Since 1982, Chamber Music Sedona has been striving to enrich the lives of Northern Arizona residents by bringing world-class musicians to Sedona audiences. While establishing its reputation as one of the state’s leading presenters of chamber music, CMS has also been a valuable supporter of the community in another way, through a partnership with the Music Department of Sedona Red Rock High School. By collaborating with Courtney Yeates, music director at the high school, CMS has been influential in expanding arts education and fueling talent among budding young musicians.
When Yeates, a classically trained cellist, assumed the role of music director in 2011, the music program at SRRHS was disorganized and struggling with inadequate resources. She was recruited for the position after successfully founding the Sedona Youth Orchestra with the help of the Sedona Performers Guild. As part of her goal to overhaul the music program at SRRHS, Yeates started building an orchestra using all of her own string instruments from the Sedona Youth Orchestra. Under her guidance, the student musicians quickly began thriving and demonstrating a growing interest in music and the arts. However, the success of the school’s program has skyrocketed since Yeates started working with Bert Harclerode, artistic director of Chamber Music Sedona, to engineer a music program tailored for the needs and interests of SRRHS students.
Throughout the school year, Chamber Music Sedona helps SRRHS bring in celebrated musicians to teach and demonstrate for students. “During Chamber Music Sedona’s music festivals and throughout the year, Bert and CMS have been extremely helpful in our recruiting efforts to bring in musicians for our strings program,” said Yeates.
The music festivals to which Yeates refers are Chamber Music Sedona’s Winter Music Festival, which will take place from Tuesday to Sunday, Jan. 9 to 14, and the Spring Music Festival, occurring from Wednesday to Sunday, April 4 to 8.
During the Winter Music Festival, featured musicians teach master classes, perform demonstrations and educate and mentor students throughout the week. These events take place in an intimate setting, allowing students the opportunity to closely interact with professional musicians and learn from world-class artists. The students’ knowledge of instruments is enhanced, and they gain insight into the life of a professional musician: How many hours of practice are required, the skills needed to master the music and more.
According to Yeates, many students who attended workshops and master classes during the 2017 Winter Music Festival are preparing for the upcoming auditions for the High School All-Region Orchestra sponsored by the Arizona Music Educators Association.
“Last year, the majority of our students who were mentored by the Winter Music Festival musicians, and then auditioned, were placed in the High School All-Region Orchestra,” said Yeates. “Out of 40 violin slots available, of the 100 violin students who audition, our SRRHS students placed in the top 20 thanks to the CMS program’s help in early January.”
For many students, the concerts that Chamber Music Sedona brings to the schools are the first concerts they have experienced. This exposure to concerts and professional musicians has further stimulated interest in the SRRHS music program, to the extent that the school now has three orchestras, and is contemplating adding another.
In addition to creating rare educational opportunities for SRRHS students, CMS provides necessary material support as the school’s music program grows. Recently, CMS endowed SRRHS with a generous $7,000 donation for the purchase of new instruments.
“The orchestra and string programs were stretched to our limits, with over 190 students sharing 38 instruments,” Yeates said. “The financial donation from CMS has helped contribute to the purchase of an additional two double basses, 15 violins and two violas, allowing more students to practice and play.”
Junior high students are also exposed to music education through their course work. The entire junior high has developed a program called the wheel system, in which students rotate every eight weeks through art, music education and other classes that expose them to the arts and humanities. With the support of CMS, and addition of new instruments, the program has stimulated more interest from students in orchestra and has enriched their learning experience.
As CMS dazzles audiences with performances by world-renowned artists throughout its 35th season, the organization will continue to provide young musicians with unforgettable educational experiences through its partnership with SRRHS.
To learn more about Chamber Music Sedona and upcoming events, visit chambermusicsedona.org.