CMNC Workshop Philosophy
President’s Corner Sept. 2006
by Bob Goldstein
We had some very stimulating responses on our evaluation sheets for the last two workshops, and I want to thank those who took the trouble to fill them out. Many participants have commented on the composition of their groups, and this has become the main topic of this article.
Please know that the CMNC board has a meeting on the weekend after every workshop, and that we spend most of our time discussing the player reactions, both those written on the evaluation sheets and those expressed to board members throughout the workshop and later. We do care, and we want you to have the best experience we can provide.
When I consider the many complaints people have about their playing partners, I see that many of you take the placement of people in your groups very personally, as a reflection of your own abilities and past performances. If you are in a very strong group, that makes you feel validated and appreciated; and conversely. We invite you, on our application form, to tell us about pieces you would like, types of music you prefer, and even players you want to work with or avoid. We find these requests very useful, and try to fulfill all of them. But we cannot do this 100%.
The Board has decided to develop a philosophy statement similar to that of the Humboldt Chamber Music Workshop that will inform you of the values we hold dearest in designing the groups and assignments. It won't be quite the same as the Humboldt statement, originated by Floyd Glende. I'm not going to quote the Humboldt philosophy verbatim here, but I will mention its main points.
Chamber music is a wonderful way for people to relate, to learn from each other, and to develop life skills. It teaches us to overcome fear, and to realize that chamber music is essentially collaborative, showing the contribution of others along with ours. To make music together requires teamwork and the attitude behind it: that no one of us can succeed unless our whole group succeeds.
Also, in the Humboldt statement, a high value is placed upon diversity of players, of instrumentation, and of musical styles. There, with a week to work with, the coaches try to have us play with as many other players, to have us play with as many different instruments, and to have us play as many different musical styles as possible.
You can see that placing these values high does compromise a goal of making every group as high-performance as possible. In CMNC, we realize that we have only two days, and at most three assignments, with which to optimize your experience and to honor our values of diversity in assignments.
So here's what we do, and it's from here that our philosophy originates.
On Saturday, we strive to form groups that are relatively homogenous in skill level and musical maturity. We also strive to form combinations that are seldom available for chamber music in your home environment. In that way, we try to increase your benefit from coaching, and to expose you to music that differs from the everyday. Preformed groups do restrict our degrees of freedom, by taking players out of the available pool. That, and the assortment of players who apply, do limit our success in forming groups in which everyone is playing at a stimulating and high-achievement level.
On Sundays, we get closer to the Humboldt model: we try more unusual and varied music, we loosen the requirement for a common skill level, we explicitly assign very skilled players in groups of more moderate ability, and we allow ourselves to form combinations for which only one or two works exist. We hope you will attend Sundays with these values in mind and generally try to enjoy a looser, more family-picnic atmosphere.
I should mention that for the upcoming workshop we will be experimenting for the first time with two days of coaching. That suggests that our Sunday model this time will be closer to Saturday’s, but we will still try to give you some variety and diversity if you come for both days.
If you come to our workshops with these points in mind, I do believe you'll feel more comfortable and have more enjoyment. Just because I'm president, I'll come right out and say it: is isn't all about you! It's more about arranging for a very diverse and fascinating group of people to have the greatest good for the greatest number. You are an essential part of that, and we hope that you return home gratified and satisfied.