10/16/09 – Martin Kimbell

As Martin Sees It. 10/16/09

Let us start at the beginning. The NHMF was a gathering of professional musicians and classical music teacher performers, gathering together with a professional Music Director/Conductor here in the wonderful State of NH. The organizers and managers of the Music Festival worked diligently to prepare a working and living environment suitable to hold a festival here in Central NH that would encourage families of musicians to return year after year to the area. The orchestra played wonderful music from past and present composers, presented in a variety of music venues. The longest standing venue being Plymouth State College Silver Hall and Silver Cultural Arts Center and Gilford Middle School. Venues have been used all over the lakes region and Pemi Valley. The players and conductors have had a long relationship to one another, ever changing over the many years they have been coming here. The family of musicians has had the respect of the audience for 57 years, and the audience is still speaking out in support of the musicians and former conductors, for the age old traditions of the Music Festival, and for the community that has developed over the many years of joining the musicians with the audience.

One of the long standing mission statements for the festival, was to have a permanent home for the festival. Over 5 years ago, the festival acquired the property and buildings of the Red Hill Inn, previously the Belknap College Campus. This acquisition came at a cost to the festival, and donors stepped forward over the last number of years to finally secure the property, and intend to build a concert facility large enough to house a 900 count audience and a large orchestra. This original structure was also to be used as a training center for students interested in playing in orchestras. Year round education in orchestra building was being considered, and funds for the project were being encouraged from the donors to support this large endeavor. The attending musicians for the festival were never invited to the grounds of the Red Hill Inn to see the splendor and magnificence of the buildings and surrounding beautiful landscape.
With millions of dollars necessary for funding a new concert hall, housing for musicians, and year round facilities maintenance, the fund drive never reached the hoped for totals necessary for building all that was planned. The Management and Board of Directors changed the development strategy, and downsized the facilities to build a smaller auditorium, welcoming up to 700 person audience and a smaller stage for still a large orchestra.

Funding and contributions for the festival began to erode with the announcements to continue to build this extravagant concert venue. Many patrons repeatedly talked and wrote to the management of the festival in opposition to the expensive new home of the festival. These same patrons stopped giving their usual contributions to the festival, sometimes giving less, and sometimes giving none at all. The annual fund supposedly is set up to be funding operations for the performances in the summer, housing for the musicians, and education in the school districts locally. Many patrons were not supporting the new venue costs, and stopped supporting the festival all together.

Musically, the traditions of the festival have included musical pieces from present and past composers. Over 17 years ago, Tom Nee presented a wide variety of standard and modern contemporary music. Many of the performances were premiering and playing works from composers invited to the festival. Introducing the festival to the art and current changes in classical music was important to Tom, the audience, and musicians. Paul Polivnik, having arrived 17 years ago as conductor and Music Director, encouraged large pieces of standard, and contemporary classical music as well. He also invited composers to write pieces for the festival and premiered them here for us in NH.

Over the last 17 years, the management got more involved with the music directors choices in classical music, repeating many of the standard pieces over the years. Patrons were mixed on the presentation of pieces they had heard before. Some patrons stopped coming to shows where pieces had been played recently, and these subscribers and donors were yet another loss to the festival annual fund and ticket sales. Modern and contemporary composers were being shied away from, and the music began to be over managed by the new approaches coming from the administration.

Through it all, the musicians continued to play in an Orchestra here at the local venues, creating a sound that was spectacular and full of energy. The musicians in the orchestra were familiar with many patrons in the audience. Over the years passed, the audience and former management teams as well as board members were much more involved and gathered together at events with the musicians. The communities have continued to welcome the musician’s and conductor’s families into central NH. They have created bonds of friendship and longevity, that have been the building blocks of a connected community environment that surrounds a summer festival.

Education that brings young people to classical music and concerts , that brings promotion of classical music into the school systems of central NH is paramount. Music education exists in our school districts with many talented students and teachers in all our SAU districts. The inclusion of classical music education and performance is lacking in NH schools throughout grades K-12. In working with other non-profit groups that already bring music education and other programs to the local schools, classical music programs would benefit our young adults and children throughout the area.

Promotion of the festival in all forms of media, school programs, public relations, and community events has long been lacking in the eyes of the concert audience.

The magic that has been created over the years between the conductor, musicians, audience, chorus, and the community is the kind of excitement that our current management is seeking. This collaborative model has long been in use here in the festival, with the closeness of the musicians working and living together in an environment carefully designed to create the opportunity to bring the musicians and their families together, allowing them the professional space to create a developing style of Classical Music for all of us to hear. Much has been learned from this process over the many years this festival has been in existence. Music Education specialists should be studying the process here at work over the many years, as how to develop a working music festival that includes families, friends, musicians, audiences, community, and the management, board of directors, and administration.

Change has been happening all along with this festival, and the controversies abound at the present moment. Many times, smaller steps and less radical moves by the current administration, yield more acceptable results to the public. The musicians, audience, and management are all fighting for what they think will make for this festival a viable future. The musicians have created a family that has taken stage as our festival orchestra, and has been growing and changing over the many years they have been coming here. The audience is looking to the past and future of the festival, to align themselves with a path that seems to fit a healthy direction. The management is moving forward to create a new collaborative model that would introduce new musicians and students to the orchestra and chamber concerts, and build a new concert venue costing large sums of money. The news continues to bring all sides of the story forward. The changes over the many years have brought on dismay and confusion from past board members, with the audience, with the community, families and friends of the festival, and with the musicians. The current management model continues to disrupt the patronage and faith in the festival’s direction. The mission statement needs to take a new direction based on the public outcry, in that a non-profit organization should consider the public’s input to be very important in seeing the festival into the future, serving the residents, community, and visitors to central NH.