Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music

Where are they now?

Three Apple Hill Summer Chamber Music Workshop alumni spoke recently with Summer Coordinator Amelia Perron about their memories of Apple Hill, what Apple Hill meant to each of them, and where they are now. The following conversations are an insight into the transformative power of music and community. Allison FrisbeeAllison Frisbee What instrument do you play, where are you from originally, and when did you attend Apple Hill? I play viola, although not as much as I wish, and I am from Concord, NH – right up the road from Apple Hill. I attended Apple Hill from 1996 to 2005. I was the music librarian from 2001-2002 and then a Camp Director from 2003-2005. My first summer was the first summer that Mike was on faculty, and my second summer was the first summer that Elise was on faculty. What is your favorite memory of Apple Hill? I have so many! My life is so intertwined with Apple Hill – which is strange to say since I haven’t been there in years. But I can’t imagine my younger years without Apple Hill, and my adult life doesn’t make sense without Apple Hill. I have so many great memories tied up with figuring out who I was – a weird, artsy kid. Meeting interesting, passionate, talented people at Apple Hill was really important for me then - and meeting people of such a huge variety of backgrounds who could all come together over a passion for listening and sharing themselves. There is one memory I viscerally identify with Apple Hill. In 2002, my father died while I was at a session at Apple Hill. His funeral was on a Wednesday – the day off at Apple Hill – and everyone came. There was a section of the church that was just Apple Hill people. Of course, nobody brings fancy clothes to Apple Hill, so everyone was wearing their concert black. They were wearing black socks with flip-flops to make it look like they were wearing real shoes. It was an amazing experience, to have the community so present. It was so difficult, but joyful too, with my friends around me and the music around me. We played the slow movement of the Dvorak bass quintet -- myself and four friends from Dallas, who all came from a really different background, but were totally present for me in those moments. I have great memories as a Camp Director, too, seeing the next generation of 14, 15, 16 year olds getting the same experiences I had, building new communities, and knowing how meaningful those communities can be for them.  And watching the friends I grew up with at Apple Hill transition into leadership roles at Apple Hill as faculty and Camp Directors, and how we all continue to have transformative experiences there. What was it like for you to experience a music workshop in such a rural place – living in a cabin in the woods, performing in a barn, etc? I was such a kid when I first came – I was 13 – I was into whatever. The rural aspect is so tied into the whole experience of Apple Hill. It’s the best kind of living in a bubble. Apple Hill creates a world. I would always get a knot in my stomach driving up the road to Apple Hill – because you’re stepping into a world that is already created, that is already organically existing – and you don’t know yet what your role in that world will be. What’s great is that what’s created in that world you can take out into the rest of the world with you, but it’s so different at Apple Hill. You can immerse yourself completely. Is there something you learned from Apple Hill that is still with you? How do you feel your life is different for having attended Apple Hill? Well, I didn’t become a musician – I was actually at Apple Hill when I found out that I’d gotten accepted to Columbia Law School, which was the end of the long road towards figuring out what I wanted to do.  But there is no possible way I could have grown up into the person that I am without the support of the community at Apple Hill. I know people who chose different life paths than mine, but they are all serious and passionate about what they do. And really, the communities that are built at Apple Hill are ultimately about listening -- and I continue to believe that the listening we do to make beautiful chamber music facilitates the listening that’s necessary to build the strong communities that can function to end conflict. It’s brought such a balance, to be connected to a community of artists doing creative things. Now that I have kids, it’s important to me that they will be exposed to this world of passionate people who do what strikes them as important.  