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VIOLIST CHAUNCEY PATTERSON ON THE EASTERN MUSIC FESTIVAL’S DIVERSE PROGRAMS

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Ahead of the festival’s February 20 deadline, we spoke with faculty member Chauncey Patterson to learn more about the North-Carolina based summer festival

By The Violin Channel


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Founded in 1961, the Eastern Music Festival is an internationally renowned classical music festival offering summer educational programs for exceptional young artists.

The festival’s five-week programs will run from June 22 to July 27, 2024. They include the Orchestra Program for musicians aged 14 to 23; String Leadership Program for string players aged 18 to 23; Piano Program for those aged 14 and over; and Conducting Institute Scholars for those aged 18 and over.

Available to those aged between 23 and 33, the festival’s fellowships will run during the same five-week period for strings, bass clarinet/clarinet, bassoon/contrabassoon, tenor trombone, and piano.

Apply by February 20, here.

We spoke with violist Chauncey Patterson, an Eastern Music Festival faculty member, to learn more.

What sets Eastern Music Festival apart from other summer festivals?

What sets EMF apart from other music festivals is the commitment of the faculty and staff. Whether it’s teaching or rehearsing for an upcoming chamber performance, or an unscheduled viola boot camp at 7 AM, the faculty and staff are always eager to go the extra mile for students and audience alike. I’ve never witnessed anything like it. That has been consistent from my first year as a student (in 1977) up to the present. Everyone involved with making the festival work goes the extra mile; librarians, publicity, recruitment — not to mention our tireless Music Director and Maestro Gerard Schwarz. The saying “it takes a village” is more than appropriate when referencing the EMF faculty and staff.

For strings, it is clear that Eastern offers a well-rounded program, including private study, chamber music, sectional coaching, professional development seminars, and masterclasses. Can you tell us why all these aspects are vital to preparing a student for a professional career?

While personal practice and time alone on one’s instrument are essential for artistic and technical growth, proper guidance and input from professionals are equally essential. Professionals have experienced everything the students are currently experiencing and will experience in the future. Private study, chamber music, sectional coaching, professional development seminars, and masterclasses all enrich and nurture artistic growth.

Tell us about the unique leadership program for aspiring section leaders and concertmasters. What skills are you hoping to instill in these young musicians?

The Leadership Program for aspiring section leaders and concertmasters is designed to instill skills that will make the students consummate leaders of their sections. From a practical standpoint, executing solos and setting bowings is only part of the job — an important part but only a part. Knowing how to lead, honing superior listening skills, knowing the score instead of just your part, and communicating with your section are all skills required of an exceptional section leader. Having had the honor and privilege of spending most of my orchestral career in title chairs, I feel that character is often underrated, if not overlooked, as an important attribute of a fine concertmaster or section leader. Understanding personalities and fostering an environment in which everyone feels part of a team, and not just a cog in a giant machine, can only contribute to more human and heartfelt music-making within orchestra and chamber music.



Can you tell us about the fellowship program, for students over 23 years old? What does it entail?


Referring to the fellowship program as intense would be an understatement. While the fellows gain immeasurable experience in both orchestral and chamber music performance, they work for it. They perform very important outreach activities in the Greater Greensboro area in a program entitled “Encircling the City.” They also work very closely with the conducting fellows as part of the orchestra. The conducting fellows’ orchestra has a very small string section (3 in each section), so there’s no “hiding in the weeds.” In fact, there are no weeds. [COLOR=var( --e-global-color-text )]On the other hand, they get to perform many works from the standard repertoire as well as perform with the faculty ensemble The Eastern Festival Orchestra. Basically, they are working on two major programs per week. Frankly, I wish this program had existed in my day. It’s difficult to find that sort of training anywhere on the planet.[/COLOR]

What advice would you give a student to submit an application that stands out?

The best way to make yourself stand out during the application process is to be certain that you take the time to adequately prepare your audition recording. Often, I have gotten the impression that the candidate has not spent the appropriate amount of time to make a recording that truly depicts their musical and technical skills. When performing the excerpts, demonstrate that you are aware of the context of the excerpt. Learn the piece or at least listen to the section of the piece you are performing. That’s always impressive in any audition.

Who are going to be the guest artists this year?

The guest artists are in the late stages of finalization at this time, but from what I’ve heard, they are going to be awesome.

How did the festival help you in your path to becoming a professional musician?

I don’t know where I would be without EMF. Growing up just 30 miles east of Greensboro, it was an artistic oasis. I was a student for 4 years, and for those 4 years, the happiest and saddest days of the year revolved around the festival — a.k.a. the first day of EMF every June and the last day every August.

Also, there was no racial tension like there was in my hometown. We were all musicians, just musicians nothing more, nothing less. It solidified my desire to become a professional musician. I learned so much during those summers, made tremendous strides, and yes, had tons of fun.

Being a faculty member gives me a real sense of “coming full circle.” Whenever I discover (through conversation) that another musician attended EMF as a student we share memories and our gratitude and love for such a special place.

What is one of your favorite memories from attending EMF before becoming a faculty member?

Favorite memories? There are so many that I hesitate to say, but if I had to choose one and only one, it




would be rehearsing and performing Beethoven 9 under Robert Shaw as a student. It was my first Beethoven 9 and it will live with me forever.
 
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