I’m starting my fourth day at Wintergreen, and the tempo here is Presto energico. The students are getting an hour lesson each week, six hours of Composition class, 3 hours of Nuts and Bolts classes, and numerous encounters with new-music specialists from around the world. In a couple of weeks, the works they composed this past month will get open dress rehearsals, performances and a recording sessions. Other compositional opportunities are sprouting up as abundantly as festive weeds on a hillside.
In all, it’s an impressive, intensive way for young composers to spread their wings.
The mastermind of it all is Larry Alan Smith, Composition Professor from the Hartt School and Artistic Director of the Wintergreen Summer Arts Festival. Larry has whipped up a frenzy of activity here, with music, dance, poetry, painting, wine, and probably a bunch of other things I haven’t encountered yet – the schedule of events would make a cozy home for a minotaur.
Speaking of minotaurs, the theme of the festival is Music from the Mediterranean, and the orchestra concert on the afternoon I arrived fit the bill. Larry conducted music by Corigliano, Stamitz, Glazunov and Mendelssohn, but the highlight was the US premiere of Smith’s saxophone concerto, beautifully played by Gaetano di Bacco. The piece reflects Larry’s growing interest in his Italian heritage, with lovely lyrical flourishes and a charming pizzicato finale.
But anyway, back to all of the things that are going on here. The enormous range of events sits, like the powerful body of Babe Ruth, on toothpick legs. The festival has a lot of enthusiastic volunteers and no full-time staff. This is the way of arts organizations these days – many are surviving on the boundless energy of a few dedicated individuals. As an example: I mentioned casually to someone that I was going to need directions to the concert on Thursday night, which is taking place about an hour north of here. Ten minutes later I had an email from a stranger saying, “I understand you need directions – here they are!”
On the other hand, I’ve been here since Sunday and I haven’t yet received a contract, though the terms of my employment were agreed to last fall. That’s not a complaint, by the way – far from it, I’m being treated wonderfully here, I couldn’t be happier – but rather a comment on the business end of this profession, in which circumstances that would be unthinkable in any other profession are accepted and appreciated. Trust and flexibility are important attributes when staffing is scarce. I’ve known Larry Smith for thirty years, he is a man of his word, and that is good enough.
Meanwhile, I’ve been treated to sumptuous feasts, invigorating mountain hikes, delightful conversation, quiet moments for reflection, inspiring students, thrilling concerts, old friends, new acquaintances. Precious commodities, all.