Students blossom with musical promise

The 27th Adam Summer School for young chamber musicians took place earlier this month in Nelson and offered 25 of the country's top young musicians the opportunity to work alongside pianist Richard Mapp and the members of the NZSQ on some of the greatest works of the chamber music repertoire.

2021 Adam Summer School students and faculty after two spectacular Finale Concerts

Violist Zephyr Wills, who has attended four times now, wrote a reflection about the 27th Summer School and what it was like rehearsing and performing as part of Strauss' Metamorphosen septet. Pianist Noelle Dannenbring, who has now attended three Summer Schools, also wrote a reflection about her experience as a returning student and what it's like as only one of a few pianists accepted each year.


You can read their reflections on the Summer School below, as well as a couple of touching emails we received from two audience members who have been attending the Finale Concerts for over 12 years now and were greatly moved by the final performances...


Violist Zephyr Wills reflects on the 2021 Adam Summer School

The 2021 Adam Summer School wonderfully upheld its reputation as one of the finest chamber music education programs for developing young musicians in Aotearoa. The week-long course offers an intensive array of chamber music rehearsals, coachings, and masterclasses in anticipation of the finale concert at the end of the week, at the Nelson Centre of Musical Arts. Through detailed interactions with members of the New Zealand String Quartet, students receive unique insight into how professional chamber music is constructed. These interactions in 2021 were particularly unique for the members of my group. We had been assigned Strauss’ intellectually and emotionally stimulating ‘Metamorphosen’, a work originally written for twenty-three string players but arranged for Septet by Austrian cellist Rudolf Leopold. I spent weeks perfecting my part over the summer, and confidently arrived in Nelson believing I utterly comprehended the complexities of this work. Oh rest thee, my mistaken mind. The extraordinarily diverse detail and multi-faceted interpretation the NZSQ added to my understanding of this piece, and chamber music as a whole, was staggering.


True, it was not uncommon to observe, and partake in, relatively stereotypical rehearsal procedures, such as thirty-minute intonation discussions about how, ‘the C natural in bar 168 needs to harmonically adjust to fit the chord structure’. However, for the NZSQ, stereotypical technical perfection is not enough. Numerous additional factors were considered, including textual density, harmonic development, voice leading, emotional manipulation, and historical analysis, to name a few. Historical analysis was particularly applicable to my group this year. Understanding that Strauss was lamenting, through ‘Metamorphosen’, not only the destruction of Germanic culture in 1945, but also the legacy of the Germanic Enlightenment, was critical to informing our interpretation of the work. This emotional crucible was wonderfully conditioned with the NZSQ’s immense pedagogical experience, producing a finale performance that, one hopes, truthfully reflected Strauss’ turbulent midframe in 1945. One cannot help but leave the Adam Summer School with an aura of musical professionalism.


Strauss 'Metamorphosen' septet performing during the 2021 Adam Summer School Finale Concert

Alongside developing musical professionalism, students create connections with fellow musicians, and potential future colleagues. This is amplified in masterclasses, where every group performs twice throughout the week, and students from other groups are encouraged to offer advice, together with the tutors. Such shared vulnerability warmly unifies the entire student body, thus formulating swift friendships. This is reinforced by eating in the same spaces, and staying at the same hostel. Late-night board games and folk songs are not included in the Adam Summer School’s schedule, however, these undeniably take place after hours. The Adam Summer School’s communal structure ensured I felt, upon its conclusion, that I had made lifelong acquaintances ready to share the next stages of our musical development into professionalism.


The Adam Summer School acts as a platform from which students can spring into the professional world. The pedagogical mastery during the week, combined with the contacts one establishes, ensures students begin the year with eyes securely fixed upon futures blossoming with musical promise.


2021 Adam Summer School violists with Gillian


Pianist Noelle Dannenbring reflects on the 2021 Adam Summer School

The Adam Summer School for chamber music is, and has always been, a highlight and memorable experience with much to digest during an intensive eight days of self-conducted rehearsals, coaching and masterclasses. Despite having attended the program three times, I am frequently astonished by the vast amount of knowledge and wisdom shared by our excellent tutors. We are very lucky to have a collaborative music program in New Zealand which enables students the opportunity to work closely with such accomplished artists. In fact, amidst covid times, we are fortunate to even have this year’s program run ahead!


