New Director wants to raise Chamber Music Society profile


Soon after the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) appointed Jane Coakley to be its new executive director last month, she said one of her goals is to shine a much deserved spotlight on one of the Island’s best kept secrets.

The upcoming schedule may do much to highlight the society, which has a history over the past four decades of bringing accomplished musicians from all over the world to Martha’s Vineyard to perform in summer concerts.

Ms. Coakley’s first major project as executive director will a spring show this Sunday that will feature the works of Beethoven, Haydn, Dvorak, and Brahms performed by visiting musicians on violin, viola, and cello and society artistic director Delores Stevens on piano.

The guest musicians all have very impressive credentials and extensive experience performing chamber music. Ms. Coakley credits Ms. Stevens with maintaining such a high standard of talent, recruiting musicians through the connections she has made in her decades as a performer and founder of two chamber music organizations including the MVCMS. “She’s always looking for new performers and new composers,” Ms. Coakley said.

The spring concert represents an addition to the concert lineup and a change of venue. The program begins Sunday at 4 pm at the Hebrew Center in Vineyard Haven.

Summer concerts will continue to be performed at the Whaling Church in Edgartown and the Chilmark Community Center.

Although the Sunday program will feature strictly classical works by some of the world’s most beloved composers, the summer season series focuses on adventuring beyond the expected. “It’s a very rich and varied lineup,” Ms. Coakley said. “The society has just been evolving. The focus on contemporary music is unique for an organization of its type.”

One goal is to attract a broader audience than the society has in the past. “I plan to focus on marketing and thinking about how we could be reaching all the segments that we should be reaching,” she said.

The term chamber music is not restricted to a certain genre. It is simply a descriptive used for compositions intended to be performed by a small number of musicians.

Although many of the MVCMS’s offerings are classical, the organization does not limit itself musically. This summer’s season opener, for example, will feature a well-known marimba player from Asia paired with violin, horn, and piano for a program that will include a tango composition and another contemporary piece written specifically for marimba. The society will also host renowned jazz pianist and composer Billy Childs who will perform music from Philip Glass, as well as a world premiere of one of his own compositions, and the Harlem String Quartet will finish up the season with a program that runs from Beethoven to Chick Corea.

About Ms. Coakley

Ms. Coakley and her husband, Max Skjoldebrand, were seasonal residents and regular attendees of the society’s concerts for 12 years before they relocated from Dubai to live on the Vineyard fulltime. After Ms. Coakley joined the MVCMS board her long involvement in the international world of finance made her a natural to be appointed treasurer, a post she held briefly before Rise Tierney stepped down as executive director earlier this year.

Ms. Coakley is originally from North Adams. She spent most of her professional career in London, where she worked for some of the world’s largest financial organizations.

Mr. Skjoldebrand is a successful architect who was born in Sweden and raised in the United Kingdom. In 2005 the couple moved to Dubai where Ms. Coakley was senior adviser at the largest law firm in the United Arab Emirates. “It was the phase when all the financial institutions wanted to get a toehold in that part of the world,” she said of her time in Dubai. “I found it very interesting, very stimulating.”

After moving to the Vineyard full-time the couple devoted themselves to the long-delayed process of renovating their home in West Tisbury, which they purchased in 1999 when they became involved in the arts. “I think for a place of its size the art scene is really quite amazing and unique. You find this incredible natural beauty that seems to go hand in hand with the arts,” she said.

The new Vineyard transplants are avid walkers. In the past they planned visits to coincide with the annual Martha’s Vineyard Land Bank Walk. They are happy to be able to indulge their passion for hiking year-round. Longtime supporters of the arts, particularly classical music and opera, Ms. Coakley and her husband say they were thrilled to get involved with the Chamber Music Society. “It’s really a first class organization. Our mission is to bring world-class musicians to Vineyard audiences.”

She added, “I’ve joined a flourishing and very strong organization. I’ve been amazed at the generosity and loyalty of our supporter base.”

Board president David Rhoderick said he is very pleased to have someone with Ms. Coakley’s background on board. “Jane is going to bring a very strong capability to execute,” he said. “She has picked everything up very quickly. She understands what the priorities are. She’s very effective and no-nonsense, but she’s also a very engaging personality.”

Mr. Rhoderick said that the spring concert Sunday will provide a last opportunity to take advantage of a $20 discount admission (students are free).

The summer concert ticket price is $35. A season subscription is $140 or $120 when purchased before June 1. A new website at is under construction.

Chamber Music Spring Concert 4 pm, Sunday, May 29, M.V. Hebrew Center, Vineyard Haven. $20; free for students.