Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society has a big impact

Andres Vera at the Chilmark School on a previous visit. —Kim Baumhofer

Although their acclaimed summer concert festival has ended, the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society (MVCMS) continues its longtime commitment to bringing high-quality music to Islanders of all generations this month with its student artist-in-residence program. Many know and appreciate the group for its summer and off-season holiday presentations highlighted by world-class visiting artists and colorful, varied programs. But beyond offering top-notch concerts to Island audiences, the organization has an equally strong mission to support music education for the Vineyard’s school students.

For several decades, the chamber society has supported music education for Island youth in several important ways, including encouraging school teaching programs for even the youngest students. The Island’s oldest classical music organization, the MVCMS supplements the Island-wide school strings instruction program by providing instruments free of charge to students.

Currently some 200 students in grades two through eight take part in the lessons offered by the school strings program. The chamber group also offers modest “Lesson Scholarship” aid to those serious and committed students seeking private lessons on strings, piano, or other classical instruments.

As another way to support talented local students, for many years each spring the society has awarded a scholarship to a promising high school graduate, to assist in pursuing college-level musical education.

An exciting aspect of this multi-faceted youth education endeavor is the new artist-in-residence program, initiated last spring and continuing thanks to generous grants from MV Youth, and the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation. The programs are now funded for three years, and the society hopes to continue them into the future through additional grants and private donations.

Master cellist Andres Vera and lead violinist Jeremy Cohen will be on the Island for seven days this week and next, working with string students from elementary through high school levels. Their packed schedule of activities range from group sessions with regional high school students and one-on-one lessons with individuals to a free public concert at the West Tisbury library on Sunday, Oct. 15, at 3:30 pm.  

In addition to working directly with students, the visiting artists will consult with local string instrument instructors, to share ideas and inspiration on teaching practices.

“Our greatest wish is that our young music students are inspired to play for years to come,” said Kim Baumhofer, MVCMS board member and Youth Programs coordinator. She added that the goal of the program is to encourage students to pursue their musical development.

Ms. Baumhofer noted that the guest musicians will be visiting several Island schools, including the M.V. Public Charter School. Programs will vary from school to school, including teaching and/or performances.

She added that the generous MV Youth grant that initially launched the three-year artist-in-residence program also enabled the society to purchase some 20 new instruments for its lending inventory. It now includes 45 full-sized or half-sized violins, 10 violas, and three cellos. She is currently pursuing additional grant money to add 10 more cellos, and to find a cello instructor to visit and teach on the Island, all in response to strong student interest.

—Kim Baumhofer

Also responding to demand, string instruction in the elementary and middle schools has recently expanded to two full-time teaching positions. This addition makes it possible for all interested youngsters to receive training and has eliminated the lengthy waiting lists that were common previously.

The fruits of this dedication to string education are seen in annual concerts at the regional high school, where exuberant young string players from all grade levels fill the Performing Arts Center stage.

“It’s a highly successful program,” Ms. Baumhofer summed up.

Mr. Vera is a cellist, performer, collaborator, and teacher, has played with the Grammy Award-winning Quartet San Francisco, and is a founding member of Cello Street Quartet in San Francisco. A familiar face to many Island music lovers, he previously performed here in 2016 with the Quartet San Francisco, and took part in the first artist-in-residence program last spring.

Just back from a summer tour of Italy and Germany, Mr. Cohen’s jazz violin performances have earned him nationwide accolades. Classically trained and a student of Itzhak Perlman and Anne Crowden, Mr. Cohen’s eclectic style reflects his respect for a wide range of violinists from Perlman and Fritz Kreisler to Joe Venuti and Eddie South.

“Bach, Beethoven, Cohen: Three Centuries of Violin and Cello duets,” is the enticing title of Sunday’s free concert. David Rhoderick, a MVCMS board member and a highly accomplished pianist and organist, will join the visiting artists as accompanist. The string students will be invited to attend, along with the general public.

For more information, visit or call 508-696-8055.