Judith Flynn is a long-time ABS supporter and former member of our Board of Directors. Her background in education in particular has led her to be one of the most passionate proponents of the ABS Festival & Academy. We asked Judith to share her thoughts about this annual celebration of the future of Early Music, which takes places August 4-13, 2017, in San Francisco.
Residents of the San Francisco Bay Area should be grateful for the abundance of high-quality music groups to be found here. Where to go, what to choose…so many choices. However, one group, the American Bach Soloists, stands out for its commitment to authentic period instruments, an informed selection of Baroque repertoire, and the outstanding musicians who bring the music to life.
Seven years ago, the founder and Maestro of ABS, Jeffrey Thomas, was able to fulfill a wish of his: to start an Academy for emerging young professional musicians. And since its founding, the Academy has flourished and grown.
As an individual involved in education and as a lover of Early Music, I was very excited to hear about the Academy and its features. Throughout these seven years, I have never been disappointed. In fact, it’s been just the opposite—I am endlessly enthusiastic and passionate about the program. The carefully selected students are equally enthusiastic and passionate, and many return for a second or third year. In speaking with the students about why, the answers are uniformly the same. The Academy is extremely demanding, with long hours and short breaks, but these are outweighed by the excellence offered: the opportunity to work with world-class faculty privately and in groups; the camaraderie with fellow students and the development of long-term relationships; the thrill of working under Maestro Thomas, whose demanding requirements are relished for the education of the intricacies of Early Music; and the improvement of one’s talent. Students come to San Francisco from all over the globe, and many of our graduates have gone on to well-recognized careers in the field.
Education is essential if society wishes to maintain a comprehensive knowledge of the fine arts, including Early Music. The fear of our children not being familiar with J. S. Bach and his colleagues is real, as highly specialized music programs give way to tech and STEM instruction. Thankfully, at the ABS Festival & Academy, instruction of adults is happening simultaneously with that of the students via free master classes, colloquia, and student performances. The colloquia and lectures are filled with fascinating information, either about the composers, the period, or the music, and learning from live presenters is much more enjoyable than from a book!
On every level, I have found the Festival & Academy to be most enjoyable and educational, and I look forward to it annually. To me, it is an in-depth knowledge experience equal to an intense summer class, with the added bonus of eight nights of extraordinary music.
I choose to financially support the Festival & Academy for the primary purpose of maintaining continuation, not only of the music, but of the informed, sensitive musicians who play and sing that music for the children of today and tomorrow. Enjoy, and see you at the Festival!