On the transformative power of music, whether played by professionals or underprivileged children.

Making music in a small group has an endless fascination. The intensity of interaction mirrors that of quite intimate human relationships, and even though it’s the repertoire itself which is the first attraction, there is probably something about the closely connected feeling which is irresistible, despite its potential pitfalls.

Chamber music is an exciting, risky milieu, with no conductor, no director to obey or fight against, only our own pooled skills, experiences and instincts to guide us in forming a shared interpretation. We need strong opinions and clear ideas but a receptiveness to the input of others; an ability to offer suggestions or criticism in a creative and supportive way, and to receive the same open-mindedly and non-defensively. A way of choosing words, a feel for when words are not necessary.

One of my favourite engagements each year is a festival in rural Vermont, where faculty and students live, work and perform chamber music together, away from the exposure of concert platforms. This festival is particularly special because the students are chosen for their strengths as people almost as much as their playing ability (which is phenomenal).