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A conversation with the new AMFS vice president

Patrick Chamberlain. courtesy photo

The new vice president for artistic administration at the Aspen Music Festival and School, Patrick Chamberlain, jokes that he is “a recovering chorale singer.”

Kidding aside, he plans to take his new role, and his passion for the role of music in the Aspen community, quite seriously. He accepted the job April 12.

“Aspen is where I got my start. It’s where I connected with the work that I do,” he said.

Chamberlain originally came to the Roaring Fork Valley more than a decade ago, when he applied to be an artist liaison for the AMFS during its summer programming season, “not knowing much about classical music,” he admitted. “That summer was a complete joy, and I absolutely fell in love with the arts.”

And this summer will allow him the opportunity to continue to be a music lover, as well as collaborator, as he’ll execute on programming that was set in motion before he officially accepted his new role. When remarking on this year’s theme, “Tapestry,” which was chosen and curated by the AMFS senior leadership team of president and CEO Alan Fletcher, music director Robert Spano, Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS co-artistic directors Patrick Summers and Renée Fleming and outgoing vice president Asadore Santourian, he remarked, “It’s my responsibility to see it through and cheer it on.”

Which is not to say he hasn’t gotten his hands dirty over the last nearly three months on the job.

“For me, it’s about providing an environment where artists and musicians can do their very best work,” he said. “My job is to set up those conditions as well as possible. Specifically, the wonderful thing about Aspen is the intersections between types of music. Chamber music, operas, the Music Festival recital series, conductor training: There’s a chance to dabble in so many corners of our repertoire, which I have already begun doing.”

And those varied offerings require stewardship to bring them all together into a cohesive set of programs. For this summer season, that robust calendar of performances kicks off June 30.

“The scope of events was something that was particularly attractive to me,” Chamberlain said. “So much of my work is about collecting the views of many stakeholders.” Between audience members, staff and guest faculty, “for me, it’s about understanding the needs and desires of all of those constituencies and getting everybody on the same page.”

And because each year’s slate of performances is themed, it creates “an intellectual hook that guides the programming for the summer.”

He said a few standouts within the weave of that tapestry are the opening performance, “The Brightness of Light,” written for and premiered by Fleming. The original set was built around letters from Georgia O’Keeffe to the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. At Fleming’s suggestion, composer Kevin Puts added an equal part for Stieglitz, sung here by two-time Grammy nominee, singer and actor Rod Gilfry. The text chronicles their relationship from first encounter to love and marriage, ending in breakup and Stieglitz’s death. Spano conducts it.

Then, the season finale offers a monumental, rarely performed work designed for a 188-piece orchestra and a 210-member chorus, Berlioz’s Requiem.

“It’s one of the largest pieces in the repertoire, with a huge battery of brass and an enormous choir,” Chamberlain said. “It’s almost never programmed because it’s too much of an undertaking, so if you haven’t heard this piece live, do it because you might not ever have another opportunity to hear this in person.”

That said, Chamberlain was hesitant to choose only two specific performances to talk about, as he’s excited about them all.

“There’s an emotional attachment to the place where I began my career. This opportunity is one that I couldn’t in good conscience pass up,” he added.

As for what’s on the horizon, he plans to focus on “finding projects which are specific to the audiences and cultures unique to the valley.”

And while he can’t yet unveil plans for next season, he intends to make an impression for years to come.

“It’s important that the music festival uses its impact to change the trajectory of the field that we’re in,” he said. “Our students will go on to be the future of our field. We have a responsibility to them and to the field to present a broader tapestry, this season, and beyond.”

And with that, the minds behind the 2022 summer season of the Aspen Music Festival and School have woven together a very busy schedule, from June 30 to Aug. 21. Tickets are on sale now.

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