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Community-Supported Group Brings Chamber Music To Central Vermont

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Scrag Mountain Music
Scrag Mountain Music, pictured here in 2014, is a group that takes a community-supported approach to their art, using the motto "Come as you are, pay as you can." Evan Premo, pictured second from left, joined VPR to talk about the group.

You've no doubt heard of "passing the hat" after you've enjoyed hearing a live musician in a coffee house or on the Church Street Marketplace, but what about after hearing a concert of classical chamber music?

This community-supported approach is exactly how Scrag Mountain Music engages its audiences and opens up the world of classical chamber music to a whole new set of ears.

Recently, VPR spoke with co-artistic director, composer and musician Evan Premo, who, along with his wife, soprano Mary Bonhag, founded an organization whose mission is to create interactive concert experiences.

Scrag Mountain Music present concerts of chamber music throughout central Vermont, focusing on affordability for the local communities. Premo says, “[We] provide a retreat space for musicians we’ve met on our travels throughout the country and even the world.” He says they borrowed the idea from community-supported agriculture and that their organization comes out of that. “We want to reach community members who maybe have never even been a part of chamber music before, who are new to that area and are maybe intimidated by it in some way,” he says. “… and present the music we love and find ways that present it that hopefully will give each person a relevant experience in the music.”

The motto of the organization is "Come as you are, pay as you can." Premo says for them, it’s not only come in whatever physical state you are in, but also for people to come with whatever musical experience you have, even if it’s none. “Come with expectations or with no expectations, come with a knowledge of the art or absolutely none and we will welcome you,” he says. As for the “pay as you can,” Premo says they pass a basket around at intermission and ask people to put in it what they can afford. “We think that helps families to come to these concerts and people who just can’t afford a $25 ticket,” he says.

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They will be performing three concerts this weekend in Montpelier, Randolph and Warren. “The program often includes a combination of more traditional classical music and contemporary music. Contemporary music is definitely a passion of ours,” he says. This weekend, they are featuring a piece for clarinet, piano and viola called Fairytailes. Another piece brings together Celtic music with contemporary music.

Credit Scrag Mountain Music
Scrag Mountain Music will be playing throughout central Vermont this summer.

As for the vibe at their concerts, Premo says they try to make it feel as though they are taking place in their living room. “We try to just welcome people very casually and warmly and bring them into the music they love. We talk to the audience … the concert can be almost a discussion at times, it can open the ears of the audience as well as the performers,” he says.

Premo says that because music is constantly changing and evolving, there is a lot of entrepreneurship in the art. “Classical music is a living art form. It’s not just playing old music … it’s living because we’re still composing music and we’re still interpreting music. As long as there are enthusiastic musicians playing music and wishing to share it with the world, there will always be audiences that find it and catch the bug,” he says.

Learn more about Scrag Mountain Music’s upcoming concerts here.

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