Musicians Ahafia Jurkiewicz-Miles and Molly Frank are two of the dedicated students who are participants with the Heartland Chamber Music Academy. Both have spent time with the year-long program as well as the summer festival. They will continue this year to be part of the summer fun.
Ahafia plays piano, violin and viola while Molly primarily plans piano, but also plays cello for various chamber events. Both are homeschooled students and have been part of the Academy for about five years. Ahafia just completed her high school sophomore year and Molly just graduated and will be heading to Loyola University in Chicago.
“It’s special to work on chamber music,” Molly says. “I have worked on piano trios with my siblings. Music pulled us closer to each other. We have improved how we interact with others and an attention to detail. The same can be said with the Academy. You learn to lead and to follow. I actually had someone once say that because we didn’t participate in sports, we would not understand team work. Being in chamber music is the ultimate team.”
Ahafia believes chamber music is not often part of a school program. For the students who participate in the Heartland Chamber Music Academy, the benefits include exposure to chamber pieces and instruction from quality teachers. “We are in a safe and comfortable environment which helps us move toward perfection. The camp just extends that. I have attended every camp every year it has been offered. For 9 days, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., you become a better performer. There is also a sense of community.”
Empowerment comes as well, Molly says, and beauty. “That’s what music has given me. That beauty comes from exposure and experience. Every person needs it, just like food, water or air. And that beauty can come from any organization. It’s not only for the people making the art, but for those in the audience too. You gain an appreciation. The purpose of music is to give it away. That’s why we also go into the schools during the school year is important. It’s outreach.” The other skills move into other arts such as theater. Molly will also be part of Culture House’s production of Les Miserables. She’s playing Fantine.
For Ahafia, music and performing gives her a chance to take her personal skills and musical loves and work with toward a common goal with others. Ahafia appreciates those skills with the apprentice group, Team Shakespeare, as part of the Heart of America Shakespeare Festival.
They have also been pushed as musicians because Stringendo, the school-touring group participating in Hall Pass concerts, needed another viola so Ahafia stepped up and Molly played harpsichord. The other premiere group is the Camerata Chamber Orchestra. Molly has played with this group, which does not have a conductor. Rather the musicians use their advanced listening skills.
Two teachers, David Kovac and Vicki Olson, are diligent when it comes to auditions and uniting students into their respective groups. The summer festival runs about 130 students, faculty and staff. This year includes the Festival Scholars program which takes 12 gifted musicians and ramps up the intensity. They will have their own performance and be featured on Kansas Public Radio. Olson says most participants come from the area, but 20 percent are from out of state and out of the country.
There’s also the Junior Festival that runs for six days. “A beginning ensemble deserves the applause and the praise. They need to see that what they are playing matters,” Molly says. Ahafia agrees. “That applause makes you feel confident,” she says.
All the concerts are in Yardley Hall at the Johnson County Community College. Olson says the partnership offers participants a chance to perform on a top-notch stage. Kovac says the students perform for 400 to 500 people. “They gain such confidence and they are finding teaching quality similar to Tanglewood or Aspen.” Olson says the program is similar to the Boston University Tanglewood Institute, the Aspen Music Festival and School and even Interlochen Arts Camp. “We have the resources and the faculty. We don’t have to farm out our students. We can build our own sense of community here.”
This summer, Molly plans on working with students and coaching. “I have seen what good teachers can offer and I want to provide the same.” Ahafia teaches a young piano student. “It’s empowering when you are appreciated.” The youngest players, especially those with more novice skills, participate in Overture, which starts the exposure to chamber music. “We keep growing and offering more opportunities to hear and be part of chamber music. The future looks and sounds bright,” Olson says.
The festival runs July 26 to Aug. 3. The student concerts are Junior Festival, 7 p.m., Aug. 1; Festival Scholars, 7 p.m., Aug. 2; and two student concerts, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Aug. 3. All the concerts will be in Yardley Hall at Johnson County Community College.