By Mike Telin and Daniel Hautzinger

KBMFEvery summer, young music students leave their conservatories to attend festivals, where they essentially continue the studies they undertake during the year, but with other teachers, and performances and master classes by exceptional visiting artists. Kent/Blossom Music Festival is no different: students descend upon Kent State University for five weeks to study with musicians from the Cleveland Orchestra, Kent Faculty, and guest artists. Throughout those five weeks, there are six faculty concerts and a performance with the Cleveland Orchestra, as well as eight student recitals (see our concert listings page for details).

“We put the students in a room and say ‘here’s your group and your music. Good luck,’” said Charles Latshaw, director of the Kent State University Orchestra and of Kent/Blossom. “In a few days we bring in a faculty coach who’ll work with them. The students learn and grow on their own and develop their own personal expression. That’s special for a chamber music festival.”

Latshaw finds the process of choosing the repertoire to be like putting together a huge puzzle. “The faculty are involved in every decision. We’re constantly taking their request of what pieces they’d like to coach and to play. Myself, Danna Sundet, and Keith “Robby” Robinson put the dozens of pieces of and chamber groups in different configurations and spread them out over five weeks. For me it’s a really fun puzzle to put together.”

And if the students don’t get along? “That’s something we can train them to deal with. There are so many stories about musicians who have sat next to one another for years and not spoken, so we are really proud of the way we can build these connections and interpersonal skills that relate to the expression of art.”

The students then perform the repertoire they have worked on in free concerts starting July 5 and continuing through July 20. They can also learn by example from the faculty concert series, which runs June 25 to July 23. It features Cleveland Orchestra musicians, Kent faculty, and guest artists like pianist Spencer Myer, the Miami String Quartet, and violinist Ida Kavafian, Kent/Blossom’s Kulas Artist-in-Residence. “Ida’s going to be terrific to work with,” Latshaw said. “She’s only coming in for a few days, but in that time she’ll be a whirlwind of activity. She’ll be teaching lessons, coaching chamber groups, and leading a master class in addition to her July 3 recital.”

The festival culminates in a “side-by-side” concert on July 26 with the Cleveland Orchestra at the nearby Blossom Music Center, which hosts the Cleveland Orchestra during the summer. The Kent/Blossom Chamber Orchestra and the Cleveland Orchestra both perform separately (Stephen Hough joins Cleveland for Liszt’s First Piano Concerto), then join forces for Sibelius’s Second Symphony. “I don’t know of a similar festival that collaborates in this way.”

Published on ClevelandClassical.com June 24, 2014.

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