by Devin Cobleigh-Morrison
From July to August in 2016, I was fortunate enough to attend the Marrowstone Music Festival as both a counselor and participant. Upon arrival, my first impressions were good - the rooms were typical dorms with communal bathrooms on each floor, the facilities were nice and spacious, and the food was good with plenty to offer for each person’s dietary needs. The audition process was smooth, straightforward and well organized. The only thing I found stressful was getting everyone moved in (I was a counselor) and then having to play an audition soon after. Even if you aren’t a counselor, you are still looking at a flight to Seattle/Tacoma, then a 2-hour shuttle ride, taxi to the festival, and FINALLY moving in then playing an audition. This isn’t an ideal situation; however, I do feel this is part of a growing experience in taking auditions, as auditions are all a bit of a wild card.
The music is always balanced, with plenty of opportunities for each part. There are two orchestras, a chamber orchestra, and multiple chamber groups. I was fortunate to play Tchaikovsky’s Francesa di Rimini, Strauss’s Don Juan, Janacek’s Sinfonietta, Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis, and Respighi’s Trittico Boticelliano in chamber/full orchestra, as well as to delve into the Schubert Octet D.803 and Beethoven’s Sextet in E-flat major, Op.81b with my best friend, Benjamin Bacni, during the two-week festival. Other works performed by my colleagues included Bernstein’s On the Waterfront, the Dvorak Wind Serenade, Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll, various staple wind / brass quintets, etc. Additionally, Mr. Clevenger and Dr. Tung offered two master classes and a mock audition, with instant feedback and accessible materials. These professors offered their time graciously to anyone and everyone. Marrowstone is extremely lucky to have them as part of their team. Faculty recitals were brilliant, with concise programs over a wide array of musical genres. Being a horn player, my favorite faculty performance was the Poulenc Sextet. Wow! For a favorite performance that I was involved in, this was hands-down the Beethoven Sextet. After studying with Mr. Clevenger for 4 years at CCPA, having him coach this work was a dream come true. Additionally, playing the work with my best friend, Ben, someone I look up to immensely, is something I will never forget.
In terms of budgeting time, sometimes this can be difficult. Student chamber recitals can last up to 3 hours. As they are mostly volunteer-based, there can be very little time to prepare needed material. I remember feeling stressed by the weight of lead on the Janacek with pegging C’s, and jumping to both parts in the Beethoven Sextet. Besides worrying about balancing all that, there were also the 5 hours of rehearsal in large orchestra formation as well as small ensemble rehearsal, and the material from the mock audition/master classes. However, the professors were considerate and put very straight-forward material in the mocks, as to not completely over-exert the participants. They did all this while also keeping lessons extremely relevant. Tung and Clevenger are very understanding and also considerate to their students. This goes above and beyond a level of appreciation that can be expressed in words.
If anyone is looking for a two-week festival to play a lot, have great collegial experiences, and a chance to bond with faculty on a more personal level, this is your place. Being in the mountains for 2 weeks playing fabulous repertoire, and working with others in a fast-paced environment is something I really needed. It totally refreshed my views on the instrument and the arts. Dr. Tung and Mr. Clevenger are top notch. I would absolutely recommend this festival to anyone considering it.