After the BSO Academy was finished I headed straight to SummerTrios. According to their website, Summertrios was formed in 1990 to provide adult amateur musicians an opportunity to play, study, perform and listen to chamber music. During the winter a few people suggested that I attend SummerTrios. I checked their website and I found it confusing and I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to go. However I made some phone calls to learn more about the program and I decided to try it.
I opted to stay in a hotel rather than stay in the dorms and that had positive and negative aspects. I had air conditioning (it was well into the 90s the whole week) and a private bathroom but I was also more isolated from the rest of the people there. The irony of my decision to stay in a hotel was that I prepaid the hotel to get a good rate and then got my music assignment via email the same day. All 20th century music and all really hard music. Unfortunately I couldn’t undo my hotel so I was stuck.
I emailed the music director asking to be assigned easier music. What I didn’t understand was that the music I was assigned was the same music everyone was assigned. So all the quintets were playing the same things. I did get a very nice phone call from the horn professor there and she unassigned the Hindemith quintet and emailed me the music for one of the other quintets. At that point I still thought that I would be given different music to replace it since I now was in only three groups instead of four. I listened to the two other quintets on YouTube and was very concerned about my ability to play the pieces. Still, I figured that I’d get different music when I got there. Alas, that was not the case. I was completely clueless that there wasn’t going to be any other assigned music.
In addition to the assigned music groups, they have reading groups. Whereas the assigned groups were coached, the reading groups were not. On my application I signed up for 5 reading groups. When I got there I was only in one. I never got a good explanation for why I wasn’t included in any more reading groups. So by having only three coached groups and one reading group I had way too much free time. I had expected to be playing close to all day so this was very disappointing. For most days I only had two or three sessions each day and they were spread around so one could be at 8:30 am and the next one at 2:15 pm.
Once we started rehearsals, I discovered that I was in way over my head for a Leo Smit quintet. Fortunately, they took me off that piece but then I was in only two coached groups so my schedule got even lighter. There were several days that I ended up with only one session that day. Talk about frustration.
They had a method for people to get together themselves to read some music which involved looking at a list and seeing who was free during a time slot and then going and asking them if they would like to read something. That meant that I had to find music and 2 to 4 other people if I wanted to try to read something. This might work in theory but it absolutely does not work for people new to SummerTrios. I didn’t know anyone and when I was able to find someone, inevitably they didn’t want to do anything extra because they were already too busy. Fortunately, I found a wonderful pianist who helped organize a reading of the Reinecke Clarinet, Horn and Piano trio for me and also played horn and piano solos with me. But that’s not why I was there. I did complain about how little I had to do and they tried to help me find other people but in the end I didn’t get anywhere near the amount of playing time that I was expecting.
On the positive side, both the attendees and the faculty were wonderful. I made some friends that I’ll have for a long time. The coaching for the two groups I was in was also stellar. I think almost everyone there had a much better time than I did mostly because they had been there before and knew most of the other attendees. That made it much easier to form ad hoc groups and do some reading. I think SummerTrios has a lot to offer and I may go back next year now that I understand how everything there works. I’ll also have another year of horn playing under my belt so I shouldn’t find the music as hard as I did this year.