By Peter Jacobi
If you look at the printed program for this afternoon’s Summer Music concert in Auer Hall, top billing and the largest type go to the Festival Chamber Players, and there’s quite a lineup of them that will perform. But right under “Festival Chamber Players” you’ll find “Summer String Academy 30th Anniversary Concert.” And therein resides the glory of the story.
Actually, it was 31 years ago that a young violin teacher went to the office of then IU School of Music Dean Charles Webb “with a plan in hand. I wanted to tell my boss about an idea,” recalls Mimi Zweig, “and that was to offer a summer program for young string players with lots of practice in chamber music. I was all set to argue my case for half an hour, even an hour. Five minutes in, Dean Webb cut me short. He asked, ‘How much would it cost the school?’ I said, ‘Nothing.’ He said, ‘OK. Go ahead.’ By the next summer, we were underway.”
So 30 summers ago, a host of young string players arrived on the IU Bloomington campus for training, the first batch of all who were to follow, a hundred or so per year, 128 this year. Among them that first summer was violinist Erin Aldridge, currently on the music faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Superior and a member for the past six years of the Summer String Academy faculty.
Aldridge will be on the program this afternoon along with all faculty members to play Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, this as a concert closer. Earlier, she’ll offer the Sonata No. 2 of Charles Ives and Four Souvenirs of Paul Schoenfeld. “And we’ve commissioned three short pieces for the event from colleagues on the Jacobs School faculty,” says the always ebullient Zweig, “a String Trio by the Academy’s loyal friend Atar Arad, Don Freund’s ‘Rugged Reflections from Hearing in 3V for Three Violins,’ and Sven-David Sandstrom’s ‘Short Piece’ for Two Violins and Viola. Three premieres, it’s all quite exciting.”
Zweig has been at IU for 39 years. “I’m 64,” she says, “and some friends ask if I’m going to retire soon. The idea flits through my mind. But Atar tells me, ‘Are you out of your mind? After two days, you’ll wonder what to do with yourself.’ And that’s true. Unless something big, something national, something very special comes along to tempt me, I’m not likely to move. I love what I do. This work is not like work. We have all these wonderfully talented students coming here, not only in summer but throughout the year in our Pre-College program. During the Summer Academy, for 10 days, we run a Teachers Retreat. For it, we bring gifted professionals from private studios and universities, along with performers who want to teach. It’s like a second Academy. We offer them a rich program in tandem with that for our youngsters. Through them, the work we do here is applied elsewhere. And that, too, is a thrill that continues to motivate me.
“Hey, I’m not lacking in energy. By the luck of the draw, I’m healthy,” Zweig continues. “I’ve been on the east coast. I’ve been on the west coast. This is home. I’m with colleagues who are passionate about kids and music. We love being together. There’s a synergy at work. When I teach at the Salzburg Mozarteum and tell them how, here in Bloomington, we all work together, they’re taken aback and just don’t think it’s possible. But we give everyone space to do their thing and be creative, and the best continues to happen.”
Sarah Kapustin, first violinist of the Rubens Quartet, in residence here this summer, has experienced the results from two angles: first, from age nine to 16 as a student in the Academy, then, in recent years, as member of the faculty. “That first summer, as a kid, I was overwhelmed by all the concerts I heard and by the classes. They made me want to practice, not just play. I wanted to play all the cool pieces the older kids played. I became enamored with music. This was the turning point that made me want to go for it. I studied with Mimi for six years. She’s an all-around wonderful teacher, a pedagogue who taught me how to get the most out of my instrument. She also insisted I learn the viola and, of course, to play chamber music. I was member of the Violin Virtuosi. We toured, and that taught me much, just the opportunity, for instance, to repeat something like the Chausson ‘Poeme’ nine times at nine concerts. One really gets better artistically doing that.
“Now, I’m on the other side of things,” says Kapustin, “a colleague of those who were my former teachers. And we’re all here to serve children. I love to teach and do so at the conservatory back in Holland. But these kids, who come from all over the nation and the world, are so talented. The level is so high. It’s quite remarkable.”
