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Marlboro music royalty heading to Iowa City

BY RACHAEL LANDER | MARCH 11, 2009 7:17 AM

More than just a brand of cancer stick, Marlboro is a quaint town in Vermont. Passion, not nicotine, causes some of the world’s best musicians to travel there and dedicate their summers to the Marlboro Music School and Festival.

Musicians from Marlboro, the Marlboro School’s touring chamber group, will perform today at the Brown Deer Golf Club, 1900 Country Club Drive, Coralville. The performance is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and it will feature pieces from Beethoven and Zoltán Kodály, a composer from Hungary.

“The Marlboro Music School and Festival allow musicians of extraordinary talent to gather together for seven weeks to practice chamber music,” said Tessa Chermiset, the manager of Musicians from Marlboro.

Marlboro Music got its start in 1951 as a place in which musicians could come together and play without the stress of having to perform before audiences. Despite the program’s relaxed environment, gaining acceptance into the school is not easy. Marlboro Music has high standards, and applicants are reviewed by a panel of professional musicians.

The group of selected applicants, which usually numbers around 80 members, move to Marlboro for seven weeks of rent-free living to play together. Marlboro Music’s participants, who fall anywhere from teenage wunderkinds to strapping seniors, indicate what music they would like to work on throughout the summer, though whether their pieces will be chosen is up to the school’s organizers. Chermiset said the school tries to honor the participants’ wishes but cannot always accommodate everyone.

Out of around 250 pieces played throughout the summer, only around 50 are performed. Of those, one group is selected to tour and present its work to people throughout the United States. In order to gain a slot on the tour, a musician must have spent numerous summers at Marlboro. The selected performers vary each year, allowing many people the opportunity to do a national tour.

“The Musicians from Marlboro started 44 years ago,” Chermiset said. “Basically, during the summer [organizers pick] one piece that we feel is so fantastic that it should be shared with audiences.”

This year, the selection is Beethoven’s Serenade in D Major, opus 25, which is specifically for flute, violin, and viola, with his String Quintet in C Major, opus 29. To complement Beethoven, the chamber group members also chose to play pieces from Kodály.

The six touring performers are Rebecca Albers, Maurycy Banaszek, Lily Francis, Soovin Kim, Earl Lee, and Marina Piccinini. They are all acclaimed musicians, many with résumés rivaling the complete works of Leo Tolstoy in length. Some of the touring members are established professionals, while a few are still in their early years, though all have much to be proud of in their careers.

“Rising stars and established professionals play together — that is the beauty of Marlboro,” Chermiset said. “It doesn’t matter if you have an amazing career or if you’re just out of school.”

The musicians dedicate five days to practicing the material prior to touring. While that may not seem like a long time, the professional musicians do not spend just a few hours practicing. They take as much time as they need to perfect the music and be ready for the tour.
“If they want to rehearse all day, they rehearse all day,” Chermiset said. “It’s really the passion for the music — that’s why it’s done.”

The passion behind the music is what has made not only the touring group so successful, but the entire program at Marlboro as well. Chermiset said that since its founding, the school’s goal has been the same: to allow instrumentalists the chance to play music.

“In the span of 60 years, not much has changed,” she said. “It’s a magical place.”


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