If you are a musician in Amherst, Northampton or the surrounding region with a good knowledge of your instrument and how to to read music, and most importantly, if you love chamber music and would like to play some yourself, then read on. Whether you’re returning to your instrument after an extended period of inactivity or you’re an active player who has recently moved to the region, or, if you’ve played for years with a well established local ensemble, please consider joining and participating.
Joining the group: Joining is free and easy to do: first register with Meetup.com (all they require is your name and e-mail address.) To join the Amherst/Northampton Chamber Music Players (aka A/NCMP) all you need to do is to submit a member profile in which consists of answering a few short questions about your musical background, interests and goals. You will then be added to the online listing of members of the group along with your member profile. If you choose you can upload a picture of yourself or include links in your profile to files with recordings of your playing. I screen the profiles of new members, and on rare occasions have denied entry when a new member has not provided information about what instrument they play or their previous experience. It is okay not to have played chamber music before, but you need to have some training in playing classical music in your background.
Ways to participate: There are several ways to use the A/NCMP to find new musicians and ensembles to play with.
Private ensembles: contact one or more players yourself through meet up's e-mail tool available from the main menu on the A/NCMP’s Meetup webpage. The idea would be to propose forming a new exploratory ensemble to get acquainted with each other's playing by reading through some repertory together. Smaller ensembles (duos, trios) might be more likely to meet with success at first than larger and more ambitious efforts. A careful perusal of member profiles will significantly enhance the likelihood of finding other compatible players who are receptive to your invitation. You can also obviously wait for some other player to contact you, but keep in mind that the A/NCMP consists of a small list of virtual and mostly inactive members who are dispersed geographically and also, over many instrument families, so that it may be a long wait. The A/NCMP is most likely to be useful if you make a patient and sustained effort to meet members whose playing and musical values are similar to your own.
Publicly announced ensembles ('Meetups'):There will also be occasional invitations to play in larger group meetings that can be announced in (a more) public way, both to all members of the A/NCMP and in a more limited and visible way, over the web through Meetup’s regional listing of all Meetup groups by location and type of activity. Scheduled “Meetup Events’’ for the A/NCMP can be planned and hosted by any member of the group by using the “schedule a Meetup” item on the group’s main menu. Scheduled Meetups may be play-ins open to all members, or can be more narrowly focused with participation limited by the number of participants, by instrument family or families, or by geographic region, etc. You can even announce a Meetup to play a specific piece by a favorite composer. Organizers can choose to limit participation of A/NCMP members accordingly. After the event is listed, Meetup notifes all A/NCMP members of the event by email and requests meembers to “RSVP” to the invitation with “yes, I will attend” or “no thanks”. It is only necessary to RSVP “yes” if you plan to attend the event. The number of “yes” RSVP’s is also made visible to other members along with the instruments of players who plan to attend. Meetup hosts can decide prior to the event whether the number of members planning to attend is sufficient to have the event go forward, and can consult with the members who have RSVP’ed “yes” in making this decision. If it looks as though there will be an insufficient number of players and instruments present at the evenr to have it be successful, the event can be canceled or rescheduled to a later date.
Discussion groups and forums: You can start a discussion group or forum. These can be accessed from the “pages” item on the menu of the A/NCMP webpage. You can start or join an existing forum on a topic of interest to you by posting a comment that can be viewed by other members of the A/NCMP. For example, you could start a discussion group by instrument family (strings, winds, keyboards etc.) or by geographic region. Members are dispersed over a sizable piece of western and central Massachusetts and over many different types of instruments there are even a few members from neighboring states. This might provide some middle ground before taking the plunge of planning either private or publicly posted meeting.
Confidentiality vs Visiblity: The A/NCMP exists first and foremost as a virtual meeting place on the web, and some level of visibility of its members is necessary in order for the group to exist. On the other hand, many of us might be uneasy with the idea of posting our names and the personal information our profile documents in a completely public and unfiltered way on the www. A reasonable compromise was to make the list of members along with members’ profiles viewable only to other members of the A/NCMP. I screen the profiles of new members before they are added to the menbership list, which provides some kind of filter, albeit a weak one, of who is likely to see your name and profile
.e-mail issues: Meetup keeps your actual e-mail address hidden from all members (myself included) when you send messages through meetup. It is usually more convenient to share your actual e-mail address with other members once initial contact has been made, but that remains your choice.
A few random thoughts: If you decide to join, please do play an active role by planning meetings and coming to meetings you're invited to, if at all possible. Sound out other members about forming new groups or hosting open meetings, and please do reply when a member extends an invitation to play, even if it is only to say "no thanks." After an initial exploratory meeting, additional meetings need to be by mutual consent and there is no implied obligation to continue on the part of any participant.
As organizer of the A/NCMP, it was obvious as the group was getting started a few years ago that the number of members and instruments played were too small and widely dispersed to do much more than to have members rely on personal invitations to meet other members. That's what I've been doing myself, and while not all inquires have worked out, I've begun several long-lasting and very rewarding musical collaborations with musicians I meet through the A/NCMP that I would not have otherwise met.
More recently, both then number of members and instruments played have grown, however most members are not (yet) actively engaged in activities organized through the A/NCMP. I believe that the growth in membership will accelerate and that inactive members will decide to become more actively engaged with the group as more activities, especially publicly announced activities are scheduled. The possibilities are huge. But realizing the potential this group has for building and supporting a local network of active chamber musicians is decidedly a challenge. I believe this will happen eventually, but that it will happen slowly. Thus I encourage all of you to take a breath (while remembering to breathe!) and take the plunge by planning and hosting your own publicly announced Meetup. The larger the pool of active member-players to dive into, the more likely it is your event will make a big splash as opposed to landing with a thud.
Last spring, I hosted the group's first open event, and by good luck and some advance arm twisting, enough players came to make for a very successful play-in. I've had a pinched nerve in my bow arm (nothing to do with twisting arms though) that forced me to stop playing for a while during the past year. I've been able to resume playing recently, and am planning to announce some new Meetups this fall, and hope to see some hosted by other members.
Brain teaser: who's the composer and what's opus and number of the quartet fragment on the group's webpage? Assignment for getting it right: form a string quartet to play it. (I"ll be happy to take the cello part, but whether that's a reward or a punishment for the lucky winner is not for me to decide.)
Musical pun: What did the feds say after they busted Capone for tax evasion? (Answer: see musical puns and jokes forum; feel free to add your own to the collection.)