Seventeen-year-old Zoie Hightower is a current attendee of the Academy; her mother, Christina, is the Academy’s longtime assistant director. “All my life, she’d have me tag along. For nine years, I’ve been an official student,” Zoie explains. “I’ve trained on the violin and viola. In chamber music, I tend to play the viola. During the school year, and she’s been home schooled, “I play with the Virtuosi. For five years I’ve done that. It’s through music I’ve met all my best friends. To be surrounded by such a rich environment, with all of us so focused on music, it’s wonderful. In the Academy, we listen together, practice together, go to master classes together. From all over the world, we come together to make music.
“And the teachers are here for me, for all of us, of course, but for me. They want the best for me. Those four weeks of summer,” says Zoie, “make my favorite month. I count down to its start. It’s like my Christmas.”
Who knows about the future of the cherubs who will be at this afternoon’s 30th Anniversary Concert? Not all who’ve come in the past decided on a musical profession, says Mimi Zweig. But those from past summers now perform in major symphony orchestras (New York Philharmonic, Berlin Philharmonic, National Symphony, the orchestras of Chicago, Milwaukee, Rochester, St. Louis, Omaha, Dallas, Calgary, the Danish Ballet, and numerous others). They hold important positions as teachers (Oberlin, Alabama, Oklahoma, North Carolina–Greensboro, San Juan and elsewhere). They have private studios. They perform as soloists and in chamber groups.
“It couldn’t have been done without colleagues,” says Mimi Zweig. “It couldn’t have been done without the support of Indiana University and the Jacobs School. But we’ve done it, and I am happy.”
Contact Peter Jacobi at email@example.com.
If you go
WHAT and WHO: The 30th anniversary concert of the Summer String Academy features the Festival Chamber Players and other members of the Academy faculty in Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3, works of Charles Ives and Paul Schoenfeld, and three premieres of works commissioned by the Academy from Jacobs School composers Atar Arad, Don Freund and Sven-David Sandstrom.
WHEN: This afternoon at 4.
WHERE: Auer Hall on the IU Bloomington campus.
• This evening at 6:30 in Bryan Park, the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra offers its annual Summer Concert, which includes Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man,” a movement from Stravinsky’s “Firebird,” “Mars” from Holst’s “The Planets,” a Sousa waltz, an Armed Forces Salute, the “Game of Thrones” Theme, an arrangement by conductor Nicholas Hersh of tunes from Earth, Wind and Fire, a polka of Strauss, the Tchaikovsky “1812 Overture,” and Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” during which Hersh will hand the baton to the new artistic director of the orchestra, Adam Bodony. Free.
• This evening at 8 in Auer Hall, the Summer Chorus and Orchestra, conducted by Betsy Burleigh, gives a repeat performance of Mozart’s Requiem, in a surround of Gregorian Chants, readings and other works of Mozart. Tickets: $12 for adults; $6 for students.
• Monday evening at 8 in Auer, the resident Pacifica Quartet performs string quartets of Shostakovich (No. 2 in A Major and No. 9 in E-flat Major) and Schnittke (No. 3). Tickets: $12 for adults; $6 for students.
• Tuesday evening at 8 in Auer, the young and already honored Wasmuth Quartet performs music of Mendelssohn (Quartet No. 6 in F Minor), Visconti (“Ramshackle Songs”) and Ravel (Quartet in F Major). Tickets: $12 for adults; $6 for students.
• Wednesday evening at 7 on the Musical Arts Center Lawn, the IU Summer Concert Band plays under David Woodley. Susan Rider is trumpet soloist. Free.
• Thursday afternoon at 5 in Musical Arts Center 301, Patricia Stiles directs a Summer Opera workshop consisting of operatic scenes. Free.
• Thursday afternoon at 5:30 in Bear’s Place, the Summer Jazz Ensemble, directed by Brent Wallarab, offers a program of favorites. A cash-only cover charge will be collected at the door: $6 for adults; $5 for students.
• Friday evening at 6 in Auer, the Summer String Academy presents its Final Concert, with repertoire to be announced. Free.
• Friday evening at 7 in the John Whikehart Auditorium of the John Waldron Arts Center. 122 South Walnut, come to an “Furioso: An Evening of Handel Opera,” presented by Gamma Ut, an IU Early Music student organization, and operamission, a New York City based opera organization founded by Jacobs School alum Jennifer Peterson. The vocal program, to be supported by an orchestra performing on historical instruments, will include arias and ensembles. Free.
© Herald Times 2014