If you haven’t already, read Scor!’s post from March 2016 here before continuing.
By Beth Bultman
Our 2016 season has ended, and we are thrilled to have shared Scor! with so many people around the country this year. Scor! offers string camps for adults, and we specialize in providing a safe, nurturing, educational environment where it’s OK to still be in process, where we learn, grow, allow ourselves to be transformed, and hey, make friends and have a lot of musical fun! My husband Kyle & I are the founders of Scor!, and travel to and run all the camps. We left our Rochester, NY home for our first stop in Raleigh, NC in March, and haven’t stopped traveling since!
Our camps in 2016 took us all around the country. In Dunedin FL we had a St. Patrick’s Day parade and festivities (read “noise!”) right outside our door at Scor!. The plus side? We’re only 3 blocks from the water! In Atlanta GA, we had an extra day of Scor! to just have fun sight-reading music and playing together. In Austin TX, campers got to stay right in the hotel, and play downstairs. You can’t beat the convenience (except if you take an accidental nap!). In Escondido CA we had an enthusiastic bunch for our second year. In Lodi CA, our first camp in northern California, we discovered that Lodi in wine country is really worth traveling to! Our trip back across the country to Knoxville TN came next (FYI – it’s a LONG way!). People there are so nice and inviting, and just have the best way of showing hospitality! In LeClaire IA, it was HOT, but thankfully, the air conditioning at our facility made up for that. In Lansing MI the hotel/rehearsal room combination was a winner. Rochester NY brings us our largest and longest running camp with lots of traditions. We had a varied and fantastic Final Music Sharing event there. Bel Air MD is our second largest camp with lots of new people this year and lots of inspiring chamber music. And finally, Kingston RI where we hold Scor! at the University of Rhode Island, had a really nice group of people this year and was lots of fun.
Although we run a similar event around the country, various regions of the country can be different. Some are more traditional, some are more open to new musical experiences. Some are more high-pressure, and some are more laid back. But what do we find in common? All over the country, there are wonderful people following a dream. They’ve always wanted to play. They’ve always wanted to come back to playing. They’ve always wanted to improve their playing. Now, they are doing just that. They are open to learning, improving, playing music, making new musical friends, getting out there and doing what they’ve always wanted to do. We are the only ones that really get to see the arc of these events – the commonalities that all these individuals have. Believe me, it’s a lot of work to do what we do. There are no illusions about that in my world. But I have to say, we have set out to inspire people to play music, to improve, to be transformed. I think we are doing just that. Yet, I have also been inspired by the kindness, the can-do attitude, the openness, the determination, the persistence of the people we have met along the way. They are pursuing their dreams, and I have to say, that’s one courageous and inspiring group of people.
How can I find out about Scor!?
Check out our website at www.StringCamp.com & sign up for our E-Newsletters, where you’ll get free string-playing tips, as well as news of upcoming events. Ask to join our Facebook Group or search “Scor! String Camps for Adults” Public Group and check out recent photos of events.
“Ni hao, Zheng Zhao,” Music Director Lawrence Golan said into the microphone at the beginning of Concert #1.
The audience erupted into applause so uproarious that it felt like a sporting event, not a classical music concert.
I was a guest flutist with the Denver Philharmonic Orchestra for their month-long tour through China, and this special moment was just the beginning.
The audience’s reaction to this one phrase made me tear up a bit. That would continue to happen for the remaining 13 concerts.
Of all the things we experienced touring this massive country, one thing remained consistent: each concert hall was state of the art. They were all very different, but their acoustics and stunning visual design made playing in them a true pleasure. This remained true even without air conditioning, which is saying a lot.
Views from the stage of each hall
Chinese audiences love encores. Once we played the final note of the printed program, the audiences leapt to their feet with wide smiles, hands clapping, heads nodding, and arms waving. The enthusiasm was electric. Their refusal to stop clapping confirmed that they expected encores. We delivered three of them, but often, that didn’t seem like enough.
When Maestro Golan finally escorted players offstage to end the concert, people ran up to us asking for autographs. Selfies were snapped by the dozens. Awe-struck children got to hold instruments for the first time in their lives.
Plain and simple, what we do matters.
5. History acknowledged and history made
One of the encores was a string arrangement of a piece titled “Going to the West Gate”. It is a historical Chinese folk song written for soldiers returning home. Most of the time, the audiences recognized the piece after the first few bars. This moment usually made for few dry eyes in the house. Here is a covert little concert video clip I took from my seat in the wind section (thus the poor angle). The end will drive the point home.
6. Being in my element
As one would expect with international travel, there were many “human experiences” on this tour, like jet lag, exhaustion, and sickness, to name a few. When all of these things seem to melt away during the performance, that’s how you know you’re in your element.
The next best thing to being at home for fireworks on July 4th is to perform in a flashmob of “Stars & Stripes Forever” in a Chinese airport!
8. What was lost in translation was found in humor
Here are a couple of the many backstage signs that had us chuckling heartily.
9. Bonding with the music
After playing the Franck Symphony 14 times, it is easy to get a little saturated with it. On the flip side, an opportunity to really bond a piece in this way is a special opportunity. You really can get something new out of a piece each time you play it.
In the past year, I got married, closed out my life Boston, and moved to a small town in Pennsylvania for my husband’s new career opportunity with the York Symphony Orchestra. Then, he and I both got invited to play on this tour.
