Arts & Culture

Heartland Chamber Music Festival still inspiring young musicians after 15 years

The Heartland Chamber Music Festival employs an international roster of faculty and offers a variety of summer programs for aspiring young musicians. The faculty and students offer free shows July 31 and Aug. 4-6.
The Heartland Chamber Music Festival employs an international roster of faculty and offers a variety of summer programs for aspiring young musicians. The faculty and students offer free shows July 31 and Aug. 4-6. submitted photo

It’s a beautiful thing when an artist’s vision becomes a reality.

Fifteen years ago, violist Victoria Olson was disappointed that her students had to go out of state to attend summer chamber music camps. So she started her own.

Today, the Heartland Chamber Music Festival employs an international roster of faculty and offers a variety of summer programs for aspiring young musicians. Free and public concerts are an important part of the festival.

This year there are five shows, one for faculty and guest artists (July 31) and four featuring students (Aug. 4-6).

“When we started, we rented three or four classrooms at Avila College,” said Olson, founding artistic and executive director of Heartland Chamber Music. “I felt like Kansas City had all the resources available to have our own chamber music festival, so we started with a small camp and those few rooms. We learned how to make sushi from one of our theory teachers and I made the rest of the snacks. It was quite the rough start, but 15 years later, we’re at Johnson County Community College and have really grown significantly.”

One of the musicians performing in the faculty and guests concert is a Heartland alumnus. Violinist Philip Marten is concertmaster for the American Youth Symphony and recently won a coveted spot with the Kansas City Symphony.

“When he was a young student in Kansas City he did all of our programs and was a scholarship student,” Olson said. “We feel like it’s a feather in our cap that we’re making an impact on our local students and that they’re returning to town and making a living. That’s thrilling for us.”

Olson says that the Junior Festival Concert on Aug. 4 should have special appeal for children who love music. The concert will feature talented students ages 15 and younger who are attending the summer festival by audition only.

“It’s a great way to bring your 4- and 5-year-olds who might not be quite ready for the Friends of Chamber Music,” Olson said. “You’ll hear some (Johann Sebastian) Bach and some (Wolfgang Amadeus) Mozart played by young kids you can look up to and think, ‘Wow, I could do this some day.’ 

Olson and her colleagues were similarly inspired by their experience at summer chamber music camps, and she’s justifiably proud of how Heartland Chamber Music is making the opportunity available to new generations of musicians.

“It really is the purest art form,” Olson said. “Everything you learn from chamber music transfers to a solo or orchestral career. Having that one person on each part, listening and playing and knowing when to lead and when to fit in with the group. All of us as professional musicians remember our chamber music experiences in the summer as kids. It was just magical.”

Faculty and Guests Concert: 3 p.m. July 31. Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church, 11100 College Blvd., Overland Park. Junior Festival Concert: 7 p.m. Aug. 4. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, 415 W. 13th St. Festival Scholars Concert: 7 p.m. Aug. 5. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Student Concert I: 2 p.m. Aug. 6. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. Student Concert II: 7 p.m. Aug. 6. Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral. All concerts are free. www.heartlandchambermusic.org.

A night of sonnets, music

With a Shakespearean name like Prospero’s Books, the beloved 39th Street bookstore will be the perfect setting Monday evening for a reading of sonnets and Elizabethan music.

Actor and Shakespeare specialist Matt Schwader will read a selection of sonnets from “Thanks for Noticing: The Interpretation of Desire” by Vern Barnet. Schwader’s readings will be interspersed with music provided by Beau Bledsoe on a variety of period instruments, including the lute.

Barnet, founder of the Center for Religious Experience and Study and one of Kansas City’s most formidable intellects, has composed a book of sonnets modeled after William Shakespeare’s own that are also profound explorations of the world’s traditions. He’s written 154 sonnets, the same number as Shakespeare, but Schwader will read only a few, select gems.

7 p.m. Monday. Prospero’s Books, 1800 W. 39th St. Free. CRES.org.

Owen/Cox Dance Group

The Great Friends Dance Festival in Rhode Island has selected Kansas City’s Owen/Cox Dance Group as the resident company for its seventh annual festival this year.

Jennifer Owen, co-founder of the company, and five dancers will travel to Rhode Island for the July 14-23 festival. Owen will choreograph a large-scale new work using her dancers and the Island Moving Company. The work, which will premiere at the festival, will be set to music by Brad Cox, the ensemble’s other co-founder.

You can reach Patrick Neas at patrickneas@kcartsbeat.com and follow his Facebook page, KC Arts Beat, at www.facebook.com/kcartsbeat.

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