Cellist Michael Gallagher rehearses at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Wednesday afternoon. Gallagher is in Steamboat as part of the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, and he was preparing for a performance Wednesday evening.

Photo by John F. Russell

Cellist Michael Gallagher rehearses at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Wednesday afternoon. Gallagher is in Steamboat as part of the Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, and he was preparing for a performance Wednesday evening.

Conservatory teaches students balance

6-week chamber music program includes recreation with rehearsals

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Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory

Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, a summer chamber music program for high school and college students, got going a couple of weeks ago.

Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory, a summer chamber music program for high school and college students, got going a couple of weeks ago.

photo

Violinist Kelsey Reeve rehearses at St. Paul's Episcopal Church on Wednesday afternoon for a Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory performance that evening.

If you go

What: Third annual Summer Soiree

When: 6 p.m. today

Where: Cottonwood Grill, 701 Yampa St.

Cost: $135 includes a five-course meal with wine pairings; proceeds benefit student scholarships for Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory

Call: 970-846-2144 or e-mail rmscmanager@cox.net to RSVP

Performance and class schedule

2009 Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory

- 7:30 p.m. Fridays through July 31, St. Paul's Episcopal Church at Ninth and Oak streets: "Class Acts," featuring performances by the conservatory faculty. Admission is free; a $10 donation is suggested. Concerts include refreshments after the show.

- 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Aug. 4, Cottonwood Grill: "Classics at Cottonwood," featuring a quartet of three conservatory students and RMSC artistic director Ernest Richardson.

- 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 18 and 23, St. Paul's Episcopal Church: Conservatory students give free chamber music performances with a reception after the show. Students will give a solo concert at 4 p.m. July 25 at The Lowell Whiteman School, 42605 Routt County Road 36.

- 3:45 p.m. July 21, St. Paul's Episcopal Church: Instructors lead a chamber music master class that's free and open to the public. Student and faculty solo master classes also are free and open and are at 8:45, 10 and 11:15 a.m. today, July 18, 23 and 30 at The Lowell Whiteman School.

- 10:30 a.m. July 25, St. Paul's Episcopal Church: The Steamboat Connection, a group of local young strings musicians that will work with RMSC faculty and students for a week, perform in various chamber ensembles. Admission is free.

— Seated at the front of an empty St. Paul's Episcopal Church cathedral Wednesday afternoon, violinist Kelsey Reeve and cellist Michael Gallagher worked through the chamber music duet they planned to perform that night.

Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory instructor and accompanist Dan Velicer - who regularly performs with the Kansas City Symphony - provided piano backing for the two students. He also pointed out some balance, phrasing and tempo issues.

Now in its third week of a six-week session, the summer conservatory offers high school and college students from across the country similarly close-knit rehearsal experiences, with instructors learning each student's strong and weak points.

Aspiring strings musicians use 10 performances and a varied curriculum at the conservatory to become balanced, practiced performers, said Ernest Richardson, artistic director and CEO for the program. The conservatory is based on four compass points: musical excellence, athleticism, vision-directed leadership and balance, Richardson said.

"This notion of musician as athlete - in order to practice excellence in music and to sustain that career over time, the students need to think of themselves as athletes, which is not a very common thought," he said.

In addition to at least five hours of rehearsals, lessons and individual practicing each day, students start each morning at their Lowell Whiteman School campus with a group stretch and have the option of taking a focused training class to develop their arms and core strength. For some students, the physical training can mean a chance to stay with music as a career, Richardson said.

"We've had some students come here with so much pain in their arms that they're considering terminating their career aspirations," he said. Some leave with no pain at all, and others take home healthier playing habits.

For the first time this summer, conservatory master classes - which usually are scheduled close to performances to work out final details, Richardson said - will be free and open to the public. It's a chance for local music students to get some helpful tips and for residents to see how instructors and students relate to one another, Richardson said.

Back for a second year is The Steamboat Connection, a workshop for local young strings players led by Steamboat Springs Orchestra concertmaster Teresa Steffen Greenlee. Students spend a week working with conservatory participants at The Lowell Whiteman School, building up to a free community concert at 10:30 a.m. July 25 on the Whiteman campus. The program allows conservatory students to give back to Steamboat as they take lessons away from the community, Richardson said.

"I think, in addition to their music training, I think they take away part of the Steamboat ethic or experience. They are in a place that's so remarkably beautiful and recreational opportunities are so readily available, I think they take that away with them," he said.

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