will probably be practicing just as much or more, so you’ll feel the intensity all around you. Festivals emphasizing solo study usually offer a dedicated practice schedule designed to maximize progress through the development of mindful practice habits. Additional offerings could include technique and scale classes, and sessions on Alexander Technique and healthy playing practices. Developing confidence in performance is a priority for most students, so look for programs with a range of performance experiences from studio classes to public concerts, and the opportunity to work and perform with experienced collaborative pianists. Concerts and master classes by amazing guest artists and faculty offer an added infusion of inspiration and motivation.
Experiences in programs devoted to the study and performance of chamber music can vary widely. Some festivals present an overview of the repertoire with a casual approach to rehearsing and performing, while other programs offer advanced courses on rehearsal skills, score reading, interpretation and analysis, interpersonal skills, along with exposure to some of the renowned chamber music performers of our time. While the work is less focused on individual technique and performance, musical growth can be outstanding.
Working with a variety of conductors and musicians in an orchestral program can also be an extremely rewarding and exciting way to spend the summer. While these programs may not offer the same focus on practice time and personal progress, you will be able to experience what it’s like to be in a professional orchestra and to perform and make connections with other musicians. The daily schedule will revolve around rehearsal time, often twice daily, and most programs give classes in orchestral audition preparation. Costs for summer programs have increased but many programs offer merit or need-based scholarships, teaching assistantships, and counselor positions to offset tuition. Many festivals are located in rural areas, often in idyllic settings and accommodations can range from rustic to excellent. If bugs drive you crazy, look for festivals with an urban setting!
Summer festivals offer great opportunities to meet musicians outside your community. It can be an excellent time to study with a teacher from a school you are interested in for your undergraduate or graduate degree or to hear a different perspective. The summer is also time to lay the groundwork for upcoming conservatory or college auditions or prepare for professional orchestra auditions.
My first experience with a summer music program was life changing. I went to Meadowmount as a student and I have been there every summer since. I found everything I was looking for, and the school now offers everything I want my students to experience: an intense focus on using the mind to improve their playing in a nurturing, friendly atmosphere where learning is almost constant. Inspiration from the outstanding students, faculty and guest soloists leads to tremendous personal and musical growth. So many of my students make lifelong friends and important connections during a summer immersed in music. In choosing any summer program, remember you are investing not only financially but also committing your valuable time. It is amazing that something as short as a summer program can often alter the musical and personal direction of your life."