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Intensive and rewarding Summer School

Fleur Jackson reflects on the 2017 Adam Summer School

The Adam Summer school is a special event; an intensive chamber music course where we eat, sleep, laugh, cry, learn and play music together. This year 27 of us were chosen from around the country and split into 7 chamber music ensembles, each assigned a different masterwork that would occupy our waking hours and permeate our dreams for the ensuing 8 days of rehearsal and coaching. The NZSQ would be there all the way, alongside Diedre Irons, to share their knowledge and push us to greater heights, to offer inspiration, to mentor and sometimes to mediate.

In reality, preparation for the summer school begins months in advance when we are assigned to our group and chamber music work. Individual practice ensures we have our parts under our fingers on arrival so that when we turn up the real work can begin... the task of converting an isolated score of black dots into a combined vision of light and shade, colour, shape and emotion that will transcend the sum its parts. A lofty goal perhaps, but a worthy one.

This year we had the added benefit of following on directly from the biennial Adam Chamber Music Festival. This meant we were treated to the finale concert of the festival and a taste of what we aspire to in music. Earlier in the afternoon, 15 open-minded string players were also lucky enough to participate in an improvisation masterclass taken by cellist Matthew Barley. This provided a small cameo into a realm largely unvisited by classical musicians. The style of improvisation was quite distinct from jazz, which tends to be more formally structured, and personally, I loved it. It felt as if we were exploring the very essentials of musical expression in their purest form, unclouded by the distraction of written notes.

After that, we were off and fully immersed in chamber music. The school schedule is loosely glued together by tasty, fully-catered meals. The day begins with breakfast at the backpackers where we stay for the duration of the week. Annabelle, our kindly 'Mother Duck', waves us off as groups disperse, heading out to a plethora of locations for the morning round of tutorials or rehearsals. Due to the temporary closure of the Nelson School of Music, the school this year relied heavily on the generosity of locals opening their living rooms up for use. Each tutorial or assigned rehearsal space seemed to be somewhere new but each hosting home was equally welcoming. By midday, we are all starving and reconvene to eat lunch after which we again scatter to our assigned rehearsal and tutorial spaces. Each day, bar one, culminates in an evening masterclass which is open to the general public. This gives each group a couple of opportunities to perform before the final Sunday concert. Interested parties, such as sponsors and scholarship donors, also get to engage in our journey as we progress though the week, and of course, Diedre and all the NZSQ members have the opportunity to bombard us with comments, critiques, adjustments, questions and generally an overwhelming amount of food for thought. Mostly all at once. By the end of class we are, of course, all starving. Following dinner, we are free to practice or socialise as we wish. Groups of students would disappear for evening swims, sit around drinking cups of tea, have heart-to-hearts with Annabelle in the dining room or fill up on the chocolate pudding that materialised every evening at the backpackers. Inevitably we would all stay up far too late then tumble into bed in hopes of some sleep before the next full day.

By the end of the week we are all somewhat exhausted, but the exhilaration of the Finale Concerts keeps us up until the wee hours. The whole week is an incredibly rewarding experience. The intensity of it all acts as a pressure cooker for our musical development and the formation of new friendships. Looking back, it seems amazing that the brevity of a single week could contain the depth of what feels like months of learning.

Read a review of the Adam Summer School Finale Concerts 

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