No books needed to ‘tap into passion’ of music |

No books needed to ‘tap into passion’ of music

Shauna Farnell

VAIL ” In the minds of many involved with the Vail Valley Music Festival, there can’t be enough education offered as far as music goes.

Bravo! Education doesn’t necessarily mean sitting down and notating music theory. It mostly means putting a comprehensible, human face on a musical genre that might intimidate those who aren’t familiar with it.

“For some people, chamber music scares them,” said Lynn S. Mazza, associate artistic director for Bravo! and host for the Introduction to Chamber Music programs, which are offered throughout the festival and provide non-experts some wisdom about the elements of chamber music. “People think it’s something just for the elite or for people with graduate degrees. If you get people to hear it, they really like it. With the educational program, the Introduction to Chamber Music is only an hour.

Two hours is a lot for people who have never listened to this kind of music. It’s hard when you’re listening to something for the first time. We ease them into the world of chamber music. You need to listen to it more than once before you have a connection.”

In addition to the Intro to Chamber Music sessions, which are also cheaper than most of the other chamber concerts offered at the festival, many of the festival’s concerts will be preceded with a prelude and followed by a musician-to-audience dialogue, wherein the audience is encouraged to ask questions.

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“The more you make the music seem human and the performers human, the less afraid people are to come in and listen,” Mazza said.

“The musicians come in and sit down. They laugh and tell music jokes, and all of a sudden, they’re people. You get questions like, ‘how old were you when you started playing the violin? Why did you choose that instrument?’ The artists are very accommodating.”

Not just about chamber

Of course, the festival’s educational programs aren’t geared exclusively toward chamber music.

“With our children’s education programs, we’re not necessarily tunnel vision with the classical genre,” said Bravo! Education Coordinator Liz Campbell. “We have the community drumming circle that teaches people about rhythm and beat. We send kids to jazz camp … We’re promoting music in general.”

Some of Bravo!’s educational programs are year-round, and are intended to supplement musical programs offered in schools, which festival staff feel are seriously lacking.

“Really, our purpose is to make the arts accessible for the local community and to inspire young musicians to take up instrumental studies,” Campbell said. “The public school system in the upper valley, we’re really struggling with musical programs. Students have no sequential exposure to music at all. Sometimes they’re only getting exposure every other week. I think music is very important to a well-rounded education. Unfortunately, the funding’s not really there. Downvalley is a different story.”

Bravo! provides grants to young local musicians for regular musical programs, such as the one conducted by Cindy Allard every week in Gypsum that includes 30 young musicians.

The festival is in the process of supporting a local student quartet and offers a junior music guild, the 18 members of which help usher concerts and educate other young people on the specifics of their instruments. The perfect venue for such one-to-one coaching is at Bravo!’s instrument petting zoo, a tent that travels throughout the summer to local outdoor markets and events and displays a series of different instruments that young passerbys can inspect, touch and play.

The guild musicians can often be found teaching other youngsters how to play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” or “I Like Chocolate.”

“Once you have kids, you realize how rural we are up here,” said Campbell, who plans to start her four-year-old on a mini violin this fall. “With Bravo!, we want to be the leader in providing fun and unique programs and hopefully tap some passion into our kids.

When people think of education, they think of actual studies. But it’s really community outreach “-making the arts accessible for the community.”

And, as Mazza pointed out, an actual study of an instrument provides students with something that an education is something like biology or algebra doesn’t.

“I took algebra and calculus. Do I need it? What does throwing a basketball do for you? The education programs in schools are pathetic, anywhere you go in this country. It gets lop-sided,” Mazza said. “An education in music really teaches you something. It gives you a skill. So, we do as much as we can.”

Mazza, who has been with the Bravo! festival since its birth 18 years ago, acknowledges that education also secures the future of the festival and of classical music in general.

“As a music festival, we’re dedicated to education,” she said. “When audiences die, we need younger ones to come take over.”

Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or

Vail Colorado

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