ASK THE PROS | Bretano Quartet's Serena Canin - 'How Important Are Summer Music Festivals to a Student's Development?' [ADVICE]

VC member Ryan Rodriguez was keen to know: “How important are summer music festivals to a student's development?”


The Violin Channel member Ryan Rodriguez from the United States was keen to know: “How important are summer music festivals to a student's development?

We threw Ryan’s question over to Brentano Quartet violinist and Yale School of Music chamber music faculty member, Serena Canin.

"Dear Ryan,

The Summer Music Festival has long been one of the music world’s most beloved institutions. From lakesides to mountaintops in the U.S. and abroad, festivals abound. Each with its own focus and style, from intimate retreat to splashy gala, festivals provide musicians of all ages with the opportunity to exchange ideas and develop our artistic selves. Like the “winter term” that many colleges offer for intensive or creative study, summer festivals are a “summer term” for musicians, a time to explore an area of interest without the distractions of everyday life. They come with the benefits of expert guidance, camaraderie, and often, spectacular surroundings.

You may ask, “Why should I go to a festival when I can practice at home?” Here are some of the things you may find at a festival that are harder to find on your own:

INSPIRATION. Musicians tend to think of practicing as their primary obligation, but as important as self-time is, we are nourished by doing what we love to do, and by doing it in the company of others. When we receive new information, listen to other people play, hear music that is new to us, and collaborate towards musical goals, we are inspired to improve.

EXPLORATION. Schools are designed to turn out well-rounded musicians. We have degree requirements to ensure that we achieve competence in several areas. This is certainly important, but what if we want to delve into one thing more deeply? Summer can be the time to focus intensively on what interests us most. What if we are curious about something that is not standard curricular fare? It can be the time to try something utterly new. What if we are interested in cultural exchange? It could be a time to expand our horizons by attending a festival abroad.

CONNECTION. Thinking about studying with a particular teacher? Come to a festival and join that person’s summer studio. Looking for a school? Come and meet students pursuing music in different programs. Looking for work? Musicians are often asked to recommend their peers. That friend you met at a festival last summer may lead to a professional opportunity next summer. Looking for people to play with? Find them at a festival, where people share common interests and goals.

PERFORMANCE. The best way to learn to perform is by performing, and festivals provide the very thing a performer needs most - an audience.

Summer Festivals have been a cherished part of my own musical life since I was a teenager. There is something joyful about these colonies of musicians, a positive energy that emerges when people are doing what they like to do, improving themselves, and enjoying each other’s company. I heartily encourage everyone to participate!


A graduate of Swarthmore College and the Juilliard School, where she studied with Burton Kaplan and Robert Mann, Serena Canin has performed as a member of the acclaimed Brentano String Quartet since 1992 |  She currently holds a chamber music teaching position on faculty of the Yale School of Music - having previously served positions at Princeton University, New York University and with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center


Do you have a burning question for one of the Pros? Simply email: [email protected]