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More Music In More Places: Summer festival takes classical tunes to new listeners

Summer festival takes classical tunes to new listeners by Lara Jo Hightower | July 18, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.Pianist Tomoko Kashiwagi (left) and violinist Miho Oda Sakon have created Chamber Music on the Mountain, an organization that strives to make classical music more accessible to everyone in the Northwest Arkansas area. The duo’s first official event, the Summer Festival 2021, kicks off this week. Festival events are scheduled from July 21 until July 31 and will be performed at a variety of venues around the region. (Photo by Ironside Photography/Stephen Ironside)

Pianist Tomoko Kashiwagi says chamber music is her passion -- and she would love nothing more than to share that passion with as many people as possible. So she and violinist Miho Oda Sakon have found a way to do exactly that through a new organization called Chamber Music on the Mountain, through which the duo plan to "collaborate with great musicians and to bring artists of diverse interests together."

Kashiwagi is the first recipient of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree in collaborative piano from the University of Texas at Austin, and she's performed in high-profile venues like Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Central Conservatory in Beijing and Guildhall School in London. These days, the University of Arkansas is lucky enough to count her as faculty as the assistant professor of piano and collaborative piano and holder of the Emily J. McAllister Endowed Chair.

She answered these questions for What's Up! about the organization and the upcoming Summer Music Festival -- the first official event -- starting July 21.

Your mission statement mentions that accessibility is one of your goals. Can you tell us why accessibility can be a challenge in the classical music world, and what your plans are to overcome those challenges?

I feel that classical music, like many other traditional art forms, somehow got stereotyped as highbrowed, something you can only experience in specialized concert halls.

To let more people be (re)acquainted with classical music, we are going to bring the concerts out into our community. Chamber music is perfect because there are many small ensemble combinations which can be flexible to fit into various venues. It was challenging to find good venues, quiet places with nice resonance and atmosphere that are comfortable for our audience and musicians. Outdoor venues are great, but it is difficult to play instruments, especially strings, in high humidity and amplifying the instruments without distorting the quality of the acoustic sound is very tricky.

Mount Sequoyah Center is a perfect venue. It is a quaint, nonprofit community center overlooking downtown Fayetteville. Two concerts will be family-friendly outdoor concerts, and another two concerts will in the newly renovated Millar Lodge, both at very affordable ticket prices. We were fortunate to partner with Fayetteville Public Library, the Momentary and Crystal Bridges Museum for additional outreach concerts that are free so more people can come to enjoy our performances. Finding funding for concert series is a monumental task. We are thrilled to be awarded the Artistic Innovations grant from Mid-America Arts Alliance so we can offer these programs.

Your upcoming festival is chock-full of events. Can you talk a little bit about the process of planning an event this large? How did you decide what performances you wanted to feature?

As the inaugural event, I wanted to highlight what Mount Sequoyah brings to our community. They are about to have the centennial celebration next year. There is history and connection to the region. I thought it would be most fitting to bring Native American elements into the programs. I also thought about the arts community that is blossoming on Mount Sequoyah. I did a lot of brainstorming, researching and talking to friends. Keywords were Native American, art, music and Arkansas. Two of the pieces, "MoonStrike" by composer Jerod Impichchaachaaha' Tate and "American Canvas" by Jennifer Higdon were a true discovery for me.

The festival features performances all over Northwest Arkansas. Why is it beneficial for your organization to perform in these various venues?

Culturally, I see Northwest Arkansas as one big region. ... We benefit from events and cultural programs in Rogers and Bentonville. I want to introduce what is happening in Mount Sequoyah and share chamber music with residents all around Northwest Arkansas.

The Spotlight Concert is billed as "performance opportunities for Northwest Arkansas' own talented musicians." Can you say a little bit more about that performance and what it entails?

Many freelance musicians string together orchestra concerts, occasional events like wedding and memorial service gigs, and teaching to make ends meet. I was speaking to a couple of friends who told me that since graduating from school, they have not had many opportunities to play chamber music, to interact and dig deeper into music with friends. I want to be able to provide an outlet for our local classical musicians to share their talents and passion. For the Spotlight Concert on July 25, we have four chamber groups consisting of current and former UA students as well as local musicians. It will be a varied program including a singer, flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and saxophone players.

