Honoring Stewart Miller

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This summer Yellow Barn honors Stewart Miller, Greenwood’s Headmaster, for motivating and helping to realize our extraordinary partnership and lasting friendship with the Greenwood community. A day of celebratory events on July 20th include Open House on campus, a gala dinner scholarship benefit concert in Stewart's honor.

Ellen Stimson, a friend and colleague of Stewart's, offers these words about Stewart and The Greenwood School:

The School That Stewart Built

I want to tell you a story. It is a story about strength and collaboration. It is a story about shared problems and real solutions. Really it is a story about love. The Greenwood School is run by a kindly ex-Marine named Stewart Miller. He rides a Harley and looks fierce.

Looks can be deceiving.

Greenwood is a place where young men come who have had real worries and dreams and who leave transformed. When they go they will take some things with them that they didn’t bring to school. They will take the skills necessary to succeed in a classroom and to build a life. They will take the confidence born of a worthwhile journey. And they will always carry with them a keen understanding of the strength and power in community. It is the community that Stew built.

Stew says there was never anything all that much different about these boys in the first place. They may have had trouble reading or maybe with numbers. Some of them had short attention spans. There was one big difference though. They were luckier. Their moms and dads met Stewart who told them that he and his teachers knew lots of boys just like them. They had a toolbox full of strategies that had worked thousands of times before. And then he put his big arm around them and told them it could work for them too. And it does.

Because Stewart has built a culture at Greenwood where everyone pulls for these boys. Everyone listens … with love and compassion. It is top down. At Greenwood everyone wants the same thing. No teacher wants to teach Faulkner more than they want a student to love reading. And that’s why this story has a happy ending. Because Stewart Miller? Stew writes happy endings.

—Ellen Stimson, Owner, isabelpratt, LLC

After serving four years in the United States Marine Corps, Stewart Miller graduated from Rowan University where studied literature and poetry. His love for teaching and the great outdoors led him to Putney, Vermont where he has enjoyed living and working with his wife, Melanie and son, Trent. Stewart has published articles and essays and presented regionally and nationally on the topic of learning differences, and he is entering his 9th year as Headmaster of the Greenwood School.

To Make Every Summer a Great Adventure

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Jon Potter writes for The Brattleboro Reformer:

Yellow Barn begins its 44th season with a love letter.

Friday’s season-opening concert includes the "Adagietto" from Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, one which the composer wrote as a letter to his beloved Alma.

For Yellow Barn Artistic Director Seth Knopp, the Mahler was just the right piece to put on Friday’s opening night concert, which is being presented as A Tribute to David Wells.

For the first time in its 44-year history, Yellow Barn is without David Wells, the monumental, sweet man who co-founded the festival with his wife Janet. David Wells died last August at age 85, just a few days after the 43rd season had come to a close.

For Knopp and most of the other faculty members, thoughts of David Wells will be with them throughout the summer -- and always.

"I miss him. Every summer will be his," said Knopp. "David was primarily, almost exclusively, about music. Most important of all, I feel that’s my responsibility, to keep that going. I wanted to continue trying to make every summer, this one like any other one, a great adventure."

"Adventure" is a word that comes up a lot at Yellow Barn. It guides the approach to music, and it certainly applies to the programming. Yellow Barn concerts are famously diverse, with contemporary pieces placed side by side with older masterpieces in ways that invite thoughtful comparison. The season begins with a piece by Bach, who was born in 1685; it ends with a piece by Lei Liang, who was both in 1972.

Yellow Barn's adventurous side has attracted notice from the wider musical world. Last fall, Chamber Music America honored Yellow Barn with its Award for Adventurous Programming.

"I was especially happy that it wasn't an award for programming new music. It's more about the dialogue than it is about Yellow Barn doing new music," said Knopp.

Those dialogues have led Yellow Barn to some interesting, adventurous places in the past year.

In late May and early June, Yellow Barn’s road led to Texas for performances of Gerard Grisey’s 1981 masterpiece "Le Noir de L’Etoile", a piece inspired by the discovery of pulsars, outdoors at the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas and then at a remote stargazers' paradise in Marfa, Texas.

In March, soprano Susan Narucki and a team of musical collaborators gathered in Putney for residency to work on an opera "Cuatro Corridos", about human trafficking, which will have its premiere in the San Diego area. Earlier in June, during the Young Artist Program, Yellow Barn collaborated with family members of Tuesday's Children, an organization committed to providing support and services for children who lost loved ones on 9/11.

In November, Yellow Barn returns to Dallas to take part in special programming commemorating the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The program, developed in residence at Yellow Barn by the Brentano String Quartet, clarinetist Charles Neidlich and pianist Knopp, includes "One Red Rose", a composition by Stephen Mackey co-commissioned by Yellow Barn, Nasher Sculpture Center and Carnegie Hall, which will be performed and broadcast from the Sixth Floor Museum.

All this adventurous programming may seem far removed from a festival which began 44 years in David and Janet Wells' home, imbued from the start with a special nurturing, family atmosphere exemplified by dinners on their front porch.

"What came first was idea of music. These ideas came out of trying to get to a deeper understanding of the piece itself," said Knopp. "Music leads us into the world, and the world leads us into music. ... And that, getting back to David, was how he lived."

Read the complete article

Yellow Barn Collaboration Brings 9/11 to Vermont

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Howard Weiss-Tisman writes for The Brattleboro Reformer:

In a rehearsal room on The Yellow Barn campus Monday Kelly Butler was exploring the place where memories and music meet.

Butler lost a family member in the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001, and she is one of the six family members of the support group, Tuesday's Children, who is working with Yellow Barn composers this week.

Tuesday's Children is a non-profit organization that was established to support the families of 9/11 victims.

In the rehearsal room Butler, an actress, was sitting at a desk, writing words on cardboard and then ripping off pieces that she would drop to the floor.

To her left Tamzin Elliott, one of the composers enrolled in the Yellow Barn Young Artists Program, was sitting behind a piano, while two violinists looked over a composition.

Butler and the three musicians were collaborating on the music and dialogue, which will be presented during two performances in Putney this week.

Across the room an adult musician and actress were offering suggestions on when to intersperse the dialogue into the music. The mentors, musicians and actress went back and forth, trying different arrangements until it was time to break for the afternoon.

"Collaboration has always been a very important part of what goes on during the Young Artists Program," said Yellow Barn Executive Director Catherine Stephan. "But this is different. We have never done something like this where we are asking our young composers to incorporate someone else's story into their own work."

Every summer young artists travel from across the county, and all over the world, to study at the Yellow Barn Young Artists Program. This year 28 instrumentalists and composers are spending 18 days in Putney for the Young Artists Program.

About a year-and-a-half ago Yellow Barn Young Artists Program Co-Director Seth Knopp met with Alice Greenwald, the director of the 9/11 Memorial Museum. A mutual friend arranged the meeting and Greenwald told Knopp that the museum was exploring different ways for the family members of 9/11 victims to tell their stories.

"There is a very strong vein of remembrance that runs through art," Knopp said Monday while taking a break from the work he does with the young composers. "I though this program would be a potentially fruitful place to create music to memorialize these stories."

In the Yellow Barn rehearsal studio Monday Butler let the music build, and then fade.

"I am many stories," she said, writing words on a piece of cardboard and then ripping it up. "I wish I had more memories. If I don't remember then who will."

Composers typically bring their life's experiences to each piece of music, and the source of the Muse has been a topic of wonder and discussion for centuries.

But to come face to face with someone who has experienced profound personal loss, while at the same time shared that loss with a nation based on an historic event like 9/11, has been an inspiration for everyone involved.

"The pieces are not necessarily about their stories," he explains. "It has been 13 years and for a lot of these children they can't remember their parent; they are trying to both hold on, and move on. Hopefully we are able to create something redeeming out of all of this."

Read the complete article

Read more about Yellow Barn's 9/11 collaboration

Celebrating with Robert Mann

Monday, June 3, 2013
At 92 years of age, Robert Mann has been a driving force in the world of music for more than seventy years. As founder and first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, and as a soloist, composer, teacher, and conductor, Mr. Mann has brought a refreshing sense of adventure and discovery to chamber music performances, master classes, and orchestral performances worldwide. This summer Yellow Barn honors Robert Mann with a performance on July 19, 2013, his 93rd birthday.

Cellist Bonnie Hampton offers this tribute:

Photo by Ansel Adams

For Robert Mann
Who was able to dream of achieving the Mountain and then step by step,
finding the way to get there. We Honor You!

Robert Mann has had an enormous impact on American Chamber Music, blazing the trail for hundreds of musicians to find a life in the exploration and realization of some of the greatest music to be written for that medium. He is a complete musician in every sense of the word; a superb violinist and Quartet leader, a composer, teacher, conductor and mentor to so many musicians and just dearly loved by a vast audience all over the world. Much has been written about his achievements and those of the Juilliard String Quartet, but it is perhaps through their recordings and those of Robert himself that we are able to experience for ourselves the depth of his Legacy. He is indeed a true American National Treasure.

Violinist Mark Steinberg adds:

It was not a particularly auspicious beginning. As I took a breath, nervously preparing to play the d minor Bach Allemande in my very first lesson with Robert Mann, he yelled “Hold on!” I was unknowingly about to use my bow to do battle with the chandelier I had placed myself underneath. Somewhat rattled, I stepped to the side, managed to muster some semblance of concentration, and played the movement. I had long been awaiting the following moment, eager to have the chance to learn from an artist of Mr. Mann’s stature. I gazed at him expectantly. “Sit down,” he told me. I did. “The first thing you need to know is I didn’t like that at all.”

I might have been devastated, I suppose, but I wasn’t. From the next moments and through the next few years I was initiated into a world of deep engagement with the very elements of the music at hand. I’m not sure I even recognized music as being made up of such elements before. It was intoxicating, and dizzying, and thrilling. I had some very long lessons that first fall, and Mr. Mann’s razor-sharp listening and penetrating intelligence went to work on my playing. When he went on a European tour with the quartet in the late fall I missed my lessons. But I was also grateful for the chance to sort out all the information and all the challenges that had been thrown at me. It was a time for self-preservation, a time to stop and make sure my head wouldn’t explode.

I looked forward eagerly to the adventure of each lesson, each opportunity to be guided through an encounter with the score at hand. There was a visceral, hands-in-the-dirt quality to the work. The exuberant messiness of the process was its own reward. The challenge posed by the multiplicity of possibilities inherent in each composer’s notation was an invitation to extract something eloquent and true. I learned to listen to connections between notes and events with clarity and intensity, to begin to know what the precise shaping of a note, of a group of notes, of a phrase did to the message I was offering. I learned the verb to bowdlerize, and how to begin to realize when I was guilty of such a sin. Not to be forgotten, in a lesson: “That was a great performance...(long pause, begin self-congratulations)... to eat dinner to.” Robert Mann could be master of the witty put-down, but always it seemed a sort of epigraph to an essential lesson about to unfold.

Read more about Robert Mann

Share a personal story or write a tribute to Robert Mann by emailing Catherine Stephan, Executive Director

Images from Marfa, TX

Sunday, June 2, 2013

On May 29th Music From Yellow Barn traveled to Marfa, Texas, a small town sixty miles from the US - Mexico border, to present Gérard Grisey's Le Noir de l’Etoile, on a remote desert ranch. This work, based on the discovery of pulsars and composed for six percussionists placed around an audience, had never been performed out-of-doors. 250 people from as close as Marfa and as far as New York witnessed this landmark event.

Remembering 9/11 through new music

Friday, May 17, 2013

On June 20, 2013 family members from Tuesday’s Children, an organization committed to providing long-term support and services for the children of 9/11, will travel to Putney for Yellow Barn’s Young Artist Program, participating with its musicians (composers and performers ages 13-20) in the process of creating new music that memorializes and brings unique perspective to the events of 9/11. YAP composers Christopher Theofanidis, Stephen Coxe, and Steven Mackey will guide a collaborative composition along with YAP performance faculty, often drawing on personal experience with writing and performing commemorative pieces, including Christopher Theofanidis's opera Heart of a Soldier, which was commissioned by the San Francisco Opera for the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.

During their week in Putney each of the six Tuesday's Children participants will collaborate with a YAP composer and ensemble, resulting in six short bagatelles that together form a commemorative piece, which will receive its premiere performances on June 27 and 28. The Tuesday's Children participants also will be working independently and as a group on memory projects based on their own interests (art, theater, photography, and writing) under the guidance of mentors from those fields who will be joining the YAP community on campus at the Greenwood School. Clifford Chanin, Director of Education at the National September 11 Memorial and Museum, will provide additional insight and lead a discussion with everyone involved with the project.

In addition to performances of the new work, audiences will have the opportunity to view the participant's independent projects and on June 26 participate in a public conversation with Clifford Chanin about the events of 9/11, memory, and memorialization.

Learn more about Yellow Barn's partners

Tuesday's children participants

Kelly Butler
Montana Cortez
Aidan Fontana
Robert Pycior
Juliette Scauso
Richard Wang


Edie Bresler, photography
Michelle Burgess, art
Michael Fleming, poetry
Bill Kelly, art
Bonnie Mennell, art
Barbara Whitneytheater