All these radical and tumultuous life changes eventually brought about this opportunity. Being a musician was the reason, the cure, and the reward for all of it. That’s what I call #worthit.
In October 2014 Dan Ketter and I took a hike through western New York’s Letchworth State Park, where we daydreamed about how great it would be to make music in such a grand and beautiful place. Days later I was still thinking about this idea, and I started imagining outdoor music-making on a national scale, wondering if it would be possible to arrange concerts at scenic parks around the country. With a little bit of research I learned that the National Park Service (NPS) would celebrate its centennial year in 2016, and with this fortuitous coincidence in mind I knew I was on to something.
Luckily, I had an in. Dan, my then boyfriend, had some relatives working at Yellowstone National Park, and they connected me with a network of NPS employees who had been crafting centennial events over the course of the past few years. After a brief conversation with the national office, I made a list of all the national parks that I would most like to visit, and I started sending emails explaining my idea of honoring the NPS centennial by filling the parks with music.
A few parks were quick to say no for one reason or another, but here’s the amazing thing: a lot of people said yes. And those who said yes to the idea were – and continue to be – extremely enthusiastic.
As locations fell into place, so too did the concept for the project. Music in the American Wild would have three main objectives: commissioning a new set of works inspired by the national parks; premiering these works on tour of the parks that inspired their creation; and making a studio recording of the pieces post-tour.
With recommendations from friends and colleagues, I found a group of eleven composers, all affiliated with Eastman School of Music, who were excited to write works for this centennial celebration. I assembled a team of seven performers, all Eastman alumni like me, who are not only fantastic musicians and dear colleagues, but who also share a passion for new music and an enthusiasm for the outdoors.
Then I got to work. Over the past year and a half I have developed relationships with our composers, performers, park contacts, and representatives from organizations and venues around the country to make our project a reality. I have written grant applications, gathered pockets of supporters to help promote our tour, visited park sites, and worked to make this initiative one that everyone involved can be proud of.
Along the way I have had help from myriad individuals and organizations, without whom Music in the American Wild couldn’t happen. We’re grateful to have received a considerable amount of private and in-kind donations that will make many elements of the project possible. We’re also recent recipients of a 2016 Art Works/Imagine Your Parks grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which is a huge vote of confidence for our fledgling endeavor. Among other things, it will help us to pay our musicians for their time and their talent and assist us in bringing our performances to broader audiences across the country. We’re still working hard to fund the remainder of our tour, but so far the hard work has paid off, and we hope it continues to do so!
As we gear up for our summer tour, which is just a few weeks away, we are excited to bring a new opus of inherently American music to fantastically scenic natural venues across the country. We’ll tour the American Southeast in June, with concerts at Mammoth Cave, Great Smoky Mountains, and Shenandoah National Parks; the Smithsonian American Art Museum; Locust Grove Historic Estate; and The Theatre at Washington, Virginia. In August we’ll head to Washington state to perform at Mt. Rainier, Olympic, North Cascades, and San Juan Island National Parks, with a few performances lined up in Seattle. Along the way we’ll post photos, videos, recordings, and anecdotes from our travels so that even those who can’t make it out to the wild this summer can share in the pioneering spirit of our ensemble’s musical trek through the parks.
The mission of Music in the American Wild is two-fold. On the surface, it’s a concert series in the national parks, an opportunity for a collective of emerging and established artists to share their music on a national tour. On a more philosophical level, our mission is to rekindle the integral bond between the arts and nature. In this increasingly digital age, it’s easy to forget that for most of its history music has been inspired by the natural world, whether that meant the imitation of birdsong, the physical process of using the breath or the bow to draw sound from an instrument, or the universal exploration of man’s relationship with his surroundings. We are excited to celebrate and reconnect with the creative spark offered by our own backyard wilderness, and we hope to inspire audiences and other artists to connect with our national parks through creative acts. We mean to inspire a new generation of listeners to become stewards of what we believe to be two of our country’s greatest assets: the arts and the parks.
The past year and a half has been filled with ups and downs, long hours put into project development, and many “firsts” that come with directing any sort of large-scale creative endeavor. The one constant throughout this process is the realization I’ve had time and again that music brings people and places together in unexpected and wonderful ways. Working with NPS rangers and employees has been especially rewarding, because I have gotten to interact with a whole network of people whom I would have never otherwise encountered. The employees of the NPS are smart, creative, generous people who are deeply dedicated to preserving our treasured parklands and helping others to explore and appreciate them. They have been fantastic allies throughout the planning process.
Furthermore, the inspiration provided by the natural theaters and vistas of the parks has led to collaborations with composers whose musical languages I may never have explored, and the world deserves to hear them. Working with my fellow musicians has been a huge source of inspiration, because they are the heart and soul of Music in the American Wild, and I believe in sharing and promoting their artistic voices. And to end on a personal note, Dan Ketter, the Music in the American Wild cellist and assistant director who made an appearance as my boyfriend at the beginning of this narrative, is now my fiancée, a joyful development that I have to credit in part to the time and teamwork we’ve put into this undertaking. It’s worth saying again: music brings people together.
We would love to connect with you on tour this summer. We hope you can join Music in the American Wild at one of our participating parks, or follow along with us online. For more information on when and where to catch us in the wild and how to get involved, check out our website [www.musicintheamericanwild.com] or our Facebook page [www.facebook.com/musicintheamericanwild].