And best of all, it seems like there is no where in the world I can travel and not have a friend to visit! Are you still in touch with your friends from Apple Hill? Yes. My son Andrew, who is lying on my arm right now, his godmother is Emer [a fellow Apple Hill participant]. A lot of these people I’ve now known over half my life. We’ve been to each other’s weddings; we are godparents for each other’s children. It’s a new, wonderful phase in our lives. I’m getting to see people I grew up with grow up, and see their creative endeavors. I have a tremendous sense of pride in what they are doing. And the ones with children have spectacular children. What are you doing now? Is music still part of your life? I am a lawyer, about to start a new job at a large pharmaceutical firm. I have two children, Andrew, who will be 4 in June, and Maggie, who is 1. I live outside of Philadelphia – actually not very far from where Ross [a fellow Apple Hill participant] lives – I met him at my first summer at Apple Hill. I don’t play viola as much as I would like. I used to play chamber music more when I lived in Virginia – I miss that. I want to raise my kids around music. In fact, my son Andrew has a 1/8 sized violin, and he’s taking Suzuki lessons, although I am going to switch him to viola as soon as possible – maybe tomorrow. [Asks son, “Andrew, do you want to play violin or viola?” Andrew replies, “violin.”] Is there anything else you’d like to say about Apple Hill? Yes – I was at Apple Hill during a time of tremendous change, when Apple Hill was figuring out where it was going. But through that, the character has never changed. The people involved are so deeply committed and focused on community, connections, listening, valuing each other, and that is held above everything else. It’s an amazing thing. Lara HarbLara Harb Lara is a pianist from Ramallah, West Bank, Palestine. She attended Apple Hill twice as a teenager in the late ‘90s. She moved to the US to attend Brown University, stayed for a PhD at NYU, and, as of September, is a professor of Arabic literature at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. Here, she talks about her Apple Hill experiences. What is your favorite memory of Apple Hill? There are so many little memories that shaped my experience. I remember the atmosphere, and the happiness I felt there. I think of all the music I heard there. One specific event I remember was a concert of two jazz singers, improvising. It was unbelievable music, and something I never would have had the opportunity to hear in Ramallah. Musicians would come to Israel, but they wouldn’t come to the West Bank. When the Apple Hill Chamber Players came to Ramallah, they brought one of few chances to hear classical music performed. And then I came to Apple Hill and heard all that music – it was amazing and enlightening. And of course I met so many great people! Coming to Apple Hill, what was it like for you to experience a music workshop in such a rural place – living in a cabin in the woods, performing in a barn? It was fun! At 15, it was a fun experience. Obviously, at the time, it wasn’t my main impression – coming to America was a much bigger impression. Living in the West Bank, travel for Palestinians is restricted – there are Israeli check points everywhere, and you can’t travel around without a permit from the Israeli military. So arriving at the airport in Boston and driving for two hours without having some soldiers stop you and ask for your ID card – that was more of a big point for me. But in retrospect, the experience of living in a cabin does seem unusual. Performing in the barn – there is an amazing energy. You feel the history of all the musicians who have played there. It’s unique; there is something special about Apple Hill itself. Is there something you learned from Apple Hill that is still with you? How do you feel your life is different for having attended Apple Hill? At the time, Apple Hill made me become serious about music, although I didn’t continue on to a career in music. Growing up in Palestine, and learning music there, opportunities were limited.  There happened to be a piano teacher in town, and that’s how I ended up learning piano. After the establishment of the conservatory in Ramallah in the 90’s, there were many more opportunities to study different instruments than I had, but we didn’t have as many choices, and I didn’t have the bigger picture. At Apple Hill, there were serious musicians, and I realized you can be so serious about music, and that you have to be in order to be a very good musician. Musicians have a discipline to seek perfection, to attempt perfection. That discipline can be applied to anything, even if you go on to do other things. Are you still in touch with your friends from AH? Yes, through Facebook, I’ve gotten back in touch. Immediately after coming back from my session, I definitely kept in touch. For example, there is a violinist who I attended Apple Hill with who now plays in the East West Divan Orchestra, and whom I met up with recently after one of their recent performances in the US.  