Sweet music

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MANCHESTER — You've seen them walking up and down Main Street, instruments in hand, heading to the next practice or performance.

Talented young musicians from as far away as China have been spending the summer here, studying with the faculty of the Manchester Music Festival and Taconic Music. Both organizations have hosted a highly selective group of young musicians students for several weeks of an intensive chamber music program.

Taconic Music wrapped its NextGen concerts of their summer inaugural season on Saturday at the Riley Center for the Arts. The NextGen students performed full works of Sibelius, Shostakovich, Mozart and Brahms, which they had a mere two weeks to prepare.

MMF kicked off its Young Artists Program more recently and will continue to hold concerts throughout the summer. Its next concert is at 2 p.m. on Sunday, July 23 at SVAC's Arkell Pavilion, and will feature music by Prokofieff, Mendelssohn, Turina and Faur .

Poultney native Heather M nch knew she wanted to participate in Taconic's NextGen program, because the co-founders and directors, Joana Genova and Ariel Rudiakov, are "great individuals to study with and be in a community with. [They are] so influential on everyone they're around while making music," she said.

"As nervous as we all were, we pulled it off with poise and professionalism, [taking] the stage and [putting] our fears aside," M nch said about their first performance. Her goal for the NextGen Concert II held last Saturday was to show how the group had grown since their first concert. After spending more time with one another, she and her fellow students had higher expectations of each other to perform at the highest possible level, she said.

The nine NextGen students practiced 8-10 hours per day, but found time to hike surrounding trails, sip on margaritas at Gringo Jacks and cook in the Putnam House to unwind.

Dan Sato, a piano student, left the tropics in Honolulu, Hawaii to return to Manchester for a second summer of chamber music, this time at Taconic. "I've been dying to come back. The community is so intimate. Whenever I walk around, people who have come to the concerts come up to you and [congratulate] you," he said.

Sato believes the opportunity to dive into very select few pieces and to find yourself in a greater context is what's most valuable to the program. As a pianist, Sato says it can be easy to become "trapped in [a] solo pianist mentality." That's why performing and practicing with other people enhances his own sound through maintaining a critical ear and avoiding complacency.

MMF Young Artists student In Ae Lee finished her first year at Julliard this past spring, where she is involved in a violin performance program. Lee was born in South Korea but grew up in China. This is her first experience in Vermont, and she noticed the contrast with New York City right away. "Julliard is very competitive. It's hard to be away from something you focus on for 24 hours a day," she said.

Although there are 6-9 hours of rehearsals every day, Manchester provides Lee with an escape from the city and intensity of Julliard while still allowing her to focus wholly on music. In addition, the Young Artists Program offers more opportunities to perform than Julliard does. To Lee, that is the most helpful aspect of the program.

One of her coaches advised her to "forget technical stuff and think about the melody and music [and] how you want to convey your feelings, ideas and love of music to the audience."

Fellow Young Artists student Patrice Calixte took a break from working at Calgary Orchestra in Canada to spend six weeks in Manchester. He hopes to learn to collaborate with people of different personalities and being a team player, despite describing himself as someone who has "very strong ideas and opinions."

Calixte said MMF has provided him with a "win some, lose some" mentality which will positively impact his versatility as an artist. Performing at SVAC provides a recital feel due to its intimacy. "The warmth of the acoustics and audience is a reminder of why the musicians are there," he said.

The 43rd season of the MMF summer festival is led by artistic director Adam Neiman. In his perspective, the Young Artists are the "stars of the next generation." Neiman hopes students will gain "an experience that gives them what they need to be professional chamber musicians who understand how to rehearse and collaborate with other people" as well as strategies to cope with pressures of weekly performances, mentally and physically. These musicians are "on the level of professional athletes," Neiman said, "I can't think of a better place than Manchester to escape, live and breathe in mountain and music air."

Ariel Rudiakov, the co-founder and co-director of Taconic Music, said the end of the first NextGen students program gave him a bittersweet feeling — happy about the success and exhausted from the work he and Genova put into it.

Rudiakov said he and Genova were constantly inspired by the NextGen students' "level of industry, how hard they work and how dedicated they are to music."

Four intensive weeks of music exposed the students to professional music life, teaching them to communicate human experience and emotion through music.

Rudiakov offered thanks to the Manchester community and all those who have supported Taconic Music in its first year. "We are full of gratitude," he said.

Emma LeMay is a Sandgate resident.

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