Castle­ton plans to bring mu­sic to schools

Rappahannock News - - FRONT PAGE - By James Ivan­cic Spe­cial to the Rap­pa­han­nock News

The Castle­ton Fes­ti­val is a fa­vorite des­ti­na­tion of clas­si­cal and op­er­atic mu­sic lovers as it en­ters its sixth year. This year, how­ever, the fes­ti­val or­ga­ni­za­tion has plans to reach out to school­child­ren in Rap­pa­han­nock and sur­round­ing coun­ties.

As part of a re­newed ef­fort to shape the next gen­er­a­tion of mu­si­cians and mu­sic lovers by hav­ing them meet and learn from the pro­fes­sion­als at Castle­ton, stu­dents will be taken by bus to mas­ter classes, work­shops and re­hearsals at Castle­ton Farms, where the an­nual sum­mer opera and clas­si­cal mu­sic fes­ti­val is held, or be treated to in-school ap­pear­ances by Castle­ton’s per­form­ers.

The school pro­grams will con­nect to both Castle­ton’s month-long sum­mer sea­son and its fall-win­ter Castle­ton in Per­for­mance se­ries. All will be at no cost to the in­di­vid­ual stu­dents or their schools.

“We want to help ed­u­cate young mu­si­cians of all ages,” said Nancy Gustafson, gen­eral man­ager of the Castle­ton Fes­ti­val. Castle­ton is al­ready a train-

ing ground for those be­tween the ages of 18 and 30 pur­su­ing ca­reers as singers, or­ches­tral mu­si­cians and con­duc­tors. They rep­re­sent a re­source that can be tapped to train the next gen­er­a­tion of mu­sic pro­fes­sion­als, she said, or at least pre­pare the next gen­er­a­tion of au­di­ences by in­still­ing an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of mu­sic and stage per­for­mance.

The stu­dents will be ex­posed to not only what goes on on­stage, but off as well, by learn­ing what it takes to put on a show in terms of set and cos­tume de­sign, box of­fice man­age­ment, stage crew du­ties and more.

Pub­lic and pri­vate schools in Rap­pa­han­nock, Culpeper, Madi­son and Fauquier will be in­cluded in the Castle­ton Alive! ini­tia­tive, which was the fo­cus of an in­au­gu­ral meet­ing at­tended by about a dozen rep­re­sen­ta­tives of lo­cal schools at Castle­ton’s Theatre House March 6. Home­schooled chil­dren in the four coun­ties can par­tic­i­pate as well.

“We’re try­ing to help ev­ery­one in the arts, and the schools. We told them we would love to hear how we can help them,” Gustafson said of the ed­u­ca­tors present at the meet­ing. “Each district has its own chal­lenges and what it needs or would like. In the sum­mer, we have 250 mu­si­cians here to help.”

Dur­ing the school year, the fes­ti­val can pro­vide mas­ter classes “to help in­crease mu­sic ed­u­ca­tion and arts ed­u­ca­tion in the schools.” Those classes can be held at the in­di­vid­ual schools or stu­dents can be bused to Castle­ton, Gustafson said.

Dur­ing the sum­mer, stu­dents can at­tend mas­ter classes or take in a re­hearsal at Castle­ton when the per­for­mance sea­son is in full swing.

Castle­ton has been de­vel­op­ing a “menu of ac­tiv­i­ties” for teach­ers to choose from. The menu is avail­able on­line at the Castle­ton web­site (castle­ton­fes­ti­ It in­cludes act­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tion with Di­etlinde Maazel, wife of mae­stro Lorin Maazel, singing classes with Gustafson and mem­bers of the Castle­ton Artists Train­ing Sem­i­nar, in­struc­tion by Castle­ton in Per­for­mance artists, clas­si­cal and mu­si­cal the­ater per­for­mance, or­ches­tral and op­er­atic dress re­hearsals, and a be­hindthe-scenes look at how the opera “Madame But­ter­fly” is staged. That opera will also serve as a win­dow into Ja­panese cul­ture.

Gustafson said the stu­dents will be ex­posed to such things as cos­tume de­sign work, box of­fice ad­min­is­tra­tion and build­ing sets.

She said 200 stu­dents from Culpeper County will be com­ing to Castle­ton June 9 to see an orches­tra and stage re­hearsal and par­tic­i­pate in an act­ing im­pro­vi­sa­tion and re­ceive singing in­struc­tion.

Gustafson is han­dling the sched­ul­ing of school events. She can be con­tacted at nan­[email protected]­ton­fes­ti­ by schools wish­ing to get on the sched­ule.

“Mae­stro Maazel would love it if our au­di­ence is filled by ev­ery­body un­der the age of 25,” she said. “The most ex­cit­ing thing for us is to help ed­u­cate young people about mu­sic.”

Rap­pa­han­nock res­i­dent Hal Hunter has had a hand in many civic or­ga­ni­za­tions, in­clud­ing the Rap­pa­han­nock Food Pantry, and has taken an in­ter­est in the Castle­ton Ed­u­ca­tion Coali­tion, the group of ed­u­ca­tors that met with Gustafson on March 6.

Hunter said he tried to drum up in­ter­est for the meet­ing. “My role has been to spread the word and tell people you re­ally ought to at­tend this thing.”

He sees pluses from hav­ing Castle­ton close by.

“Where else can you go to get to see in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized mu­si­cians in their early 20s and 30s? Here they are in Castle­ton, Rap­pa­han­nock County, Vir­ginia, pop­u­la­tion 7,000. It’s a ter­rific thing,” Hunter said.

Castle­ton board mem­ber Su­san Strittmat­ter said: “The com­mu­nity out­reach can ex­pose those chil­dren of people not ex­posed to Castle­ton to the joy and hap­pi­ness that mu­sic can bring.” The out­reach ef­fort “lets the com­mu­nity know what re­sources there are in terms of what Castle­ton can do. Nancy [Gustafson] re­ally got it or­ga­nized.”

Strittmat­ter sees the ef­fort pay­ing off by “de­vel­op­ing fu­ture mu­si­cians and au­di­ences and bring­ing it to the next gen­er­a­tion. They’ll [the stu­dents] be put in touch with the var­i­ous com­po­nents of a per­for­mance and it will be part of their lives.

“There are a lot of ways that Castle­ton can be part of our com­mu­nity,” Strittmat­ter said, and the ed­u­ca­tion ini­tia­tive is one of them.

Traci Dip­pert, mu­sic teacher at Rap­pa­han­nock El­e­men­tary School, at­tended the March 6 meet­ing.

“I love the con­cept. I’m very proud and ex­cited” to be in­volved, she said. Un­less young chil­dren are ex­posed to mu­sic per­for­mances “we won’t have au­di­ences in the fu­ture,” she said.

She en­vi­sions be­ing able to have her stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in mas­ter classes and take field trips to Castle­ton. And since “not ev­ery­one wants to be a per­former,” stu­dents can also learn about be­hind-the-scenes work of stage crews and au­dio staff.

“For dress re­hearsals we can fill the au­di­to­rium for free so that the per­form­ers can re­hearse in front of an au­di­ence,” she said.


Thir­teen ed­u­ca­tors dis­cussed ideas on how the Castle­ton Fes­ti­val can as­sist the mu­sic pro­grams at area schools with fes­ti­val gen­eral man­ager Nancy Gustafson (fore­ground) on March 6.

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