Up, up and away!
The Aspen Music Festival and School takes place every summer, bringing music to the Rockies, 8,000 feet above sea level.
Kebra-Seyoun Charles is a 17-year-old Miami-native who grew up with rhythm. Some of his earliest memories are of his mother taking him to her African dance and drum performances. And even though he’s only four years into playing double bass, he credits those years as being essential to his understanding of music.
Charles has spent the past three summers at the Aspen Music Festival and School. When he’s not in class or busking on the streets of downtown Aspen, he likes to take his mind off music by working in the community garden. And when the midday Aspen sun gets to be a bit too much, there’s hammock strung low between two, shady trees.
A perk of being a student at the school is free entry into music festival events. Charles caught a recent concert featuring Wynton Marsalis leading the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. A few months earlier, Marsalis judged a competition where Charles’ jazz combo performed, and the trumpeter remembered Charles. Not only was Marsalis nice enough to chat with the Charles, but he gave the teen his cell number. Let’s be clear, it’s not every day the one of the most respected music authorities in the world hands out his number. The sounds and rhythms of Kebra-Seyoun Charles’ bass should be with us for years to come.
Listen to Kebra-Seyoun Charles solo bass on Paul Hindemith’s Sonata for Bass and Piano.
Benedictine Monastery in Snowmass
"Aspen, Colorado, the home of the Aspen Music Festival and School, is a small but extraordinarily worldly town. Here, listening to the contemplation of vespers, there’s a sense of time almost falling away. A deep serenity. A deep stillness..."
If it’s somewhere between 11:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. during the school year, chances of finding 17-year-old Cynthia Phillippi practicing her viola in her room are pretty good. Even before she was born, Phillippi says her mother would take her to concerts and Broadway shows. You could almost say that music was part of her DNA from the start.
At age three, Phillippi began on piano. Then at age seven, every child in her second grade class was required to take violin. By the time she got to 7th grade, violin won out over piano, and it’s been strings ever since. One of her violin teachers noticed that she really gravitated towards the lower register of the instrument.
Voila... a violist was born.
Phillippi’s practice regime doesn’t slack off in summer, but she does give herself more freedom. At the Aspen Music Festival and School, Phillippi says she’s been given a lot of freedom. That’s great for running scales, but it’s also great for getting outdoors. Even with a small-ish dose of arachnophobia, Phillippi is taking advantage of the wonderful hiking trails Aspen has to offer. Those walks are sure to fill her memory bank as she heads off to the Curtis Institute of Music this fall to further her studies.
Listen to Cynthia Phillippi play the second movement of Max Reger’s Suite No. 1 in G minor.
On Music and Nature
"Nature and music—neither is easy. Both come with some risks if we choose to open ourselves fully to them. Both though can change you in unexpected ways...”
When Lucie Ticho first came to Aspen, she remembers thinking she was way out of her league. Two years later, she’s still wowed by her fellow cellists, but the 17-year-old can definitely hold her own.
Ticho feels at home in the hills of Aspen. The first summer she came, she would gaze at the top of Shadow Mountain, which overlooks the student dorms. Atop its peak is a flag, which Ticho wanted to touch. She climbed up the next year, and without a clear path, she achieved her goal. This kind of self-determination is evident in her confident playing as well.
Busking for a little spending money and gigantic slice of pizza is on the docket for most students at the Aspen Music Festival and School. Ticho, who is fascinated by all things French, especially enjoys playing near the local creperie. The tips are nice, and there might even be a free crepe thrown in as a bonus.
Listen to Lucie Ticho play the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Sonata No. 4, Op. 102.
Sounds of Aspen
... more than music
Performance Today has been high-tailing it to the Aspen Music Festival and School for over 20 years. In 2015, host Fred Child will host a night of live performances and on-stage interviews at Harris Concert Hall.
Images and video: Nate Ryan
Audio recording: Corey Schreppel
Producer: Marc Sanchez
Audio Mixing: Corey Schreppel, Zack Rose, Johnny Vince Evans, Rob Byers and Elizabeth Iverson
Editing: Suzanne Schaffer
American Public Media’s Performance Today is America’s most popular classical music radio program and a winner of the 2014 Gabriel Award for artistic achievement. The show is broadcast on nearly 300 public radio stations across the country, and reaches approximately 1.4 million listeners each week.
Performance Today features live concert recordings that can’t be heard anywhere else, as well as in-studio performances and interviews. Also, each week composer Bruce Adolphe joins host Fred Child for a classical music game, the Piano Puzzler. Performance Today is based at the APM studios in Saint Paul, Minn., but is frequently on the road, with special programs broadcast from festivals and public radio stations around the country.
In the PT Young Artist in Residence program, Performance Today highlights young soloists from American conservatories who have the potential for great careers. Previous young artists have represented a variety of music schools including the New England Conservatory, the Curtis Institute of Music, the Jacobs School at the University of Indiana, the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and The Colburn School. PT is proud to count pianists Orli Shaham, Jeremy Denk, and Jonathan Biss, guitarist Jason Vieaux, and violinist Colin Jacobsen among our many former young artists.