One of the missions of the Asheville Chamber Music Series Outreach Program is to expand the audience for chamber music in our community. The Series is featured not only in the local media but has received national attention in a feature article in Chamber Music America.
To reach out to the next generation, Chamber Series concerts are free to youth under the age of twenty five. To expand music opportunities for area students, the Chamber Series provides Master Classes. For example, in the Fall of 2013, the noted classical guitarist , Jason Vieaux, who had appeared with the Escher String Quartet, gave a Master Class for four young aspiring classical guitar students.
In addition to providing master classes for student musicians, students have had the opportunity to meet and hear world-renowned artists who have appeared with the series. Guest artists such as the Pacifica, Ying, and Chiara Quartets have performed in area schools.
In addition, the board has hired the local Opal Quartet to work in the area public schools. This outreach is especially important since string instruction was to be totally cut from the Buncombe County schools in 2004. Protests by parents served to let the Board know how important a string program is to music instruction in this community.
Since then, the Education Outreach Program of the Asheville Chamber Music Series has worked effectively with Asheville and Buncombe County Intermediate, Middle and High Schools to provide music enrichment opportunities to students. The schools included are: TC Roberson HS, Koontz IS, Valley Springs MS; AC Reynolds HS, Cane Creek MS; North Buncombe HS, Windy Ridge IS, N. Buncombe MS; and Erwin HS and Erwin MS. The Opal String Quartet has assisted area string instructors in the schools by providing “hands on” instruction, as well as inspiring performances to students in the strings program.
This effort together with strong support from the new Arts Coordinator for the county schools, Robert Waller, the health of the strings programs is robust, growing and educating many enthusiastic and conscientiously instructed students. Sponsorship of the Opal Quartet by the Educational Outreach Program of the ACMS has had a remarkable impact. Paul Zinke, music teacher at T.C. Roberson HS, Valley Springs MS and Koontz IS commented on how the posture, bow holds, intonation and general musicality of his students have improved as a result of these collaborations with professional musicians.
Concerning a master class given in the fall of 2013 by the two members of the Opal Quartet playing Dohnanyi, Serenade for String Trio, Zinke added: “On [their] last visit to Koontz, one of my students couldn’t believe that it was humanly possible to accomplish what they saw. They were really blown away, what a great choice of duet! It shows them what is possible for them if they are really serious, and it does that up close and personal.”
In addition to Mr. Zinke, we have also had great cooperation from Paul Ghosthorse, a fine cellist with the Asheville Symphony Orchestra and strings teacher at A.C. Reynolds High School; Reuben Orengo, also a member of the strings section of the ASO and director of strings in the Asheville schools has played a significant role in sustaining the strings program, (he is a former member of the Board of the ACMS); and Shawn Benfield, N. Buncombe HS who was the catalyst in organizing an all county string concert for the IS, MS and HS students of Buncombe County each February.
We are very fortunate to have had such dedicated support from the school system for our program to strengthen strings teaching for children in Asheville and Buncombe County public schools.
In addition to the efforts in the public schools, a group of budding music students in the Asheville area have formed The Asheville Young Musicians Club which has afforded ACMS another opportunity to broaden our educational outreach. This group of young people, dedicated to learning chamber music, is supporting the educational outreach programs of the Asheville Chamber Music Series, the Asheville Area Piano Forum, and education in Nicaragua by presenting a fundraising concert in Asheville each spring. ACMS is proud to co-sponsor this effort with the Asheville Area Piano Forum.