Nancy Bissell: My long history with AFCM began in the 1970s when I stood in the “student rush” line for tickets. I worked my way up, finally securing a season ticket, and later joining the board for what I thought would be a two-year commitment. That was in 1994. Today, I serve in a variety of ways, primarily helping out with the Winter Chamber Music Festival and with various organizational tasks.
More than anything, I want to see the next generation of music lovers fill the hall. To that end, the planning that goes on both in board meetings and in informal sessions with colleagues and community members, pushes me to consider the balance between tradition and innovation, and to question my own assumptions about chamber music, past, present, and future: to be open to the new while loving the old.
I have been fortunate to experience music not just as a listener, but from the inside out, having taken up the cello in midlife and kept it up for 25 years before hanging up my bow two years ago. As an amateur player, I learned to listen in a more discerning way, which of course led to greater pleasure and enjoyment. I learned what it felt like to perform, albeit in more humble circumstances. And to appreciate the talent and hard work we see in our extraordinary musicians.
To judge by the buzz in the lobby during intermissions, chamber music has a truly magical appeal. It could have to do with the intimacy of the genre and, unlike the experience of an opera or symphony, the close proximity of the performers. This feeling is echoed by young elementary students who cheer wildly when they hear the string quartets who visit their schools as part of AFCM’s outreach program to youth. They want to get right up close, touch the instruments, talk to the musicians, and share their own musical experiences.
Now in retirement, I have—I hope—years ahead to broaden my musical horizons. And to deepen my musical connections. Nothing could be better.