The Beginning: A Focus on Education
Founded by Felicity Coltman in 1981 to offer a summer chamber music workshop to junior and senior high school musicians, the program immediately added school-year classes that met on Saturdays. These school-year classes, now called the Academy, and the summer workshop are still of primary importance. Graduates of the program include many professional musicians, including the cellist of the Jupiter String Quartet, violist of the Maia Quartet, principal oboist with the National Symphony, principle flutist of the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, principal bassoonist of the Houston Symphony, principal clarinetist of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, multiple members of the Austin and San Antonio Symphonies, and countless music educators.
A successful in-school collaboration, which provides weekly chamber music coaching for band and orchestra students at the Fine Arts Academy at McCallum High School, was begun in 1997. Seven other schools have been added since then.
An international exchange program provides opportunities for ACMC students and faculty to share experiences with teachers and students from established music schools abroad. The first summer for the exchange (1983) involved two separate trips to Europe and a return visit from a Salzburg group. A partnership with the Robert Schumann Conservatorium in Zwickau, Germany, resulted in a trip to Zwickau in 2008, marking the sixth exchange between the two schools.
Coaching for adult avocational musicians became a part of the ACMC educational program in 1993 and expanded to include an amateur chamber orchestra during the summer workshop.
1988 marked the development of a regular concert season (Intimate Concerts). In 2003, the Intimate Concerts, which are given in elegant private homes, were paired with a sister series (Synchronisms) that features the same program in a public venue.
The summer Austin Chamber Music Festival was created in 1997, and the ensembles presented in the programming have ranged from the The Bad Plus to the Beaux Arts Trio. The festivals’ visiting artists are included in activities at the summer workshop, giving students an opportunity to work closely with world-class artists.
Community outreach concerts have taken place since 1981 and have grown to include a four-concert East Austin series, annual concerts for Hispanic Heritage Month and Black History Month, concerts for community events, retirement centers, Title 1 schools, the Texas School for the Blind, and at the Austin State School. The outreach concerts series has expanded regularly throughout the history of ACMC and now offers over 100 free concerts every year throughout Austin.
In 2006, Dr. Michelle Schumann was appointed the artistic/executive director of ACMC, accepting the responsibility of leading ACMC after the 25-year tenure of its founder. In her first seasons, ACMC won the highly coveted Austin Critics Table Awards for “Outstanding Season/Body of Work” and “Outstanding Chamber Music Performance.”
Since 2006, ACMC has been nominated over 15 times for awards by the Austin Critics Table and has received the “Outstanding Chamber Music Performance” award on two other occasions as well as the award for “Outstanding Instrumentalist” for the artistic director’s performance of Rhapsody in Blue with the original instrumentation at the opening of the 2008 Austin Chamber Music Festival. Since 2006, Schumann has brought unprecedented growth to audiences in both Season and Festival programs.