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Mountains & Strings Chamber Music Retreat

I know we have a lot of family and friends that don't know very much about this part of our lives, but it is a pretty huge deal for us. If this is what we could do for a living, we totally would! (Maybe someday...) I will give a brief history for those who need it. We started this venture eight years ago with Brian and Natalie Ashton. When I say "venture", I really mean "adventure". We have spent many hours and late nights planning, preparing, and putting on this retreat. The first year, we held it in the middle of no-where at a little place called Pine Basin. To make a long, and quite entertaining story short, pretty much everything that COULD go wrong, DID! We also lost money on top of that. But, we LOVED IT, and the students loved it (at least they said they did). Once it was over, we were already planning for the next year. Since then, we have held it at Harriman State Park, which is absolutely beautiful. To learn more about what we do up there, you can go to our web site listed on the left. However, the pictures posted below will give you a pretty good idea.

This is Brian and Richard on the the first day of the retreat. They were leading the kids in a "get-to-know-you" activity. Judging by the look on Richard's face, he is studying faces and memorizing names. He usually has the names all figured out within a few minutes of the retreat starting.

Here is a peek at one of the many games of Trac Ball palyed up at camp. They played some pretty mean games of this and Frisby Golf.

Eric and Lida Grossman with two of their children, Sasha and Vera. Many don't know this, but Lida is a concert pianist. She performed a lot before she married Eric and started a family.

This is Skit Night - can you tell? Skit Night has become tradition, and we are always surprised at how creative these kids get. They really get into the skits and have a lot of fun.

Aren't they cute? Here are Brian and Natalie putting on a skit. Most of my all-time greatest memories of music camp involve Brian and Natalie. Richard and I feel very blessed to be able to work with such wonderful, talented friends.

This is one of my favorites! Every year we get kids that try to dress like Richard and Brian for their skits. I thought these boys did a pretty good job of depicting them. (Notice the sign on Brian's double.)

Can you see the creativity here? It takes a lot to get me laughing hard for an extended period of time, but skit night is one of those times. The young man in this picture is leaving on a mission next month to Guatemala. A great violist!

We debated quite a bit on whether or not we should have Thomas and Marianne up at the camp with us. We decided to try it for a couple days, and we just ended up keeping them almost all week. They were great. Plus, Marianne and Cecilia get along so well. They are like two peas in a pod. Cecilia and Misha (both pictured) are two of Eric and Lida's children.

This year was extra neat because Richard and I were able to participate in the faculty concert. (Since we are bosses, we are able to make decisions like this whether we deserve it or not - it's awesome!) This year for the faculty concert, we played the first movement of Mendelssohn's Octet. (For those of you unfamiliar with this piece, buy it on itunes, it's great music!) It was so fun to be able to play with professionals! Pictured here are Eric and Pat. Pat Laurence has been coming for four years, and she is a great violinist and teacher. We have really enjoyed getting to know her as a musician, and as a person.

More of the Octet rehearsing. (Actually, it looks more like we are just having fun, which we were.) Richard, Jordan (a student), and Brian.

We were also lucky enough to get Jonathan Hillman to come coach this year. He and Richard were stand partners in the symphony at Rick's College back in the day. It was fun to have him there. In this picture is me, Jonathan, and Richard.
Richard and I, and Brian and Jonathan also played the 2nd and 4th movements of Dvorak's "American" String Quartet. Another great piece! We are hoping to get a little video put together with bits and pieces of all the performances. We will probably post it on the Mountains and Strings site when it is done.

This is a student having just performed in a Master Class. The coach in this picture is Alice (goes by Sugar) Ashton, Brian's cousin. She also played in the Octet, and is a really great violinist. She was the "dorm mom" and also turned out to be the camp nurse, helping Brian cure a really bad ingrown finger nail. :) Now THAT was some great entertainment!

Thomas loves lighting fires, lighting stuff on fire, and anything to do with fires. Should I be worried? Actually, Richard has taught him fire safety, and besides the times at camp when he was lighting sticks on fire from the Tiki torches during the concerts, or when he lit a fire in the fire pit during the day by himself without asking, he has proven himself to be somewhat responsible. Like I mentioned before, Thomas and Marianne were great up at the camp...

Here is one of the great scenery shots at Harriman. This is what concert-goers can gaze upon as they listen to beautiful music. It's an inspiring combination.

The student's rehearsing for the final chamber orchestra concert.

Our orchestra conductor this year was Becky Roessler. It looks like the student's ended this piece with a bang.

Here is the orchestra on the performing stage. If you made it this far, thanks for taking the time to see what we do for one amazing week during our summer. It is a lot of work, but well worth it. If you haven't had a chance to come to a concert yet, we will be doing this again next year - hope to see you there!