ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It’s June and if you listen closely you might hear a school bell ringing in Taos.
The chiming would be announcing the June 22 start of the eight-week Taos School of Music.
It’s the school’s 52nd season, and it still maintains the tradition of offering close interaction among chamber music students and between students and faculty.
The students are among the top student-musicians around. They’re studying at the Juilliard School, the Curtis School of Music, the Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory and others.
Over the summer, all 19 students – violinists, violists, cellists and pianists – come to learn, to rehearse and to give concerts in the school’s noncompetitive atmosphere.
The faculty members, who also perform publicly, are some of the top classical musicians around. This summer the Borromeo String Quartet, the Brentano String Quartet and the Miro Quartet, violist Michael Tree, and pianists Joseph Sauer and Robert McDonald will participate as coaches and concert musicians.
McDonald also is the school’s artistic director. This is his 33rd summer at the school. Why does he keep coming back?
“There are many facets to that answer,” McDonald said in a phone interview. “The extraordinary beauty of the land and how it captured my imagination years ago. … The spirt of the school itself. The principles it is based on and what it offers as an educational experience for the students.
“And the strongly idealistic spirit about it that is hard to find in the outside world of the profession itself and the isolation of the school,” McDonald added.
The experience gives the students a chance to know themselves better as musicians and as human beings, he said.
Kathleen Anderson Knox, the school’s executive director, said students only receive the sheet music two weeks before their concert.
“We want the students to work and communicate well with their peers,” Knox said.”They’re also mixing it up in the (chamber) group so they don’t know who the others are they’re playing with until they get their sheet music. … We want them to manage time and learn to work with their coach and learn how to direct themselves as well.”
Their coaches, Knox said, guide more than they instruct. Each student will play four concerts of music from different periods and each string student will probably perform with a student-pianist at least once. Also each student-violinist will play a first-violin part at least once.
Knox became executive director in 2007. Her father, the late Chilton Anderson, was one of the school’s founders and ran the school for about 45 years. She apprenticed with him.
“What he wanted me to do by taking it on was to preserve this gem that was created, not change the vision or the format,” Knox said in a phone interview. “What we do is so special and done at the highest level.”
McDonald, who is on the piano faculty at Juilliard and at Curtis, says he follows the careers of many of the school’s students.
“Their sense of themselves as professional musicians is hopefully enriched by their interest in chamber music,” he said.
Years after the summer they spent at Taos, they still retain a connection to that experience, McDonald said.
The musician-coaches have kept up a relationship with the school. Tree, the founding violist of the Guarneri Quartet, has been coming here for more than 20 years. This is the Brentano’s 11th season and the Borromeo’s 10th season at the school.
Sauer is a former student at the Taos School of Music, as are violinist Mark Steinberg and violist Misha Amory, both of the Brentano.
The school is presenting five faculty concerts this summer.
The first is June 22 with the Borromeo, Sauer and Tree. The program has Haydn’s Piano Trio No. 45 in E-flat major, Benjamin Britten’s String Quartet No. 2 and Antonin Dvorak’s Viola Quintet in E-flat major.
These are the other four faculty concerts:
- July 6 with the Borromeo.
- July 20 with the Miro Quartet and pianist Robert McDonald.
- July 23 piano recital with McDonald.
- Aug. 3 with the Brentano String Quartet and McDonald.
All faculty concerts are at 7:30 p.m. at the Taos Community Auditorium, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Taos.
For information on Young Artist concerts and faculty seminars, visit taosschoolofmusic.com.
McDonald said he’s impressed by the support that the town gives to students.