|When it comes to the many aspects of being a musician, there are few
that artist Lila Brown hasn’t had a taste of. She has performed with
the Boston Symphony, she was the principal violist at the Spoleto
Festival Orchestra, one of the several festivals she has participated
in, and she was an assistant professor at the Hochschule fur Musik in
Vienna. More recently, she was a member of the renown European chamber
group, Ensemble Modern.
Accomplishments like these are incredibly impressive, but when I
asked Brown which she was most proud of, her response didn’t have
anything to do with any of those achievements. That’s because that
list is incomplete, it fails to mention that Brown has created her own
festival. That is Brown’s prized achievement.
| Violist, Lila
In the rural areas of Upstate New York, there is a very lightly populated,
and very beautiful region called Washington county. In alot of cases, you’re
usually traveling to get what you need, but that is not the case if it’s good
music you’re looking for. The reason not, which also happened to be Brown’s
response to my asking her which achievement she was most proud of, is “Music
| The Brown Farm
||By 1985, Brown’s parents had long been considering selling their
summer home in Salem, New York (a small town in Washington County).
“They had been thinking about selling it for a long time, my mother
always had a vision that alot of people should be here.” she says.
When Brown heard them talking of selling it she realized that this was
something that couldn’t be done.
As this house’s future was being discussed, Brown decided it was,
“a good place for the musician to stay and work because it’s so
beautiful and quiet.” Brown and the now co-director, Judith Eissenberg,
began investigating and surveying the public. After deciding on it, they
needed a place to perform.
After asking a handful of locals, Brown had found her answer, “Almost
everybody said go to Hubbard Hall (a small opera hall in a town near the
Brown farm) so that was just lucky because he (the head of Hubbard Hall)
was looking for a classical group.” They walked in, and so Music
from Salem was born.
During their first year, Music from Salem had only one concert.
Today, Brown is proud to have a calendar that shows their summer
schedule crammed with workshops, open rehearsals, a master class, and
weekly concerts. She is also pleased that creating this festival has
allowed her to change the typical style of programming.
Through performing in Europe and the United States, Brown has come to
a good and clearly correct conclusion, “The Europeans know the music
better.” She went on to describe how different programming is. In
Europe, the program usually matches with the time of year, or the
religious calendar. She went on to tell me that you would never play
“...a summer-based song in winter, because it sort of belongs to the
climate,” she continued, “For the Europeans that would be a terrible
So, using programming that makes sense is one thing Brown has tried to do
with Music from Salem. “I try not to bring a composer in just once and then
you never see their name again. I try to make some continuity or some
comprehension within the whole series because, mostly it has to do with
ignorance because people don’t know these musicians or their works.” Indeed
you can see a relation between programs when you attend multiple concerts.
It’s like your slowly meeting a composer, for instance, Schoenberg. At every
concert you learn a little more about the composers.
Aside from the concerts being a way to meet the composers, they’re also a
way to meet the musicians. Many of the musicians who perform at the various
concerts, also attend the ones they don’t. So, at one concert you may be
staring in awe at a world famous pianist, and at the next concert, you may be
sitting in front of them.
Lila Brown, on Viola
||Lila Brown is a violist, and she performs at some concerts as well.
However, she had a few other musical careers, before she found this one.
Of them, is playing with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
“I guess I’m not a big fan of orchestra playing,” she says,
“I do admire very much, members of orchestras, but I find it very
strange...” She found it strange for a number of reasons, “In the
orchestra, there’s a conductor who decides everything, like how the
music should go. So you can play your heart out but you must conform to
the phrasing he gives and the dynamics he gives,” she says.
However, when Brown played for the Ensemble Modern, she realized that
any advantages of playing with an orchestra, was a disadvantage for
playing with a small group. “When I played with the Boston Symphony,
the orchestra is not my thing but the schedule was a dream!” She was
referring to a little calendar all the musicians get at the beginning of
the year, which told the exact date and time of every event or rehearsal
for the year. The flexibility of smaller groups prevented this from
being possible, “Since it was smaller and more flexible, often too
flexible, there were a lot of schedule changes at the last minute.”
This was a factor in Brown’s decision for leaving the group.
She has also been an assistant professor, something she thinks was
very beneficial to her. “You remind yourself of all the things you
learned. Things that you forget in preparing for concerts, things that
you go home and practice and think ‘Oh, what was I just telling
everybody else all day today?’.”
However, having been a teacher, doesn’t give her the same pride as having
created Music from Salem. “I’ve been happy to have the chance to be creative
with the programs and also to work with the music and the people, that’s been
educational for me.” she says regarding Music from Salem.
It’s something really wonderful that Lila Brown has created for us.
Something where both sides of the music world, the musician and the audience,
can come together. They meet under the chandelier of a little old Victorian
opera house, in the middle of a rural town, to the sound of good music.