“How To’s” for the Age of Zoom, Videos and Distancing: Morale Boosts and Tips for Professional Growth Amidst the Isolation from Wellness Specialists

Fireworks Conductor and Snow

DECEMBER 8, 2020

Close Encounters With Music and its educational arm, Berkshire High Peaks Festival, invite classical music enthusiasts around the globe to ring in the New Year with a three-day session for pianists, string players, vocalists and lay audiences, sending a message of fortitude and meeting the challenges of COVID-19 with optimism and purpose.

Established twelve years ago as a summer destination for internationally acclaimed musicians and stars of tomorrow in scenic upstate New York and the Berkshires of Massachusetts, High Peaks was conducted entirely virtually in July 2020, with the participation of forty-six international students and twelve faculty members presenting over 22 events and webinars with outstanding success—also in forging a sense of a musical community and camaraderie from across continents.

The January “reunion” is designed to alleviate a sense of professional isolation, to counter the uncertainty and the void the pandemic has created with concrete suggestions and recommendations, stimulating master classes, panel discussions and advice from wellness specialists. The intention is to maintain the high level of excitement that has been a hallmark of twelve years of summer residencies.

“We want to keep the flames of passion and commitment, dedication and love for our chosen profession blazing,” says founder and Artistic Director Yehuda Hanani. “We are finding ways to relieve the loneliness that has been imposed on us, which is especially grievous in light of the diminished opportunities to collaborate in person with fellow performers. This will be a celebration of possibilities and achievements of alumni and faculty.

Events planned for the mini-festival include:

• Distinguished professionals will recount how they are coping, overcoming, and staying productive. These include first cellist of the Buenos Aires Philharmonic, Diego Fainguersch; chamber music instructor at Hanns Eisler Conservatory in Berlin, Wayne Foster Smith; cello instructor at the Thelma Yellin School of the Arts in Tel Aviv, Chagit Glaser; and versatile classical/Jazz pianist Mikael Darmanie. All are former students of Mr. Hanani at the Peabody Conservatory and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. Each will reflect on what has changed, how music schools and organizations are functioning, and what the future looks like in their parts of the world.

• International director Crystal Manich, whose work of over 60 full-scale productions in opera, plays and musical theater has been seen worldwide, and whose recent work during Covid-19 includes Cosi fan tutte for Pittsburgh Opera with masks and social distancing for streaming, will offer tips for virtual auditions and performances – “Classical Music and Practices for the Digital Realm.”

• Master classes with festival faculty: pianist Alexander Shtarkman (Peabody Conservatory); violinists Irina Muresanu (University of Maryland) and Peter Zazofsky (Boston University); cellist Yehuda Hanani (Mannes School of Music); Metropolitan Opera soprano Danielle Talamantes; baritone Kerry Wilkerson (George Mason University) and more!

• “The Art of Interpretation” – a talk by Yehuda Hanani that applies to all of the performance arts, addressing the wonder of classical music and how it is kept dazzlingly alive through the prism of every age.

• Dr. Arnold Cohen and Dr. Mark Cannon, both psychiatrists and musicians, will offer morale-boosting advice on how to turn the challenges of Covid-19 into opportunities for personal and professional growth.

• How to Maintain Your String Instrument during the winter of Covid with violinmaker Francis Morris

A full schedule for January 3, 4 and 5 happenings will be posted on the festival website prior to January 1 – http://www.berkshirehighpeaksmusic.org/ The entire festival reunion is FREE and open to ALL.