You have one specifically kid-friendly event on the schedule. Why is it important for your organization to have that type of outreach?

Familiarity is the key to fostering love for any genre of music and art. I am originally from Japan, and I notice that in the U.S., I don't hear classical music as much as I do in Japan. For instance, Beethoven's Symphony might be playing on the radio in shopping malls or a snippet of Brahms quartet is used in a TV commercial. The more you hear, you start noticing the subtle differences, which leads to deeper appreciation. Kids are experiencing many things for the "first time." They are not biased or jaded. When they have positive experiences at earlier age, it can be nurtured into greater love for classical music. In addition to our FPL event, Mount Sequoyah has day camps for kids 5-12 years old. They will be interacting with some of our guest artists. It is my hope that CMM will grow deep roots into Northwest Arkansas culture. Children are our future.

Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.“I feel that classical music, like many other traditional art forms, somehow got stereotyped as highbrowed, something you can only experience in specialized concert halls. To let more people be (re)acquainted with classical music, we are going to bring the concerts out into our community,” says pianist Tomoko Kashiwagi (right). She has partnered with violinist Miho Oda Sakon for Chamber Music on the Mountain, a new organization and summer music festival.

(Photo by Ironside Photography/Stephen Ironside)
Photo by Ironside Photography / Stephen Ironside.“I feel that classical music, like many other traditional art forms, somehow got stereotyped as highbrowed, something you can only experience in specialized concert halls. To let more people be (re)acquainted with classical music, we are going to bring the concerts out into our community,” says pianist Tomoko Kashiwagi (right). She has partnered with violinist Miho Oda Sakon for Chamber Music on the Mountain, a new organization and summer music festival. (Photo by Ironside Photography/Stephen Ironside)
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FYI

Chamber Music on the Mountain

Summer Festival 2021

10:30 a.m. July 21

Fayetteville Public Library Event Center, 401 W. Mountain St., Fayetteville

Be captivated by Native American legends about the moon at this kid-friendly event.

Free event, but registration required at the Fayetteville Public Library events page

Chamber Music Under the Sky

7 p.m. July 22

The Momentary, 507 SE E. St., Bentonville

A free, family-friendly, outdoor classical music concert on the Momentary Green.

Chamber Music on the Lawn

7:30 p.m. July 23

Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 Skyline Dr., Fayetteville

A family-friendly, outdoor classical music concert on the Cottage Circle Lawn at Mount Sequoyah.

$10-$15; purchase tickets from chambermusiconthemountain.org/tickets

7:30 p.m. July 24

Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 Skyline Dr., Fayetteville

Come enjoy an evening of chamber music at the newly renovated Millar Lodge at Mount Sequoyah.

$10-$15, purchase tickets from chambermusiconthemountain.org/tickets

Spotlight Concert

1 p.m. July 25

Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 Skyline Dr., Fayetteville

This Spotlight Concert offers performance opportunities for the area’s own talented musicians.

Free event; registration not required

Inspired Music

7 p.m. July 29

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, 600 Museum Way, Bentonville

An evening of dazzling chamber music at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art Great Hall.

Free, but tickets must be reserved from the Crystal Bridges Museum website: crystalbridges.org

Chamber Music on the Lawn

7:30 p.m. July 30

Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 Skyline Dr., Fayetteville

A family-friendly, outdoor chamber music concert on the Cottage Circle Lawn at Mount Sequoyah.

$10-$15, purchase tickets from chambermusiconthemountain.org/tickets

Final Concert

7:30 p.m. July 31

Mount Sequoyah Center, 150 Skyline Dr., Fayetteville

The music on this program will stir your imaginations and emotions! Join in and “be in the moment” with the musicians as they perform an inspiring repertoire.

$10-$15, purchase tickets from chambermusiconthemountain.org/tickets

Print Headline: More Music In More Places

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