Practice + Patience + Resilience = Beautiful Music

Our guest contributor, BMC faculty member Heather Sommerlad, explains her teaching style.

"These days, I'm remembering why music is so important to me. To play an instrument well, you have to think about doing the work for the long haul. Practicing requires patience and resilience. You don't always see the results right away, and sometimes, it can feel frustrating, lonely, and overwhelming. But music teaches us that we can do hard things if we work at it, and that our effort as individuals is essential to making beautiful music together. When one person in a group practices their part, everyone benefits.
"This is something I always try to teach my Music in the Schools and Youth Orchestra students as they navigate learning a string instrument in a group setting. I've been staying connected to them online, via a website called FlipGrid, where students can post videos of themselves practicing. Even though they don't know when, or if, they'll be able to play the concert they had been working on before all this confusing stuff happened; they're still practicing. They're still doing the work, playing their concert music with discipline and joy, so that someday, when they come together again, they'll be better than they were before. This inspires me every single day. They're doing their part. So can we all.
"The video I've selected to share comes from one of those students. Matrix Balsley-Petraska is a BMC regular, involved with MIS, Youth Orchestra, and Youth Celtic classes. She's been practicing especially hard these days! I challenged students in her orchestra to compose an original piece of music for fun. I was so impressed with what Matrix came up with, I just had to share it! Matrix's joy for music is infectious (please excuse the metaphor!), and her creativity, work ethic, and bright spirit shines so much hope on the future. 

"She's worked hard to get to where she is today. And after we all work hard to get through these difficult times, I know we'll be making beautiful music together again soon! For now, please enjoy Blackbird!"

Don't forget to visit our home page at  and on  Facebook . We've got plenty of info on on-line courses, special streaming events and much more.
                            And thank you for your continued support!

BMC Presents May 30 Concert Featuring the Laredo-Robinson Duo
We're pleased to collaborate with the Detroit Chamber Music Society CameraMusic Series to present a special  concert by violinist and conductor Jaime Laredo and cellist Sharon Robinson Saturday evening, May 30.

The concert will start at 8 p.m. A pre-concert interview will air at 7:30 p.m.  You can view the concert via our Facebook page .

For over 40 years, the storybook romance of Bolivian-born violinist Jaime Laredo and American cellist Sharon Robinson has been expressed in every facet of their lives. Joyous and sophisticated music making, both separately and together, has earned them devoted fans world-wide. Locally,  Jaime and Sharon are rooted in Southern Vermont both as BMC Artistic Advisors and neighbors.

This performance, recorded at the Brattleboro Music Center on May 18, includes the following works: Handel/Halvorsen's  Passacaglia for Violin and Cello;  Mozart's  Duo for Violin and Cello, after KV 423 in G major;  Erwin Schulhoff's  Duo for Violin and Cello; and Andy Stein's  Tango, from  Suite for Two for Violin and Cello

Concert Choir 'Performs' 4'33" by John Cage

As we've all struggled with isolation from our musical communities, Brattleboro Concert Choir  Music Director  Jonathan  Harvey has been thinking of ways for the Choir to stay connected within its own ranks, and stay connected to its audiences. 

"Many of us have seen impressive 'virtual choir' videos, and while I have great admiration for them as feats of technical brilliance, what I love most about music-making is connecting, responsively and in real time, with other musicians," says Harvey. "Current technology just doesn't allow large groups of musicians to synchronize remotely in real time.

"Then it occurred to me - what about creating something together that doesn't require that we be precisely synchronized? Performing John Cage's (in)famous piece 4'33" over videoconference would allow us to be together as a musical community, and allow us to share our creativity with the world. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the work, this is a piece wherein the performer(s) take the stage, and then stay there for 4 minutes and 33 seconds without creating any intentional sound. For the audience, listening with their attentive 'concert ears,' the ambient sounds around them in the performance space become music."

So on the evening on May 6th, during the Choir's previously regular rehearsal time, the group gathered on Zoom and sat together, in stillness with each other (and some pets) for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. This video is a recording of that experience.

From Carol

Imagine living with a pianist, organist, videographer, gardener, painter, photographer, animator, recording engineer, composer and harmoniumist (more on this last one later).

