City in the Clouds
Aspen Music Festival Program
By Margaret Snyder
Maggie Snyder, who has attended the Aspen Music Festival and School since 1996, holds a Masters of Music degree and a Graduate Performance Diploma from Peabody Conservatory, where she was teaching assistant to Victoria Chiang.
ONE OF THE GREATEST MUSICAL experiences I have had in my life happened in Aspen, but it was not in a tent or a hall, at a concert or in a lesson. It was walking home from a production of Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream at the Wheeler Opera House.
I walked through the empty alley toward my "humble" condominium humming the final chorus of the opera. The mixed voices of talented student singers and Aspen-area children's chorus still rang in the back of my ears with euphoric perfection. With the lights of City Market to my back, I stared into the night sky and felt warm, though the air was the typical Aspen chill. I was enveloped by what had happened inside the Wheeler and inspired by my starlit walk. Those are the awesome happenings that wow the student and keep everyone involved in the Festival coming back for more.
The Music Festival is not all cake and icing, shooting stars and quiet walks. There are days with rehearsals, concerts, and the painful realization: "I don't have enough time to finish my practice. How will I manage to get back to Marlot to eat ?!?" My philosophy of Aspen has always been, "every day is like a week," because we can achieve and learn so much in that one day. We celebrate that.
When I first came to Aspen I had the sole purpose of introducing myself to the viola teachers so that they might consider me as a future student. I was accepted into the joint studio of Victoria Chiang, Heidi Castleman, and Ellen Rose. It was an incredibly unique team-teaching experience. The expertise of these three wonderful pedagogues was wrapped into one studio. That first summer I worked with Ms.Chiang, with whom I have continue to study at the Peabody Conservatory.
In Aspen I met the person that would help guide me toward my ultimate goal.
Every year as I prepare to go back to Aspen, I wonder how it will be different and how it will be the same. I have played concerts at the retirement of one tent and the emergence of the new one. I have seen the water wear away the rocks off Lincoln Creek Road. I have seen the Grand Aspen Hotel remain open, buzzing with students, years after it was rumored to be closing its doors. I've crossed paths with bears, skunks, marmots, and deer. I've met famous musicians, conductors, and composers. I've seen movie stars, famous chefs, and interacted with the wonderful locals. Aspen is loaded with life. It is the home of one of the largest music festivals but it has never lost its small town feel.
A FRIEND ONCE DESCRIBED ASPEN to me as we were on our way to there for my first summer. She told me how she and her boyfriend had met the summer before. That Aspen for her had a balance. She had unbelievable drive to work hard, was constantly interacting with incredible musicians, was learning more than she dreamed she could in one summer, and had fallen in love not only with her future husband, but with the place. For this, she called Aspen the "City in the Clouds." The Music Festival is that for me as well. It is where everything I need converges in one place. Whether it's an awe-inspiring walk home or an illuminating lesson with a long respected teacher, I continue to bank the wellspring of these experiences.
"Hand in hand,
with fairy grace
We will sing and
Bless this place."
-A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare