Seattle has always been a good city for young classical musicians, and now it is even more so. The Seattle Symphony used to showcase very young artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, and the town has an outstanding Youth Symphony (with five orchestras), an ambitious Garfield High School Orchestra, a sorta-conservatory at UW School of Music, and lots of SSO musicians (and others) who give lessons.
This past weekend came the debut of the newest such asset, an ambitious chamber music training and performing program for high-school students launched by the Seattle Chamber Music Society and called the Academy for Chamber Music. The first concert by these 17 players was held Sunday at Nordstrom Recital Hall downtown. Lots of Asian players and their families. A remarkable performance of Schubert’s Fantasie for piano four hands by two dazzling 11-year-olds, topped off by two astonishingly advanced ensembles performing an incendiary Shostakovich Piano Trio. (Shostakovich and teenagers go well together, allowing some exuberant jamming in the finale.)
The Academy is one of the most ambitious such youth programs in the nation, generously endowed by board member Jean Viereck. Players must audition, and they are matched into ensembles that are coached once a week by local professionals, plus master classes by the Society’s top national players. The Seattle Chamber Music Society is under dynamic new leadership by executive director John Holloway, spreading the gospel of this intimate music in many ways.
It was a thrilling debut for this powerful idea, one more indication of how arts groups locally are busy reinventing themselves post-pandemic. It was also a reminder of how exciting it is to hear determined young players in the first flush of enthusiasm for this challenging music. One quibble: we need more program information about these young players, including their music teachers.