A new kind of chamber concert experience is coming to Burlington and Waterbury this month. With the launch of the TURNmusic series, casual and fanatic music fans alike will be able to experience classical chamber music infused with modern composition and current trends, ranging from acoustic folk to electronica.
Anne Decker, 39, the visionary behind the series, says the program seeks to define itself by quality, not genre. She says the goal of TURNmusic is to "create a series of music events that I would want to attend and that I want my friends to attend."
Decker, who directs the orchestra programs at U-32 middle and high schools in East Montpelier, has been a chamber music enthusiast and performer all her life. After graduating from Western Michigan University with a degree in music education, she earned a master's of music in orchestral conducting from Illinois State University. Decker is trained in flute and piano but works professionally as a conductor.
After 12 years with the Vermont Youth Orchestra, she struck out on her own in 2012.
"I just started dreaming and creating and listening to new music and realized, Why not go for it and do this thing as a professional?" she explains. "I had relationships with potential sponsors and I just felt like I should go for it."
That meant acquiring a fiscal agent and nailing down a slate of talented and reputable performers for the first series, as well as securing performance venues. Even so, TURNmusic is essentially a one-woman production.
"It is all me," Decker says, noting that she works through the nonprofit Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival so she doesn't have to apply for nonprofit status herself. "They are the nonprofit and all money funnels through them, and they help manage the financial piece," she says.
TURN's first series has a singer-songwriter focus and begins this month with concerts on Wednesday, July 9, at ArtsRiot in Burlington and Friday, July 18, at the Green Mountain Club in Waterbury. Both events will feature performers Mary Rowell, Laura Markowitz, John Dunlop, Evan Premo, Dan Liptak, Hilary Goldblatt, Colin McCaffrey, Parker Shper, Lloyd Dugger, Nicola Cannizzaro and Decker. Composers will include Julia Wolfe, Nico Muhly, Colin McCaffrey, Sarah Kirkland Snider, David Biedenbender, Missy Mazzoli, Judd Greenstein and Jason Treuting.
Three concerts will follow, including an undetermined fall date and ones in February and April 2015.
Decker says that any modern-music fans who might be skeptical about the assumed formality of "chamber music" should not worry.
"Being in a band is chamber music, one could say," she offers. "Chamber music just means a small group of people. It trends classical but doesn't have to be."
Violinist Mary Rowell notes that the reverse fear — that the music will not have value to those who do seek tradition — can also be true.
"The term 'new music' can be off-putting to many people in terms of 'classical' music," says Rowell. "Ultimately, there is nothing new being done but only expanded upon with the advance of technology and experience."
With those views in mind, TURN will strive to incorporate fresh themes, sounds and technologies in its ensemble programs, Decker says.
"[For] my fall program, I'm hoping to be electronically focused," she adds. "There are some programs out there with DJ collaboration. I'm really interested in people who are doing live DJing and composing on the spot."
Decker would also like to spotlight young composers. Her April 2015 program may focus on collegiate composers.
"I haven't seen anything like that done," she says. "So I think it would be interesting to give focus to what college students, who are about to go out and be professionals, are doing."
In addition to offering a blend of old and new musical styles, TURN is looking at atypical venues. Chamber music concerts are typically held in concert halls, schools and churches, which have built-in stages and, generally, high-quality acoustics and generous seating for audiences. Decker is rejecting those locations in favor of relaxed locales where listeners can come to unwind.
"It's a big part of my model," she says.
Vermont presents many opportunities for experiencing quality chamber music that is still contemporary and informal, Decker believes.
"There's a lot of classical music going on, but it feels a little bit of the same. I think it's time to bring more people into concert music, and I think this is the place to do it," she says, referring to Vermont. "I think this is a place where people are going to want to come with their friends and see some really great music. So I'm really hoping for a new demographic to try it out."
Future directions of TURNmusic may include collaborating with a dance group or expanding the music into a festival-length production. Any changes in content, sound or approach will certainly suit the intent behind the series' name.
"TURN," Decker says, can apply "to music constantly turning and constantly in motion."
The name also has a personal resonance, she acknowledges.
"When I was brainstorming, 'turn' just kept popping up. First turn, right turn ... it was a little bit of my life: a turning point for me. I'm really taking a risk," Decker says.
With the launch of this music series — old and new, composed and off-the-cuff — she hopes that Vermonters will take their own risks and allow TURNmusic to expand their musical palettes.