September 5, 2007
To the Board of Directors of the New Hampshire Music Festival
There are many questions and issues which have been discussed among the musicians during the summer that I feel are germane and would be beneficial for the Board of Directors to hear. I know many musicians would have liked to attend the New Hampshire Music Festival Annual Meeting and Summer Social were it held when they could participate rather than right after the closing of the Festival. I shall do my best to articulate the principal concerns.
The New Hampshire Music Festival has had a long and distinguished history as one of the greatest orchestral festivals in the United States. It is unique in that it has been primarily a festival built on a sense of community. The musicians come from throughout the United States to live together in a family-dorm environment where their children grow up together and the musicians bond in friendships beyond the normal rehearsal/concert orchestral experience. Musicians have returned to the NHMF for years, some for as many as 40 years. Hiking together, eating and partying together, playing chamber music together, living together creates the need for the musicians to blend personalities which work together as well as musicianships which fit together. This community of musicians is noticeable on the concert stage in the spirit of the performances. This sense of orchestral family is noticed as well in the community of Plymouth. Indeed, the interaction of the musicians with the residents and businesses of Plymouth and the surrounding towns has created a bond which carries over into the auditorium. The association with the University is also an important aspect of the sense of community, as the musicians live and make music on the campus of Plymouth State University.
Maintaining the sense of community is essential to maintaining the New Hampshire Music Festival as it exists. To move away from the communal living environment, leave Plymouth, and change from PSU contact is to change totally the essence of the Festival itself. Leaving Plymouth would create a void in the city’s summer activities, both socially and economically for its citizens. The lack of contact of the businesses by the musicians would leave no sense of a normal living interaction the musicians and their families need to exist and enjoy the daily life. The abandonment of the ties to PSU is incomprehensible, with the facilities in place for the very existence of the Festival’s music making purpose.
To risk the future of the Festival by changing to another venue away from Plymouth is neither necessary nor prudent. The amount mentioned to build a new facility is not realistic; the lack of an endowment to sustain the building (if built) is a recipe for failure and eventual closure of the facility. The lack of communication with the orchestra players at this planning stage to incorporate the physical needs of the musicians shows a lack of understanding.
Indeed, strengthening the sense of community should be the goal. Many steps can be taken at this juncture which would make the New Hampshire Music Festival remain viable and grow. The land and buildings which the NHMF has purchased for moving the music out of PSU and Plymouth should be sold – hopefully at a profit – before any money is spent to begin the project. The NHMF should then discuss building a dormitory with PSU which would be a family-unit pet friendly facility for the NHMF musicians during the summer festival weeks, which could then be used as housing by PSU during the rest of the year. The NHMF and PSU should form the NHMF Institute at PSU where the NHMF musicians could bring students to study during the NHMF summer season. These students would occupy the existing dorm spaces as is presently the case with other youth festivals and tournaments. This educational cooperation would further bond the NHMF with the University and the surrounding communities, offering a summer music program and lessons to local students as well. The businesses in and around Plymouth could become more involved in NHMF advertising and even in scholarships/sponsorships for some of the students.
The New Hampshire Music Festival Board of Directors has the mission and responsibility to maintain the viability and quality of the Festival. To do otherwise is to ignore the sense of history which defines the NHMF. Community is the NHMF. To destroy this community will put the very future of music of the NHMF at risk.
Along with my concerned musician colleagues, who have responded 75 % in a recent poll* to remain in Plymouth rather than move to Center Harbor, I ask you to reconsider the direction that the NHMF seems to be moving, and instead strengthen the community.
Concertmaster, New Hampshire Music Festival
* “Would you like to see the future of the New Hampshire Music Festival developed in Center Harbor or remain in Plymouth?” 40 responded: 30 Plymouth, 3 Center Harbor, 7 undecided. Poll taken by email August 20-26, 2007 with anonymity guaranteed.