Where are you from? Born and bred Midtown Manhattan, New York City. I’ve lived in San Francisco, Tokyo, Helsinki, and Rome and live in Philadelphia for the last seventeen years.
Where have you played? Probably about fifteen or twenty states in the USA and all over Europe. My string trio is based in England.
Was it always your goal to become a working musician? I trained for it and it was always my great love. I was really fortunate to have super supportive parents and to play with amazing people in high school. But if did not occur to me until later on to do it professionally. I stopped playing for a few years, actually, and got a Masters in Architecture before I returned to music.
How did you become Artistic Director of the Newburyport Chamber Music Festival? I would visit Newburyport to see one of my best friends, Michael Graf of Graf Architects and Design. I ran a festival in Philly and thought I could maybe start one up in Newburyport so I called around. People kept on saying “nope, not interested” until one person, Jane Nibbling, said “well, why not?” I got lots of “no” answers first and I’ve found that a great lesson in life. If you listen to every “no” then you’ll never amount to much. You have to persevere.
Tell us a little about the festival. We are in the 15th season. The central part of it is a week+ long chamber music festival in summer with all sorts of events. We have concerts, open rehearsals, free family concerts, lectures and demonstrations, commissioned pieces using Newburyport as inspiration, and many of the finest musicians in the world. The musicians are chosen for their warmth as ambassadors as well as their skill at playing and the festival is embedded in the community. I feel a profound connection to the town even if I am not from Newburyport and it is a way to give to all the friends and people I know. It is a fundamentally different experience to play in Newburyport than elsewhere. Other concerts I give while traveling I might know a handful of people or even none in the audience. In Newburyport I look out and know at least half or more of the people in the audience. In that way, even if it sounds like a cliche, it is more akin to playing for family and friends than a random group of people. And if you think about how differently you yourself would make music for people you know or don’t know then that kind of makes sense, right?
There is also a concert we do at the Customs House Maritime Museum in November every year and we treasure that collaboration with Michael Mroz. Then we don one concert each Spring in a different location usually. So there is Summer, Spring, and Winter.
What do you like about Newburyport?
Where to start? It is so different from NYC or Philly where I live. First of all, it is beautiful without being precious. The scale is manageable - you can walk pretty much anywhere. The proportions of the streets are perfect as opposed to the canyon of, say, Chestnut Street in Philadelphia. I have so many friends in town- I can’t walk anywhere without constantly running into people I know and I think that is normal for you natives. But, that is not normal in Philly or NY. Three leafy green streets with handsome houses, Plum Island of course, two independent bookshops (I do lament the loss of the little used bookstore downtown) and of those, I could spend hours and do in Jabberwocky, the ability to get gelato as good as in Florence, Italy, sitting in Angie’s at the bar alone for breakfast, swimming laps at the Y or across Stiles Pond, the terrific little health food store, the incredibly cemetery built on a hill, the public library, and most of all, all the friends I have made. I’m actually much more social in Newburyport than in Philadelphia. It is easier to be so when I’m on the road like that. At home in Philly or NY I always seem to be rushing from one thing to another but I have a bit more space when traveling to see friends between rehearsals and stuff like that.
What is one thing you notice about New England that is unique to the rest of the country? The architecture and scale of the landscape is unique. Further south in, say, NY state or Pennsylvania you know you are not in New England. Even Connecticut has a more mid-Atlantic feel to me. But once you get to RI and MA the architecture changes along with the land. You can see it on the train going North from Penn Station up to South Station. And if you go North it changes, too. Once you are in to Maine it becomes much more rugged and buildings are different just as Vermont has its own feel as well.