The 27th summer school, in my experience, was one like no other. Expecting to have taken the course as a piano trio, my ensemble unfortunately encountered unforeseen circumstances and resulted in spending the week as both a violin piano duo and different piano trio. With change at such short notice, we faced the challenge of learning movements, from two contrasting repertoire, while ensuring both groups were equally nurtured throughout the week. Despite the stress, we were grateful for this experience which stretched and tested our abilities as musicians. After all, this is life in today’s pandemic times; we must be prepared to make changes at any given moment.


Schubert Piano Trio rehearsing at NCMA

A week at the Adam Summer School probably encouraged a whole heap of us to establish a healthier sleep routine. Early starts and long hours of instrumental playing, and being molded by our tutors, often had us dropping dead by around 11pm at night. Our regular evening mood at Tasman Bay Backpackers was set by song and entertainment, by our very talented Zephyr, while we indulged in the ever-famous chocolate self-saucing pudding. Our coaching were two-hours per session but we were well fueled with plenty of food, fruit, and cakes; ka pai to the caterers for doing such an incredible job adhering to the many special dietary needs! We walked 20 minutes a day (one way) to attend course at The Nelson School of Music. All calories were burned on this occasion and, naturally, we got our daily dose of exercise without even trying. If you were anything as fit as Benny, perhaps you might have even run up to the Centre of New Zealand every morning!


Unforgettable, fulfilling and worthwhile. These are three words I would use to sum up the Adam Summer School. The only intimidating part, in my opinion, was that moment NZSQ’s Gill stood up and randomly selected students to make a comment about the masterclass performance; a few of us sunk into our seats in hopes those who were more visible would kindly take one for the team. At the end of each day, we would unwind with Elke Dunlop’s Feldenkrais classes. These sessions allowed us to loosen any tension, and relax after a long day of hard work. As we lay on the ground, the sound of silence was sometimes broken by the sound of someone snoring...


Schubert Piano Trio taking a bow after their performance at the 2021 Finale Concerts


Giving hope for the future of chamber music in Aotearoa

We were delighted to receive heartwarming audience feedback about Summer School Finale Concerts, including these messages below from two local Nelsonians who have been attending the Finale Concerts for over 12 years...


"Having attended the Adam Summer School Finale Concerts for over ten years, the quality and standard of the performances never cease to delight and amaze me. The students' skills, their hard work over the week of rehearsals, tutorials and individual tuition shines through in their Finale playing. The fact that many return year after year, form strong friendships, is testimony to the benefits they gain from this intensive period of music making. I love how supportive they are to their peers, showing loud and joyful appreciation of others' performances. Not to mention the dedication and energy from the NZSQ and guest tutors. These young musicians give me great hope for the future of chamber music in Aotearoa and overseas (in a post Covid world)!" - Alison McLeish, Nelson

Phil Inness, Alison's friend, who also attended the Finale Concerts that evening at Nelson Centre of Musical Arts writes:

What a joy, two performances of such beauty and accomplished instrumental skill. From lyrical compositions of Brahms and Dvorak, to the lovely dissidence and expression of Shostakovich. All performers produced music of high quality. I particularly liked Richard Strauss’ Metamorphosen but mostly, the String Quartet No 3 by Shostakovich, and the excellent bow control with which tensions within the piece were realised. All in all, these two concerts were from the best of the best. - Phil Inness, Nelson


Thanks to all our supporters

We're enormously grateful to all who supported the 2021 Adam Summer School, especially the Adam Foundation, Creative NZ, Pub Charity, New Zealand School of Music, Victoria University of Wellington, Cloudy Bay, Chamber Music New Zealand, Nelson Centre of Musical Arts and all our generous scholarship donors.


To find out more about the Adam Summer School and how you can support us or apply, visit our Adam Summer School webpage.