‘Transformative Experience’: A MAW Season Preview with Jamie Broumas

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 8, 2021
Conrad Tao is the recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant

Jamie Broumas, the Music Academy of the West’s second year chief artistic officer, had the unenviable task of trying to program a performance-packed summer music festival during the ups and downs of the pandemic and the ever-changing protocols. 

“It was very, very, very challenging,” she admitted over the phone the other day. “Were we going to be live? Would it be all remote? We had to put together so many different scenarios.”

But Broumas and the entire MAW administration never lost sight of the academy’s goal to “create a transformative experience for our fellows (the all-scholarship students). We want them to leave better musicians than they arrived, inspired and having had their horizons broadened.”

Fortunately, the COVID crisis has been largely curtailed and the fellows and faculty members are back on campus (albeit after a week’s quarantine where they get coached remotely while also gaining skills to succeed in the changing landscape for 21st century musicians via MAW’s Innovation Institute that was launched last year).

“There’s palpable joy on campus with people interacting and looking forward to being together and having that communal experience of making and experiencing music together.” 

It’s that last part where the community comes in, as somehow MAW is delivering an ambitious, if truncated, version of its usual deeply immersive season that has typified the classical music institute’s summer festival for more than seven decades. This year’s hybrid approach thankfully leans heavily on the live and in-person programs, a 70-something calendar of events that boasts fellows chamber orchestra concerts, faculty and guest artist recitals, the new X2 series that places the fellows alongside the faculty for chamber music performances, and a wildly inventive pair of cinematic events from the singers.  

There are four orchestral concerts, including two featuring the MAW debut of Michael Tilson Thomas conducting the fellows (July 17 & 31) and another pair led by Marin Alsop, the first woman to serve as the head of a major orchestra in the United States, South America, Austria, and Britain closing out the live season on August 7. The season opener with Larry Radcliffe on August 11 was able to make a late shift to the program as the pandemic restrictions eased, Broumas said.

“We’re doing now the Stravinsky Firebird suite, which is a significant piece for many sections in the orchestra that otherwise wouldn’t have had that opportunity.” 

There are two community chamber music concerts performed solely by the fellows, something of a substitute for the perennially popular Picnic Concerts of previous years (July 19 & 27) and the annual solo piano showcase (July 12) and string quartet showcase (July 20). Three of the Mosher Guest Artists will be appearing only via virtual performance, but the films will be screened at Hahn Hall in front of a live audience, while pianist Conrad Tao, recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant, will be playing live on August 3.

Broumas is particularly proud of the new X2 series, which represents a big upgrade to the occasional pairing of students and faculty.

“Every single chamber concert series will feature at least one faculty member or guest artist playing with fellows so that they can have an experience being coached within the musical learning environment of a performance. It’s really important to have that kind of mentorship in action.”

The great Jeremy Denk’s Hahn Hall recital on July 14 also features a trio of fellows. 

The Vocal Institute virtual-only performances include Beth Morrison and Paola Prestini’s update on the Liederabend tradition that brought composers and poets together to share new sounds and ideas. The “21c Liederabend, op. M.A.W.,” which features all female composers and new music, is being filmed at the Lobero sans audience, but will premiere publicly at Hahn Hall on July 23 before screening online.

The piece will also be accompanied by a “sensory object” provided to all viewers commissioned from an artist to make the work more interactive. Broumas said that Morrison considers the tactile element as “the equivalent to the staging for an opera. It’s integral to her artistic vision.”

But, as always, the bulk of the events are composed of master classes, another in-person yet hybrid creation that finds the fellows performing snippets or full movements of pieces and then receiving coaching from a faculty member or guest artist, who often also explains the context and approach to the audience.

“You get an insider’s view of what it takes to make music beyond the skill and technique,” Broumas said. “They’re very inspiring and even offer life lessons about creative endeavors outside of music.” 

Which is largely true of just about every MAW offering. In other words, fasten your seat belt and get ready for a fiercely fulfilling five-week festival. 

This Week@MAW

The Music Academy’s approach to master classes for the truncated summer season is akin to the baseball equivalent of a daily doubleheader: Every single weekday from July 5 to August 6 features two different faculty-coaching-fellows sessions at both 1:30 pm and 3:30 pm. But the instruments aren’t completely slotted as to the day and time as in previous years, and, of course, the faculty members also change, so for some classes, this week is your only chance to see that professional prodding the fellows this year. Here’s this week’s schedule:

Monday, July 5: Cello with Alan Stepansky, Chair of Strings and Professor of Cello at the Peabody Institute and the former Principal Cellist of the Boston Pops and Associate Principal of the New York Philharmonic (1:30 pm; Lehmann Hall; $10); Collaborative Piano with Jonathan Feldman, the former 25-year tenured chairman of Juilliard’s department (3:30 pm; Hahn Hall; $10). 

Tuesday, July 6: Viola with Karen Dreyfus, recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Solo Recitalist Award and a founding member of the Lyric Piano Quartet and the Amerigo Trio who teaches viola and chamber music at USC Thornton School of Music (1:30 pm; Lehmann Hall; $10). Percussion with Michael Werner, who spent 13 years with the Metropolitan Opera before joining the Seattle Symphony as principal in 2009 (3:30 pm; Hahn Hall; $10).

Wednesday, July 7: Bassoon with Windy City-based Dennis Michel, second chair of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and an ensemble artist with the Chicago Chamber Musicians (1:30 pm; Lehmann Hall; $10). Trombone & Tuba taught by Mark H. Lawrence, formerly Principal Trombone of the San Francisco Symphony for 34 years (1:30 pm; Hahn Hall; $10).

Thursday, July 8: Violin with Martin Beaver, the First Violin of the world-renowned Tokyo String Quartet for its final 11 years (1:30 pm; Lehmann Hall; $10). Clarinet with Richie Hawley, former principal of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, currently professor at Rice University’s Shepherd School (3:30 pm; Hahn Hall; $10).

Friday, July 9: Oboe with Eugene Izotov, the principal of the San Francisco Symphony who held the same position at Chicago Symphony and the Metropolitan Opera (1:30 pm; Lehmann Hall; $10). Trumpet with the June Award-nominated Paul Merkelo, principal with the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal and faculty member at McGill University (3:30 pm; Hahn Hall; $10).

Saturday, July 10: Return to Miraflores for the opening night gala, an all-outdoor benefit event featuring pianists Jeremy Denk and Conor Hanick performing together for the first time, plus MAW favorite Takács Quartet featuring the first local appearance of its violist Richard O’Neill (’98, ‘99), who will receive the Distinguished Alumni Award. Alumnus tenor and Metropolitan Opera star Ben Bliss (’12) will also perform in collaboration with faculty pianist Nino Sanikidze (’01, ’02). The evening also features signature cocktails and an alfresco dinner. (5:30 pm; $300 and up). •MJ


Location: 1070 Fairway Road
Contact: (805) 969-8787
Website: www.musicacademy.org


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