The Violin Channel recently caught up with Janet Sung, who was recently appointed Artistic Director of the prestigious Meadowmount School of Music.
The Meadowmount School of Music summer program was founded 78 years ago by legendary violinist and pedagogue Ivan Galamian. What do you feel Mr. Galamian's initial dream for the school was?
By the time Ivan Galamian founded the Meadowmount School, he was already an internationally-recognized pedagogue. His dream was to establish a school where his students could experience “total immersion in the study of string instruments.” This included purposeful and structured practice and the opportunity and environment to slow the pace of everything around you, so a student could have the mental space to focus and develop into their artistry.
Now 30 years after his passing, would you say his mission has been successfully filled?
Absolutely! There are so many artists that have walked through the doors of Meadowmount who are some of the most well-known and exciting artists performing today, including many from the latest emerging generation. They are all a testament to Mr. Galamian’s vision and his original mission.
The school offers an intensive 7 week high-level, immersive music program for string players aiming for a professional career. What do you feel can realistically be achieved during this period, away from basically all everyday distractions?
Whether it is preparation for an international competition or an audition, further developing technique and artistry, or diving deep into a chamber music collaboration, Meadowmount’s environment is the ideal place. The structured practice, the focused guidance from teachers and coaches, the performance opportunities geared around students — and of course being surrounded only by nature — allow the students to have the luxury of time to focus on their studies. The 7-week schedule is ideal because it truly allows a student to have this time to absorb and fully integrate what they are learning and see it come to fruition in performance.
Many star players came early on to study at Meadowmount including Yoyo Ma, Joshua Bell, Jaime Laredo, Pinkas Zukerman, among others. What is some of the feedback you received about the program and this very special time in history?
Many renowned artists, from Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Ani and Ida Kavafian, Kyung-Wha Chung, to Joshua Bell and James Ehnes, remember their time at Meadowmount as being a vital part of their development. That they continue to speak about the impact Meadowmount had on them is pretty powerful! Even with the hard work, it was some of the most memorable and happiest times.
Legend has it Toby Friedlander proposed to Itzhak Perlman at Meadowmount? Are there any other particular stories, anecdotes, or legends our readers would love to hear about?
It has been wonderful to have so many people reach out and share their own stories and memories about Meadowmount. I am still amazed by the sheer number of musicians that have gone to Meadowmount — including many current musician friends I did not even realize were alums! Though everyone is there for the same reason, what seems to stand out (besides the music-making) are the colleagues and friends they met, like being in a string quartet with Joshua Bell or dorm-mates with Yo-Yo Ma. My first quartet at Meadowmount was with Rachel Barton Pine — we were two of the youngest students at the school that summer — and two older students on viola and cello, playing Beethoven Op. 18, No. 4 and coaching with Josef Gingold. What a fantastic time we had!
What does a typical day at Meadowmount look like?
A typical day at Meadowmount begins with breakfast, followed by a 4-hour morning practice session with 10-min breaks each hour for physical and mental rest. Afternoons usually include lessons, chamber music coachings, studio classes or masterclasses with guest artists, and an additional scheduled hour of practice. Evenings are usually filled with performance or other social activities for students. There are also various workshops and collaborations with guest artists and regular Alexander Technique sessions. Weekends are lighter, and often include hiking trips in the beautiful Adirondack Mountains, and of course, ping-pong!
You were recently appointed Artistic Director of the Meadowmount School of Music. What has been your relationship with the program? And, what are your goals for the school over the coming years?
I attended Meadowmount for the first time when I was ten years old and have incredibly vivid memories of those several summers. I met Josef Gingold there, who soon after became my private teacher for the next ten years. I also met many musician friends with whom I am still close and connected with today. The summers at Meadowmount made a huge impact on my awareness of what I needed and wanted to do as a musician, and the progress I could make. The mantra, “A year’s progress in 7 weeks,” absolutely holds true.
My goal is to build upon the legacy that Mr. Galamian left. Many traditions that are at the heart of Meadowmount will continue, but we will work to further enhance Meadowmount’s reach to students, teachers, and guest artists, offer additional performing and professional opportunities for students, and incorporate activities that also focus on the physical and mental well-being of young artists and establish foundations for longevity in their careers. We’ll also highlight the chamber music program, which has always been an integral part of the experience for so many Meadowmount students.
What can we look forward to hearing this Summer?
The focus at Meadowmount has always been the students, and we’re excited to present live-streamed concerts featuring these talented students. There will also be a number of guest artists, including VC artist Matthew Lipman and violinist Philip Setzer of the Emerson Quartet, who will be in residence for extended periods to work closely and collaborate with students.
What kind of scholarships and fellowships are available for talented students?
Scholarships range from full tuition to partial tuition to “Service Awards” where students help in various school areas. Older students can receive full scholarships by serving as resident Counselors.
How can students apply?
Our deadline is January 31, and students can find more info and apply here: Meadowmount Admissions
How does it feel, personally, to know you’ll be spending your summers at Meadowmount again after all these years?
It will be especially meaningful to return to Meadowmount because of the profound effect it had on me and my musical life. The teachers who guided me, the performances we shared, and the many dear friendships and memories I have — all of those experiences are still vivid to me after all these years (including my bike accident at age 11 riding too fast on the path to Main House!). I am beyond excited to be back and experience Meadowmount again with a new generation of young artists!