Chamber Music Festival Attracts Top Talent
Published: June 16, 2015
fresh inc -- More Than Just Music
SOMERS -- Driving by the University of Wisconsin-Parkside campus or even walking through a few of the buildings, visitors may not realize that 37 of the nation's top chamber-music instrumentalists and composers are close by.
For the third year in a row, Fifth House Ensemble, a chamber-music group based in Chicago, is using the UW-Parkside campus and the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities as its fresh inc festival headquarters.
Melissa Snoza, a flutist and executive director of Fifth House Ensemble, was introduced to Parkside's incredible Frances Bedford Concert Hall by Robert Schneider from the Kenosha Community Foundation. "We came in and said, 'this is amazing, it's fantastic.' The facilities – you can't beat it," she said. "[Parkside] has great practice rooms, great pianos, and the Bedford Concert Hall is gorgeous. We had the opportunity to come here one year for the festival and have stayed ever since."
The fresh inc festival, a two-week series of workshops, rehearsals and performances, attracts composers and instrumentalists from renowned music schools such as Juilliard, Eastman, the Cleveland Institute, and more. "We invite instrumentalists and composers from all over the county, up to age 32, to join us to present and premier 16 new works of chamber music," Snoza said. Why age 32? Typically, it is a time in musicians' lives when they may be just past their doctorate degrees or entering the emerging stage of their professional careers.
Danielle Breisach, a UW-Madison student pursuing her D.M.A. in flute performance, chose the festival based on a personal recommendation (read more about Danielle Breisach). "A friend who came to fresh inc last year said it was one of the best festivals in preparing someone who is leaving school for a profession in music," Breisach said.
Breisach is currently an artistic director for the Madison Flute Club. The fresh inc experience, she says, may be the help she needs to pursue a dream of developing a chamber-music organization in Madison similar to Fifth House Ensemble.
Snoza views fresh inc as a launching pad between conservatory life and professional life.
For composers, a high-quality recording of their work performed by top, young instrumentalists is a major takeaway. "As a young composer," Snoza said, "that in itself can be a difficult thing to accomplish with very fine players. So, being able to record in Bedford Hall is a huge asset."
The composers and instrumentalists play together along with members of Fifth House Ensemble. "We're not forming them into groups, coaching them from the outside and telling them what to do," Snoza said. "We're performing with them, which is our favorite way to learn."
In addition to rehearsals and performances at UW-Parkside, festival attendees played at venues such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, and Constellation and St. James Cathedral in Chicago. The final fresh inc concert is at 2 p.m. Sunday, June 21, at UW-Parkside in Bedford Hall.
While a dozen performances in two weeks may seem like a lot, Snoza said fresh inc is not just about performances. The festival provides emerging artists with needed information to help start new ventures in the professional world. Workshops cover topics such as how to start a small business, how to market, how to fund-raise, how to budget, and how to sell and appeal to performance venues.
Other seminars explore creative-performance techniques, including public speaking. "There are a variety of things that as musicians we need to learn about public speaking," Snoza said. "Obviously, the fear of speaking in public is more common than the fear of death. So it is not that unusual that we [musicians] would be freaked out about that. You think that as performers we would be more comfortable; but you take the instrument away and sometimes the superpowers are gone."
Public-speaking training covers what to say – what information is most important to an audience – and how to say it. "Some of the traditional things they tell you about where to put your eyes or how to position your body actually make you look a little like you had some sort of trauma," Snoza said.
Festival participants gain insight from inside and outside the music industry. A former director of corporate design for Twitter, the first Grammy-nominated composer of a video-game score, and an Emmy-winning composer are just a few of the guest experts who participate in person or via Skype.
Snoza says Fifth House Ensemble as an organization that challenges the ways in which people experience chamber music. "There are a lot of organizations where you can have your beliefs affirmed," she said. "We're one where beliefs can be challenged. We do a lot of work in the community, creating shows with various organizations and non-arts-based partners. We're going to play in strange places; we're going to pair music with things that you might not expect."
A key goal of Fifth House Ensemble is to find something that works and then share the success with others. "Ultimately," Snoza said, "we know we're only 11 people and we cannot enact the kind of change we want to on our own. I see a lot of new ventures start here at fresh inc. Our alumni do really well, and that's exciting."