Once known as the Mill Valley Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Marin (CMM) has a new name and a renewed lease on life.
This year marks Chamber Music Marin’s 50 year anniversary and it’s already tuning up for the next 50. For both music lovers and those interested in dipping their toes into the Ravelian pools, CMM is here and ready to bring classical music into the future.
A nonprofit organization, CMM first iterated in 1970, when a group of Mill Valley chamber musicians decided to start playing together. Since that time, the group has evolved, from a group of chamber music lovers and amateur musicians to a thriving nonprofit that presents a rousing concert series of exceptional programming from professional musicians every year.
“It was time for us to change the name, to reflect what we are now,” said board president Jane Rogers on the phone. “We’ve estimated that over the years we’ve sponsored performances of live chamber music for audiences totaling 35,000 people. We’re chamber music for the community.”
Thirty-five thousand is an impressive number, especially considering that CMM is entirely volunteer-run. Board members do essentially all the work, distinguishing CMM from other organizations that present music, and allowing them to keep their overhead, and subsequently their ticket prices, low.
Chamber Music Marin, in their current iteration, holds a unique place in the Marin music landscape. Instead of booking marquee, international names, they bring newer, star-on-the-rise musicians to chamber music lovers.
“Over the years, we have presented some of the greatest musicians in the world, in the early stages of their careers. Joshua Bell, for example, who is probably the most famous American violinist alive today,” said Rogers.
Though they can’t present the world’s most famous stars, they have a discerning board, great ears and good luck. The result is a revolving docket of incredible early stage talent, in an intimate auditorium venue with superb acoustics.
“This coming season includes a fabulous piano trio ensemble from Copenhagen and an incredible Castalian string quartet, among others. It’s surprising and wonderful to have this degree of quality in a community-based nonprofit setting,” Rogers stated.
The need to keep budgets reasonable has had the serendipitous result of turning CMM into something of a launch pad for burgeoning chamber musician talent. And they like it that way. CMM and Monterey Chamber Music often work closely together, booking the same performers within a week of each other, ensuring the musicians more revenue without an extra stop on their tour.
The CMM board is the operations lifeblood.
“We’re constantly searching and curating,” said Rogers, “Our longtime board member and former board president and continuing artistic director, Bill Horn, does an incredible job finding talent. We rely on him heavily for programming. And everyone on the board supports us in some way—we have members who are newer to chamber music but bring a tremendous amount of financial skill, or marketing skill—we make sure our board operates like a staff to keep this music accessible.”
Currently tickets for individual shows are $40, for any seat in the house, and for a series ticket prices drop down to just under $30 per.
CMM also engages one or more of the chamber music groups they book each year to run programs in Marin County schools.
“We had Quartet San Francisco do two programs last year, specializing in tango. They’re an incredible group who all perform standing up—even the cellist!—so they can maintain rhythmic synchronicity,” said Rogers. “It’s such a wonderful thing to take Argentinian tango into schools!”
CMM makes sure that each year they’re bringing something special, free of charge, to keep the profundity and power of classical music alive.
They’re thrilled about this year’s programming. Bach, Mozart, Sibelius, Ravel—these are just a few of the timeless composers on the docket. Rogers is particularly excited about the Telegraph Quartet and San Francisco Conservatory of Music graduate students performing Medelson’s “String Quartet in D Major.”
“It’s for two string quartets together, and it creates a sound that’s almost as big as a full string orchestra!” she exclaimed.
With their new identity and with 50 years under their belt, CMM wants the community to know that they’re fully accessible, and available for everyone.
“You don’t have to be a member to participate, and actually, anyone under 18 can come for free,” explained Rogers. “We’re ready to move forward, with a new identity that expresses who we are and what we do. We want to keep chamber music alive, in public schools and beyond.”
They’re working on contemporizing themselves, through an updated website and, further down the line, more social media marketing. The idea is to make sure to stay in touch with the younger demographic.
“And you know, we haven’t done an interview with the Pacific Sun for a long time,” said Rogers. “This is good!”