Chamber Music Society: Jia Kim

Jia Kim is the artistic director for Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center’s new chamber music society, which seeks to bring musicians from around the country to perform in Stowe. While they’re here, those musicians will also make presentations at local schools about chamber music and encourage students’ interest.

Chamber music is hitting new peaks in Stowe — making a home for itself on the shoulders of Mount Mansfield.

The Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center has organized a series of chamber music performances and educational sessions to bring musical talent from around the country to Stowe.

“It was only a matter of time that something like this happened, because the audience there is great, and there isn’t a chamber music series up there that’s regular,” said Jia Kim, a Korean-American cellist from New York who will perform in the series.

Kim is the series’ artistic director.

The idea had been batted around at the Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center, but wasn’t taken seriously until Hope Sullivan was hired last year as the organization’s executive director.

“I think she was willing to try different projects, and to bring back chamber music, and I think the key members were some of the board members,” Kim said. “It was totally a group effort. I think all of us were in agreement that that would be something that would be amazing, and it all just sort of came together last year.”

“This effort represents a desire and a connection to chamber music from across our Vermont community,” Sullivan said.

The series’ first performance on Saturday evening will be a trio — Kim on cello, Sean Lee on violin and Euntaek Kim on piano.

The trio will perform works by Mozart, Brahms and Schubert.

“The caliber of the talent (Kim) has rallied for this first performance on Saturday is unparalleled.  Seeing these three world-class artists perform is a rare treat and knowing that they are launching this initiative makes it even more meaningful,” Sullivan said.

The versatility of the chamber music genre is part of what makes it so enticing, Kim said.

She called chamber music “musical democracy.”

“The music written for it allows that kind of intimacy to be actually the most important part of the music-making between players, but also when we’re connecting with the audience, that also plays a big role. Everybody in the group are leaders. There’s no hierarchy,” she said.

Plus, “the music written for it, from many, many composers, are known to be their best work.”

Because chamber music groups can range from two to nine members, they can play on smaller stages than those required for orchestras, making 420-seat Spruce Peak a terrific venue for hosting them, Kim said.

Musical education

In addition to the performances, the musicians will make regular appearances at local schools, encouraging students to explore interest in chamber music and sometimes teaching techniques, Kim said.

“A lot of the time, when we go to schools and work with students, it teaches them how to be a team player. There are many similarities between sports” and chamber music, Kim said.

Through playing chamber music, students learn to work together, and assume leadership roles when necessary as they pass the melody back and forth.

They also “learn to listen to each other,” Kim said.

Kim has worked with students from Juilliard School, and is on the faculty at New York Youth Symphony's Chamber Music Program, The Brearley School in New York City, and International Music Sessions, a nonprofit organization that brings students from conflict areas around the world to bridge the gap between cultures through music.

Education doesn’t stop for adults, either, and the Spruce Peak Chamber Music Society will have opportunities for adults to learn more about chamber music, too.

ArtSmart, behind-the-scenes events with the musicians, will teach adults about the work and instrumentation behind the concerts they attend.

Kim will moderate the ArtSmart events.

The education initiatives will begin in 2019, Kim said.

“So far, we’ve had a lot of good feedback, and people have had enthusiasm. We’re very excited to be up there this week,” Kim said.

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