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Vt Mozart Festival: Building musicians as well as audiences

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The Vermont Mozart Festival will present orchestra and chamber music concerts July 17-Aug. 3 at locations in Burlington, Charlotte, Shelburne and Stowe. Pictured is a 2017 concert at the Shelburne Farms Coach Barn. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

Vermont Mozart Festival musician perform in fron to Burlington City Hall in 2017. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

The Vermont Mozart Festival, beginning its third season, is unique in Vermont, perhaps the world. For not only does it present myriad concerts at various locations around the region, it prepares young professional musicians to succeed financially in today’s difficult classical music world. Of course, at its heart, is the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

“He is the most famous well-recognized composer in the world — there’s no doubt about that — in terms of sales, artistic effect and popularity,” explains violinist, conductor and festival founder Michael Dabroski. “He is my favorite composer. I find all of his music interesting to perform and listen to, and I find audiences find it quite accessible.”

The Vermont Mozart Festival will present chamber orchestra and chamber music concerts July 17-Aug. 3 at locations in Burlington, Charlotte, Shelburne and Stowe. Venues include the Coach Barn and Breeding Barn at Shelburne Farms, the scenic alpine meadow at Trapp Family Lodge, Charlotte Town Beach, Burlington Country Club, Burlington City Hall Park and Hotel Vermont. Fireworks will top off the Trapp Family Lodge Meadow concerts July 27 and Aug. 3.

While this festival bears similarities to its namesake, the legendary Vermont Mozart Festival (1974-2010), including myriad locations, outdoor and indoor locations, and of course the music, its purpose is somewhat different.

The Vermont Mozart Festival at the Trapp Family Concert Meadow in Stowe. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

“The concept is not only in terms of the opportunity to rehearse and perform Mozart, but also work on sustainable business projects and talk about career plans,” Dabroski, who played in the original festival, said recently by phone.

The Fellowship Summer Program brings together some of the most talented and promising young professional musicians, ages 21-30, to Vermont for the summer series.

“When we accept an applicant, there’s an understanding that they will be rehearsing and performing chamber music and orchestra works by Mozart,” Dabroski said. “Simultaneously they understand they are coming here with a question of how to develop their career in a community and try to make themselves relevant being an artist today.”

In addition to rehearsing and performing, the Fellows attend a series of music entrepreneur workshops and receive individual tutorials to learn elements of successful business plan writing while incorporating their career goals into a project. All Fellows receive a full scholarship, which covers the full cost of tuition, housing at Champlain College in Burlington, and a meal plan to support the full learning potential of each young professional musician.

“We study budgets, looking at the difference between administrative versus program expense, sustainability issues,” Dabroski said. “It’s what I think young professional musicians are looking for in order to drive their own ideas.”

Dabroski cited two examples of the program bearing fruit earlier this year. The festival accepted a student from the Dominican Republic last year, and a successful Mozart festival was launched in May in Santo Domingo.

“There was tremendous audience,” Dabroski said. “The concerts were a collaboration between hotels and the music of Mozart. That was a fine example of a business plan that came together last summer and was implemented this year.”

In Cuba, four of last year’s fellows launched their festival at home in February.

“It was a great success,”Dabroski said on Monday. “Last week I was in Cuba at the invitation of the Austrian ambassador to showcase the festival to diplomats.”

According to Dabroski, ambassadors from Spain, Germany and France attended.

“So the musicians have the opportunity to make money and perform,” Dabroski said. “My goal is to help our Fellows network – and be the directors. So my agenda is to build festivals and music businesses with them.”
Fellows are chosen according to the orchestra’s personnel needs, and the interest in building a career business plan, as well as performance ability. Dabroski is aided in recruitment by alumni who attend some of the best music schools in the country. This year, 30 were chosen from more than 90 applicants.

“We had nine clarinet applications (for two places), and all were super,” Dabroski said. “We also have alumni coming back. So it’s very competitive.”

Founder and Artistic Director Michael Dabroski rehearses the Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

In addition to career planning, there’s a lot of practicing and rehearsal. Orchestra rehearsals are two hours in the morning and two hours in the afternoon. And then there are the concerts.

