I’ve attended the Amherst Early Music Festival almost every year since 1992, and the workshop has been in existence since the 80’s. One might wonder how any workshop could continue to offer such a wealth of new opportunities and challenges after so long, but the Amherst Early Music leadership keeps on doing it. This year I had a tough decision to make. I had originally intended to apply for the Recorder Boot Camp, an audition-only program for adult students who are interested in challenging themselves and working intensively and exclusively on their recorder playing for an entire week. Then I discovered that Wouter Verschuren (principal bassoon of Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, teacher at the conservatories at The Hague and Utrecht, amazing dulcian player) would be teaching Baroque bassoon during the same week as the Boot Camp. In the hope that the Recorder Boot Camp, which is now three years old, will have a fourth year that I may be able to participate in, I chose to focus on Baroque bassoon first week and dulcian second week.
As for my recorder playing, I took part in Reine Marie Verhagen’s recorder master class during the second week. Reine Marie is a gifted teacher who has a special knack for offering each student just what he/she needs while at the same time providing useful information to the rest of the class. After each member of the class had had their public lesson opportunities (I played two movements of a Telemann violin sonata), we were invited to bring our own questions to the class. These included: how to make long notes beautiful, how to better coordinate fingers and tongue, how to avoid unwanted unevenness when double tonguing, how to stretch the time expressively without changing the tempo, and more.
On the side, I played some fun renaissance consort music and Baroque duos with old and new recorder-playing friends, attended a notation “drop-in” and had a number of conversations with the students in the Recorder Boot Camp. I was a bit uncertain whether I would actually fit into what was described as “a rigorous program for advanced recorder players”, although the idea of making significant improvement in my technical and musical skills definitely appeals to me. The eight Boot Camp students (not to mention the numerous other recorder students I chatted with informally at meals and receptions) were very happy with their program. The Boot Camp day included a daily master class with Saskia Coolen and a technique class with Han Tol. They also had supervised practice time during which each student was assigned a practice room where they were visited by program coordinator Héloise Dégrugillier, who made suggestions and observations about whatever the student was working on. In the late afternoon, they had an ensemble class with Tish Berlin in which they sometimes divided into two quartets and sometimes played double choir music. I’m definitely planning to apply for Recorder Boot Camp next year!