Projects always have a back story –part fate, part kismet. Two of Oyster Bay Music Festival’s three directors, Sarah Hoover (soprano) and Lauren Ausubel (flutist), met when they performed together on a concert in Northport, Long Island. A musical connection led to further discussions about showcasing local talent in their own community. They agreed that while there was no dearth of musical activity in New York City, there were far fewer opportunities to perform and hear classical music locally. Their brainstorming sessions led to the dream of a music festival in their own backyard, an idea enthusiastically supported by Rev. Peter Casparian of Christ Church in Oyster Bay, a community leader widely known for his commitment to the arts. A third director, Pippa Borisy (pianist), was brought on board, and Oyster Bay Music Festival was born.
Much has been said questioning the future of classical music performance. The directors, all deeply passionate about their art as both performers and educators, crafted a festival they hoped would create new ways of presenting an old art form. Key to this idea was making close connections in the community. Based at Christ Church in Oyster Bay and supported by local businesses and cultural organizations, the neighborhood festival was launched in June 2012 and over the course of five seasons has expanded to include new venues and new collaborations with performing arts, community and cultural institutions.
OBMF’s jam-packed performance calendar offers more to the community and participating students than frequent opportunities to experience beloved and lesser-known masterpieces from the past four centuries. It also creates opportunities for connection. OBMF provides a training ground for aspiring musicians that actively addresses the self-absorption, isolation, and fear of performance that can characterize a highly competitive field, one in which there are far fewer jobs than talented musicians. Musicians and musical training can become focused so intently on technical perfection and winning a job that the power of connecting with others through music can be lost. We are also living in the age of digitally-enabled constant connectedness –but to a device and not necessarily each other. The hectic pace of our lives only widens the communication gap within our communities, families and friends, and even ourselves. Music is a powerful force which can connect us to one another in deeper and transformative ways.
OBMF provides not only concerts to engage and transport audiences but also a model of how musicians can build connections, one which OBMF’s directors hope festival students will adopt in their developing careers. In addition to providing daily master classes, seminars and numerous opportunities for students to perform (in traditional and non-traditional settings such as the senior center, the local preschool music and art storefront, the summer vintage car night event, the waterfront center, and local museums and churches), OBMF provides music students with the chance to practice communicating their love of music. This model, now uniquely rooted in Oyster Bay, could be the start of a grassroots movement in performance training: Main Street Oyster Bay could be Main Street, in any town in America. We can bring communities together, uplift one another and continue this tradition of art music in new and unimagined ways.