Sundays are chamber music concerts at the Burlington Country Club; Fridays and Saturdays are orchestra concerts at Trapps’ or Shelburne.

“On Thursday we do a dry run of the Sunday program,” Dabroski said. “On Wednesday we’re doing an alternative Mozart program in Burlington.”

In the “Experimental Power Half Hour” at Manhattan Pizza each Wednesday evening, a rotating ensemble of VMF musicians will push their musicianship to the edge, reinterpreting the music of Mozart and visiting the outer regions of classical and jazz populated by the likes of John Zorn, Jonny Greenwood, Punch Brothers, Time for Three, Hauschka, and The Danish String Quartet. Conversely, there is a traditional chamber music program at Trapp Family Lodge this year.

“We’re going to do the three ‘Prussian’ String Quartets, also the Piano Quintet (with woodwinds) and a piano trio; there might be a piano quartet,” Dabroski said. “On Tuesday nights we perform an homage to Cuba, which was quite popular at Hotel Vermont last year.”

A 2017 Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestra violinist. (Photo by Stephen Mease)

For the first time, Dabroski is sharing the management of this big festival by adding Michelle Nguyen as a professional administrator.

“She handles maybe 90 percent of the logistics,” Dabroski said. “I trust her tremendously and she does extremely fine work.”

That allows Dabroski to do what he loves most.

“I’m having a lot of fun,” he said. “I feel like I can focus on music. I’m playing violin in the orchestra this year. So when I’m not conducting, I’m going to play. And I want to meet as many people as possible.”

‘Evenings with Mozart’

  • July 17: Burlington – “Mozart Lite,” free, Hotel Vermont, 5:30 p.m.
  • July 18, 7 p.m.: Stowe – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free, Trapp Family Lodge Mozart Room, 7 p.m.
  • July 18: Burlington – “Experimental Power Half Hour,” free, Manhattan Pizza, 9 p.m.
  • July 19: 6:30 p.m. – Charlotte – free, Town Beach, 9 p.m.
  • July 20: Shelburne – VMF Orchestra, $30, children free, Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5:30).
  • July 21: Shelburne – VMF Orchestra, $30, children free, Shelburne Farms Coach Barn, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5:30).
  • July 22: Burlington – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free ($40 for 5:30 dinner and concert), Burlington Country Club, 7 p.m.
  • July 24: Burlington – “Mozart Lite,” free, Hotel Vermont, 5:30 p.m.
  • July 25: Stowe – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free, Trapp Family Lodge Mozart Room, 7 p.m.
  • July 25: Burlington – “Experimental Power Half Hour,” free, Manhattan Pizza, 9 p.m.
  • July 26: Charlotte – free, Town Beach, 6:30 p.m.
  • July 27: Stowe – VMF Orchestra, $30, children free, Trapp Family Lodge Meadow, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5; fireworks to follow concert).
  • July 28: Shelburne – VMF Orchestra, $30, children free, Shelburne Farms Breeding Barn, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5:30).
  • July 29: Burlington – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free ($40 for 5:30 dinner and concert), Burlington Country Club, 7 p.m.
  • July 30: Burlington – “Mozart Lite,” free, Hotel Vermont, 5:30 p.m.
  • Aug. 1: Stowe – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free, Trapp Family Lodge Mozart Room, 7 p.m.
  • Aug. 1: Burlington – “Experimental Power Half Hour,” free, Manhattan Pizza, 9 p.m.
  • Aug. 2: Charlotte – free, Town Beach, 6:30 p.m.
  • Aug. 3: Stowe – VMF Orchestra, $30, children free, Trapp Family Lodge Meadow, 7 p.m. (gates open at 5; fireworks to follow concert).
  • Aug. 5: Burlington – VMF Orchestra and singers in opera “Bastien und Bastienne,”free, City Hall Park, 10 a.m.
  • Aug. 5: Burlington – VMF Chamber Players, $15, children free ($40 for 5:30 dinner and concert), Burlington Country Club, 7 p.m.

For tickets or information, go online to www.vermontmozartfestival.org.

 

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