I also meet Apple Hillers every now and then whom I did not overlap with at Apple Hill, but we find an immediate connection. After I returned home the first time I went to Apple Hill, an Israeli violinist whom I had met at Apple Hill came to visit me in Ramallah. It was an interesting experience. She was nervous about coming, but she had the guts to come, even though her family and friends were against it. It was enlightening for her I think to see Ramallah, the other side, which, from my experience, the typical Israeli has a distorted idea of. I remember when she visited we wrote an email to Eric [Stumacher, former Apple Hill director and pianist] together. What are you doing now? Is music still part of your life? I am teaching Arabic literature at Dartmouth College. I came to the US in 2000 for college, and ironically I ended up close to where I started. When I was 15 I never would have expected that I would be here! Coming to the US from Palestine and being an Arab in the US, especially after September 11th, comes with complications, which can be negative, but it can also be an opportunity to challenge people’s preconceptions, even just by standing in front of them and being a human being. Now the US is like a second home to me. I like Dartmouth – the students are great, although the winters are cold! Yes, I am still playing music, although not seriously. I can’t play the difficult pieces I played when I was younger. I played through college and even did a senior recital, but then I decided to do a PhD which takes a lot of time. I’ve been moving around too much, but I’ve recently invested in a digital keyboard, which has enabled me to get back into playing again. Some people do yoga, or sports, to bring their focus back, and relax, and think clearly. I do music. The letter you wrote about your Playing for Peace experience is still on the Apple Hill website. What do you think, looking back at it now? It’s weird to look at something you wrote in the past.  It seems as if it was written by a different person. But that letter was an honest, sincere expression of what I was feeling then. ShawnShawn LeSure Shawn LeSure is a violinist from Memphis, TN, who began attending Apple Hill in the early 2000s. He is now a fellow at Community MusicWorks in Providence, RI. We interviewed him via email. Quite fortuitously, one day, the Apple Hill Chamber Players happened upon my corner of the globe: Memphis, TN. I was corpulent teen-violinist. I thought that I would give the application a chance, though secretly I was unsure that I would ever make it there; but, lo and behold, I was accepted, and attended two sessions that summer. In preparation I watched the Apple Hill Playing for Peace VHS a million times- I had practically memorized the Mozart Oboe quartet! The first summer of Apple Hill was truly like a dream – even today I feel the waves of that dream-world wash over my memory. I was playing the funeral march movement of Schumann’s Piano Quintet; and the skies opened up, and rain was pouring, like the clouds hitting critical mass and relieving their copious tears; beads and beams of water fell; lighting dotted the sky with flashes of brilliance, and thunder sounded deep and ominous upon those hills. Quite suddenly we were outside, running and screaming; feeling the rain wash over us and delighting in it. Sooner than it began, it was over --mysteriously, and we were inside again – silent – like we were suddenly awake to some fundamental truth of being. I cried my eyes out – and I still don’t know why. Something about being in the woods – close to nature, with all of its murmuring, something about being at that place delighted my heart. At Apple Hill, I learned what it means to listen. To be honest, I’m still working on it – we need more listening in the world. Listening for its own sake. At Apple Hill, I first came in touch with the vast inner world of my psyche – and today I’m still unwrapping what was first opened at Apple Hill. I’m extremely fortunate – and one could even say blessed; getting to attend Apple Hill for so many summers – meeting amazing people -- from all over the world -- and connecting with them on a supremely human level. The beauty of this place is timeless and enduring -- like from a distant star -- both near to us and far away in beauty.


  • Marji Gere

    What beautiful essays!!! I think we should all make a huge book of everyone’s personal Apple Hill stories. What a great read that would be.

  • Probyn Gregory

    I’m with Marji — hail hail the Big Book of Apple Hill Memories! The essays here have been wonderful, and a reminder that there exists, through some special confluence of circumstances, a spirit which dwells in the very campus of Apple Hill that delightfully infuses and infects just about everyone who attends. A year or two of this might be expected at any given arts camp, but I’ll warrant that a straw poll of all participants from the 70s to now would reveal an unbroken string of personal and group epiphanies, startling growth and so much love that you could heat the concert barn all winter with it.

  • Bill Wise

    It has been truly inspiring to read about others’ experiences at Apple Hill.
    I’ve participated in three sessions (2010 – 2012) and have wonderful memories of each one. As an older adult staying on site, I have stayed in private cabins which turned my times there into retreats. I have been thinking seriously about returning and may still apply this spring:-)


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