Each summer New England Music Camp welcomes a distinguished alumni guest artist back to camp. Artists spend a week teaching, performing and re-experiencing the magic of NEMC. The program, sponsored by the NEMC Board of Advisors, allows campers the unique opportunity to work closely with musicians who were once campers just like them and who have gone on to successful careers in music.
This summer San Francisco Symphony hornist, Jonathan Ring, will be the NEMC Alumni Artist in Residence. Music Director, Leon Gregorian says, “It is always a pleasure to work with former campers who have made it “big” in this most difficult and demanding music profession. Personally, I have enjoyed these collaborations immensely with our guest artists. I am confident Jonathan Ring’s residency will be interesting, valuable, exciting, and inspiring. I do know that both our campers and our faculty always enjoy such productive visits from musicians. I am also very excited to know that Mr. Ring will work very closely with horn students, with all the the brass students, perform with the faculty members and solo with the Symphony Orchestra. Now that is a real Artist Residency Program .”
We are grateful to Mr. Ring for taking a few moments to answer some questions about his experiences at NEMC, his thoughts on music and music education, and what his return to camp will mean to him.
When Mr. Ring attended NEMC in 1975,1976, and 1977 he resided in Dorr, Sault, and Burns cabins. As you read the following dialogue you will see that while there have been minor changes to the grounds and program over the years, Mr. Ring’s experience is quite similar to what campers in 2014 experience!
Can you share a musical memory from your time at NEMC?
NEMC was really the first place that exposed me to a lot of other musical kids. I remember being blown away by the quality of the music and of how it felt to sit in an ensemble and create something larger than myself. I remember playing horn ensemble music for the first time. There are so many musical memories…
What is your favorite non-musical NEMC memory?
One day on the counselor’s day off, we moved his whole bedroom out to the floating dock and set it up out there. When he came back to the cabin that night, he was surprised, to say the least!
How did your experiences at NEMC shape or impact your life?
I think the most important part of camp for me was the realization that there were a lot of kids like me out there, kids who were really into music. It gave me a sense of belonging and a confidence to keep pursuing what it was that I loved. It also was the first time that I had to keep a schedule by myself. I made some good friends and still run into NEMC alums quite a bit – there are 5 in my orchestra!
What is it like to see your son at NEMC? How is his experiences similar and how is it different?
It is very heart-warming to see my youngest son Benjamin go to NEMC. He had very much the same experience that I did in discovering that there are a lot of music kids out there. He goes to a small school, as I did, and feels that he is very much in the minority at home. Being immersed in music for the summer with his peers was a great experience.
What do you think the most important aspect of a music camp like NEMC is? Why should a child attend a music camp?
I see music camp as serving 2 purposes: first, to be able to study, perform and practice music during the summer unhindered by regular school with kids your own age and older. Second, to just be able to be a kid and do camp things: make friends, swim, do arts and crafts, eat together, do campfires – all of the non-musical things that go on at camp. The combination of these two things is what makes NEMC special!
What are you most looking forward to during your week back at NEMC?
I love to teach and am excited about being able to return to NEMC and share some of my knowledge and experience with the next generation. I looked up to my teachers there and now will have the rather strange opportunity to be on the other side.
Your children are young musicians, how are things different for young musicians now than when you were their age?
A lot depends on where they are growing up. I had very few opportunities musically where I was raised which was why NEMC was so beneficial to me. My son has many more opportunities available to him and is busy most days after school doing music. Also, the level is quite high. This creates, though, a bit of a misconception about the realities of music as a career. I see a lot of young musicians thinking that is it an easy road to being able to earn a living in music. I actually think it is harder now than it was when I was younger, though certainly not impossible. The state of the arts is different and there is more competition for fewer spots.
Do you have a specific message or anything special you share with them?
I am a believer in following one’s passion, having high standards and a strong vision of success. However, I believe that being a flexible artist is the key. Be open to all kinds of music – learn more than one instrument – write and arrange music. These are things that can and will help you succeed as well as expanding your mind about the musical world. There are a lot of talented kids out there, so what will make you stand out. Aside from all this, music should still be fun! It is a powerful art form and one that can literally change the world.
This is a traditional NEMC question that we always ask our counselors to share the answer to: What is one thing that most people might be surprised to know about you?
I think that most people assume that because I play horn in a major symphony orchestra, all I like and listen to is classical music. The reality is quite different – we mostly have rock and jazz blaring in our house. I also play keyboards and am into vintage synthesizers of the 1970’s and ’80’s and secretly wanted to be a rock star…oh well!