Colony Envy

Colony Envy

About this time each year, I develop colony envy, that affliction which affects only pianists, instrumentalists, and singers who are too noisy for the calm reflection allowed primarily to composers, poets, visual artists, playwrights, authors, film makers, and other quietly creative types, at various artist colonies around the world. This malady is usually fleeting, as I am happy to be home with my beautiful Steinway, but I do admit that I feel a bit envious of this time for retreat, to get away from it all and create great work. Perhaps some designated haven (from the ringing phone, constant email, family, and other professional and life duties) might allow me to really have the time I need to learn all that music that is sitting on top of my piano. If you put me in a cabin at the end of the road, and I promise to keep the lid down and use the soft pedal, could I come then?

Yes, there are many other summer festivals in which I can participate, but they usually require quite a hefty amount of teaching, coaching, master classes, concerts, and the like. It is invigorating, but usually exhausting. And then there are those pesky students. Actually, if you are a student performer, then there are retreats for you: Aspen, Tanglewood, Chautauqua, etc., where you can practice all day if you like, and simply play in the orchestra or sing in the opera, and take your lessons and coachings with master teachers each week. I spent several happy summers in Aspen this way, practicing all day, and hanging out with my friends in the evening. Very little was asked of me, and my hardest task was finding food and lodging that weren’t on a celebrity price level. Ah, education is indeed wasted on the young. What I wouldn’t give now for truly uninterrupted creative time where all my daily needs are met and I am simply required to get my work done?

My ideal colony would be a tranquil (yet inspiring) environment where I could practice whenever I wanted, while working alongside other resident composers and instrumentalists to workshop new music in the free hours. The rehearsal space would be equipped with at least two pianos, a variety of percussion instruments, and electronic equipment for interactive media pieces. Anyone who was interested in developing new repertoire could come together to experiment and create. Nothing required, but participation strongly encouraged, with time expected for getting one’s own work done. Five-star lodging and meals would be provided; beautiful surroundings a must.

Anyone have any ideas? Maybe I should become a composer.

NewMusicBox provides a space for those engaged with new music to communicate their experiences and ideas in their own words. Articles and commentary posted here reflect the viewpoints of their individual authors; their appearance on NewMusicBox does not imply endorsement by New Music USA.

5 thoughts on “Colony Envy

  1. rtanaka

    Some of the best times I’ve had were really just hanging out with fellow musicians, showing each other what kinds of things we were working on at the time. Sort of a like mini masterclass — minus all the judgmental looks, plus dinner or snacks afterwards. How can you go wrong?

    With enough performers around people start talking about possibilities of putting some concerts together, or in some cases commissioning works from composers. And feedback can be given in a fairly relaxed setting where people aren’t really worried about impressing anyone, which is kind of nice. The interesting thing is that all it takes is for someone to host a party at their house under the premise of doing the sorts of things you’ve talked about.

  2. joelfriedman

    Teresa, Teresa

    Don’t you know that it’s karmic? At school all of us composers spent years in practice rooms next door to you desperately trying to compose while being barraged by that unique Ivesian mix of loudly practiced Chopin, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, and, of course, a bit of Bach! FINALLY we get some quiet. :-)

    Seriously, I think it’s a great idea not just to have performers have space to play and think, but also I LOVE the idea of having composers and performers TOGETHER working on a project! Can you imagine the late night conversations after a few glasses of wine? Priceless. (It does figure that you’d have the food part sussed out already!)

    It’s obvious that the necessary quiet space needed for composition is rare and needed. It is less obvious that performers should be granted the same rights. It’s about time they were.

    So, about that project we should be working on… where should we go? Red or white :-)


  3. teresa

    Actually, Banff is one of the few places that offers residencies to instrumentalists, but only during the academic year, I believe ( no summer residencies). It looks like a good program and I’d be interested in hearing from artists who have done it.

    Joel: It’s red AND white, and a good plate of pasta to go with ; )


  4. sbrenzel


    I love your idea. A place for adult composers and performers to collaborate, but without the pressure to have a performance or a completed piece. Someone must be doing this? Here’s a link to a site that might have some information related to this:

    Thanks for your chatter contribution.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Conversation and respectful debate is vital to the NewMusicBox community. However, please remember to keep comments constructive and on-topic. Avoid personal attacks and defamatory language. We reserve the right to remove any comment that the community reports as abusive or that the staff determines is inappropriate.