Now imagine that this is a household of just two!  Jonathan and Tom Scott are brothers living in "lockdown" in Manchester, England. They are both phenomenal musicians and have performed all over the world (and even on the QE2 in the middle of the Atlantic), but "stuck" at home has led them to combine their talents to produce two house concerts.

The first is only about half an hour long and well worth it - remember they produced the entire thing, just the two of them!  At the 11:30 mark, you can see images from their garden and at about 27:00, there is an amazing mural painted by Tom. 

If you want to see some of the instruments they have played, a video about the Harmonium, and samples of Tom's animations, check out the extras tab on their website:

PS -- We are exploring the possibility of having them visit Brattleboro in the fall of 2021.

From Solveig

My mom, Mia Gannon, mentioned that she loves to listen to Smetana's Vltava (The Moldau) .

It's a little "brash and romantic" for her now, but it reminds her of her teen years. It is a river and captures that spirit of river musicality so well. I also listened to it because I was asking her about what she'd recommend and this conversation is giving me an insight into her mental and musical landscape. One that I haven't had for a while since we've lived separately since I moved away to college.

An interesting aside: as I read about  Bedřich Smetana, he wrote this in his home country of Czechoslovakia while completely deaf. He is associated with Czech independence and is regarded by some to be the father of Czech music. He lived from 1824-1884. From 1874 on, during his deaf years, he entered into a phase of continued composing that lasted for the rest of his life.

From Raquel

As soon as I begin to listen to the first sounds of the Adagietto from Mahler's Fifth Symphony, I feel connected with my inner self, my pulse slows down.  There is something about how my breathing follows the rhythm of these melodies that I always find fascinating.

My daily thoughts stop to focus uniquely on this precious music. There is a sense of peace and calmness, and somehow, the sounds of strings and harp alone create a different dimension, another atmosphere.

Herbert von Karajan once said that when you hear Mahler's Fifth, 'Y ou forget that time has passed. A great performance of the Fifth is a transforming experience. The fantastic finale almost forces you to hold your breath .'  So close your eyes and let the transformation begin.

From Mary

Recently I've been thinking about the many points of constancy in the swirl of uncertainty and anxiety this spring. Today, I'm including the cinnamon ferns spreading out for their third summer holding court in front of the BMC.

As always I am grateful for the all the remarkable people who make us a true community music center - our steadfast and generous board of trustees, my hilarious and hardworking colleagues, our inspiring faculty and music directors, our dedicated students and loyal audience members. How fortunate we are to have music to hold us together.

On we go... be well.

P.S. Just in case you were wondering, the stream series continues -- here's one from Day 76.

From Gay

Got (Musical) Soup?

Over the last couple of weeks I have been noticing that my attitude towards our new reality has changed - deepened perhaps. The idea of social distancing is no longer uncomfortable and strange, it is just how things are now. 
I have also seen that people are pivoting - bringing out our creative side to manage time devoted to work, family, community.

COMMUNITY. This concept feels much bigger to me now. I have connected more with my neighbors in the last two months than I have in the last two years. 

This closer to home feeling has also translated into my soup-making CSA through the Southern Vermont Sister District. Volunteers make soup every month, and n ow we are making soup for our friends and neighbors. Since the March shutdown, our soup is going directly to Groundworks and the Putney Food Shelf. 

I treasure being part of helping my community by doing something that I love - making good soup!

Here are two soup-related videos: Chicken Soup with Rice, by Carole King, and Animal Crackers (In My Soup) with Shirley Temple. Enjoy!

From Meg

Feeling Zoomed out?

You're not alone. What with Zoom Yoga, Zoom Commencements, Zoom Committee Meetings and even Zoom Cocktail Parties, it's no wonder we're all on Zoom overload. 

Mind you, I'm not complaining. It's technology, after all, that's allowing me to work, stay connected to friends, and even continue flute lessons at the BMC. So how best to cope, I asked myself.

Humor helps, of course, as with so many of life's challenges! For a new perspective on your next Zoom encounter, let me introduce you to " The Company Meeting," starring BBC sports commentator Andrew Cotter quarantined with his dogs Mabel and Olive.

Giving the Gift of Life

We were proud to host a Blood Drive recently, since the need is so great due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. We salute American Red Cross Blood Services of Southwestern NH & Southeastern VT, and donors who took part and gave the gift of life. The event exceeded collection goals, so a big thanks to all!