I first learned about Avaloch Farm Music Institute from a friend and fellow cellist. She described it to me in such a way that I went home that night and googled it to be sure this was real. Had I heard right? A residency program for performers? Indeed this was the case, Avaloch Farm exists and it is, quite literally, heaven on earth for musicians.
As a free-lance performer of contemporary music, I spend most of my year on the road, bouncing from city to city and learning music at a rate that echoes that kind of lifestyle. Somehow there’s never enough time for everything, including giving oneself that much needed space to just think.
I would have conversations all the time with composer friends who would gush about the eight weeks they spent at Yaddo or the MacDowell Colony. These places sounded amazing, only problem being that they were: a) only accepting a handful of people each year by application or nomination and b) predominantly geared towards composers, writers, and visual artists, not performers like myself playing other people’s music.
Then came Avaloch Farm. I have been twice now for a few weeks each time to workshop different projects. The first was time was in 2014 as a chamber music duo with pianist David Kaplan where we focused on a combination of new and old repertoire forming two concert programs. This past summer I came under the New Music Initiative, a program which encourages performer/composer combinations to come and develop their collaborative works. My proposal included several new commissions by composers whom I brought to the farm at different junctures of my stay.
When my studio was not Grand Central Station for composers, I accomplished so much of what I had put off for the entire season.When I left the farm I felt refreshed, restored and ready to enter a new season prepared and full of energy. Before Avaloch, that wasn’t something I could say.
Beyond the work we do individually during these residencies there exists a strong sense of community at Avaloch. From the moment I first pulled up to the compound I was greeted with smiling faces and welcoming arms. We are fed like kings and queens, three square meals a day (and dessert which you think you won’t eat every night but always do) and we eat those meals together. In the evenings we have listening sessions, impromptu performances, discussions and good old fashioned hangs on the porch. The music world is quite small so invariably you’ll bump into someone you know but you’ll also form new friendships and collaborations that will take you to all sorts of exciting places.
Each ensemble or individual is also invited to participate in an outreach event during their stay which may include visiting a nearby hospital, retirement community, elementary school or community function such as Old Home Day in Boscawen(that was mine!). Fostering those relationships is as important and valuable as fostering the ones we are creating with each other as artists.
I cannot imagine my summers without Avaloch, and I am excited to see how it will grow.