Flutist Karen Kevra Launches Muse Mentors Podcast | Performing Arts | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Flutist Karen Kevra Launches Muse Mentors Podcast

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Karen Kevra - COURTESY OF KAREN KEVRA
  • Courtesy Of Karen Kevra
  • Karen Kevra

One of the first things flutist Karen Kevra will tell you about herself is that she had an incredible mentor: Louis Moyse, the world-renowned flute player and son of Marcel Moyse, one of the cofounders of Marlboro Music.

Inspired by Moyse, Kevra founded the Montpelier chamber music series Capital City Concerts. When its 20th season was cut short in March 2020, and its 21st canceled, she decided to use the time to make a podcast about musicians and other artists and their mentors. Now "Muse Mentors" can be heard on the usual array of podcatchers and the Capital City Concerts website; two episodes are available, and another is released roughly every two weeks.

Kevra is a "podcast junkie," but this is the first time she has created one. "I was listening to a lot of political podcasts," she said, "and that just became unbearably heavy. So I created a feel-good podcast that will leave people feeling inspired."

Podcasting was also a way to reconnect with audiences and friends that didn't involve virtual concerts. "The novelty of online concerts wore off pretty quickly for me. They make me sad," Kevra admitted. "And who wants more screen time?"

Entertaining and full of sound effects and musical snippets, each roughly 30-minute episode intersperses Kevra's interviews with her subject with her own summaries of the backstories of both artist and mentor. As she noted, "a lot of musicians and artists have bios that are kind of dry," until you start to talk to them.

Inaugurating the lineup is Capital City Concerts pianist Jeffrey Chappell, who studied with Leon Fleisher after that world-famous pianist's career was transformed by a repetitive-motion injury to his right hand. In the podcast, Chappell says he learned from Fleisher's wife that his mentor had been playing 18 hours a day when the focal dystonia set in.

Chappell, who can trace Fleisher's own mentors back to Ludwig van Beethoven, also speaks warmly of his first mentor, pianist Jane Allen of St. Louis, with whose family he lived for the last two years of high school.

Kevra layered all sorts of sound effects into the episode, including an angelic choir in the background when Chappell mentions his time at Curtis Institute of Music, and a recording of Fleisher giving advice. She spends about 150 hours making each episode and credits her tech-savvy son — Owen Lenz, 31, who's home for the pandemic — with helping her master Buzzsprout and a sound-clip library.

In the second episode, audiences meet Armando Veve, a Philadelphia-based artist who grew up in South Burlington and studied with Kevra while playing piccolo and flute in the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association. Among the subjects of episodes still to come are Rob Mermin, the Circus Smirkus founder, whose mentor was mime Marcel Marceau; and Middlebury artist and saxophonist Katie Runde and her mentor, realist painter Evan Wilson.

Asked if she would one day make an episode about herself and Moyse, Kevra said, "Oh, way down the road."

Listeners can help support Capital City Concerts by subscribing to "Muse Mentors" on Patreon — a reminder that many musicians and artists continue to struggle financially. "But this is free," Kevra said of the podcast. "I wanted it to have a generosity of spirit."

The original print version of this article was headlined "Listening to the Muse"