Artist: The Lincoln Trio
Benjamin Weatherston sat down with Chicago-based The Lincoln Trio (Marta Aznavoorian, David Cunliffe, and Desirée Ruhstrat) and Ann Arborite Dan Long of Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates. They were putting on a workshop at Huron High School for students from middle and high school music programs before their performance at Kerrytown Concert House.
Ben: How did The Lincoln Trio come together?
Marta: We all teach and we were all on staff at The Music Institute of Chicago. We were on faculty there while also performing and the president, Frank Little, put us together. He thought we would be a nice mix, we played our first concert, and it stuck.
Ben: What did you think of the program here today?
Desiree: It was very encouraging to see that many violinists on a stage. And enthusiastic! And they were so quiet when the teacher was talking, it was very impressive.
Marta: Watching the children as the teacher was putting it together part by part and watching the lightbulbs go off as other parts joined their part you could see it dawn on them, the bigger picture of music.
Dan: And if you were to walk into her rehearsal room on any given day you would find exactly that. And that’s just two of the five Ann Arbor middle schools.
Ben: Being professional musicians, what do you think about 130 kids on stage here knowing that few or none of them may go on to be professionals?
David: Maybe some of them will, it is a very tough profession. I think when we look out and see children as attentive as these and enjoying the music, I see the future audiences for chamber music and symphony orchestras. They are the ones that are keeping an interest in classical music going.
Marta: I see it more as music appreciation than as a career. Just instilling the love of music, I’m pleased to see that in audiences.
Desiree: Even many music colleges now are doing dual degree programs. For people that love music but might not have what it takes to make it as a professional performer, they can still have a life in music. It’s an exciting time for classical music because it’s no longer about just playing your instrument. It could be teaching, business administration, or creating your own career that wasn’t there before.
Ben: So more for an appreciation rather than a vocation? Like sports? Playing baseball as a kid makes you a better fan as an adult.
David: I see what you’re saying, that feeling of going to a baseball game. Being British, I have to say soccer not baseball! Playing soccer as a kid and then identifying with it as an adult. That feeling you get when you walk into a stadium is the same with classical music. When you play Beethoven’s 5th as a kid you will feel a sort of nostalgia when you hear it as an adult.
Dan: As a music consumer, what is most important to having music in one’s own life has nothing to do with the ability to play. Most of these kids might not reach a high level of proficiency but what they are getting by being in an orchestra is an important ingredient for life.
Desiree: It’s a life skill, it’s teamwork, and sitting in the middle of that sound is different than sitting in the audience.
Ben: Do you see any other similarities between music and sports in school?
David: When I am teaching, the first question I ask is if they do sports. If they do, I find they have very good fine motor skills and a demonstration of a passion for something. I’ve always found that kids who are good at sports are invariably good at music.
Marta: And a focus. My daughter plays hockey and the violin and the discipline of both are remarkable. It’s time, it’s focus, it’s routine, it’s a dedication. I would say that music is different mostly because of the alone time. Team sports usually have team practice while most music is hours and hours of playing alone.
Ben: Dan, what is Great Lakes Performing Artist Associates all about?
Dan: Our goal is to bring artists together and provide audiences for them. It’s not like the UMS that brings in people from New York and London. And as our title suggests, the Great Lakes, we are talking about people that live in the Midwest. And we can help them get started, keep on going, and support them. Many of our artists are teachers who don’t have time to go out and drum up business. It takes a lot of time and effort so if we can do something for them then we are achieving our goal. We believe that there can never be enough good music in the world.
Ben: I really loved Silver Dagger because of the Appalachian influences and it seemed more like a song rather than a classical arrangement. Is this an emerging trend?
Marta: It’s a realization that endless pieces aren’t appealing. That’s Stacy Garrop, an amazing female composer.
Desiree: Silver Dagger has been very popular. Across the board, kids and adults. You think they might like the fast stuff but then they’re drawn to it. We do the classics but we’ve found some really engaging contemporary composers. The kids go away saying, “Wow, this was just written. This is cool.” They are making it accessible not only to the young people but to the older generation who might have been against contemporary music. If you’re trying to bring in a new audience it’s very difficult to sell an all Beethoven program. The days of being snooty about classical music are over if we want to maintain an audience.
David: In the 1950s and 60s composers were composing pretty incomprehensible music in my opinion. And composers have realized in the last 20 years that they have to write more accessible music.
Marta: If no one’s listening to their pieces, what are they writing for?