BRATTLEBORO—Remember that old vaudeville joke: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice.”
You might similarly ask: “How does a freelance classical musician living in Southern Vermont manage a successful regional career?” The answer: Lots of hard work.
For a good example, look no further than Kathy Andrew.
A Brattleboro resident since 1989, Andrew moved here to study under Blanche Moyse — and has since become attached to the area. She teaches at the Brattleboro Music Center and is active in numerous Vermont-based orchestras, including the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, where she currently serves as assistant concertmaster.
“Regarded as one of Vermont’s best violinists, Kathy Andrew is dedicated to sharing her musical talents with the Brattleboro community and beyond,” says Marilyn Tagliavia, junior publicist for the VSO.
In addition to her work with the VSO, Andrew currently performs with Opera North (where she is the concertmaster), the Springfield (Mass.) Symphony Orchestra, and the Burlington Chamber Orchestra (where she is co-concertmaster).
Putting in the hours
For more than two decades, she has annually performed with the New England Bach Festival. She has also performed with the Albany (N.Y) Symphony, the Berkshire Symphony (again as concertmaster), and the New Hampshire Symphony.
Andrew has been soloist with the Windham Orchestra and the Nashua (N.H.) Chamber Orchestra, and has played violin/piano recitals throughout New England.
And, for a change of pace, she performs on period instruments with the Arcadia Players in Amherst, Mass. Also, in 1998, she toured the U.S. with Eric Clapton’s “Pilgrim Tour” as a member of his 21-piece string section.
While she has done a considerable amount of playing with large ensembles, she particularly enjoys chamber music.
“Chamber music in a way is more exciting for me than working with an orchestra,” Andrew says.
As chamber musician, she collaborates and performs with colleagues at the Brattleboro Music Center, Dartmouth College, Middlebury College, St. Michael’s College, Keene State College, and the Unitarian Society in Northampton, Mass., to name a few.
In addition to performing, Andrew has established an extensive career as a teacher.
She has coached chamber music at Dartmouth, and has taught at Bennington College, Keene State College, Greenfield Community College, The Putney School, Northfield Mount Hermon School, and the Eaglebrook School.
Currently, she teaches at the Brattleboro Music Center and has a private studio in Norwich, Vermont.
A busy schedule, certainly, but you won’t hear her complain about having too much on her plate.
“I feel very, very, very fortunate and grateful to do what I do — sharing music with my students, colleagues, and the community,” Andrew says.
Coming to Brattleboro
Not long after she received degrees from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 1986, Andrew moved to Brattleboro. She had already freelanced a bit in the area at the New England Bach Festival in Marlboro during the 1980s, as well as five years visiting the chamber seminar overseen by an old friend, Zon Eastes.
“A lot of things were coming together at that point in my life, such as my lease was ending where I was living, and I was longing for a change,” Andrew says. “My sister is a flutist who worked with Marcel Moyse in New Mexico, and she moved to Vermont where she actually lived with the Moyses for a while. It was there she got to know Blanche Moyse.”
Andrew’s sister quickly became enamored of Blanche and exhorted Kathy to come to Vermont, saying “You’ve got to meet Blanche. You two will really hit it off.”
“And we did,” proclaims Kathy. “Meeting Blanche was like a lightning going off in my head. I thought, ‘So this is what making music is all about.’ I wanted to be mentored by Blanche. So in 1989, I moved to Brattleboro with the intention of staying for no less than six months and no more than one year. I have lived here ever since.”
Andrew’s freelance career in the area began almost immediately. Shortly after moving to Brattleboro, she auditioned and was hired for the VSO, and not long after that became a member of the Springfield Symphony.
“But even with those successes, I did not have the means to make a living,” she says. “I had to take a job at the Brattleboro Retreat as a mental health worker. I was employed there full-time for six years. Although I often put in a 40-hour week, my schedule was flexible so I could continue my concert career. As the music part of my life grew, I ultimately could give up working for the Retreat.”
Luck — and hard work
She calls herself lucky. Not every musician has a chance to give up their day job to devote all their time to music. For Andrew, she is performing in concert nearly every weekend. But, again, it took a lot of work to get there.
“It’s hard to make it as a freelance musician in a rural area like Vermont,” concedes Andrew. “I have to cobble together many different assignments to make a sustainable living. And while all the places I work are drivable from Brattleboro, many are not that close.
“I put over 15,000 miles a year on my car going from venue to venue with the different organizations that I am a member of. It has been an effortful, exhausting career.”
So why has she remained in Brattleboro?
“I love Brattleboro,” she says. “While it has the charm of a small town, so many things happen here. And, musically, the area is very rich. The Brattleboro classical community is lovely.
“Although I am a classical musician, I appreciate all kinds of music, and this area provides a wide array of that. In addition, I have lots of longtime friends here I would never want to move away from. When I play in the area I always can count on those friends and a lot of the community coming to support me. I like it here.”
One old friend Andrew knew before she even moved to Brattleboro is Zon Eastes.
“Zon and I go back to the 1970s, when we both were in New Mexico,” Andrew says. “And then he was manager for the New England Bach Festival under Blanche, so he has [been] an integral part of my musical life here.”
This weekend, Andrew will perform with a new chamber ensemble formed by Eastes only last year, the Juno Orchestra, for which, once again, Andrew is concertmaster.
“Zon put a lot of energy into creating this orchestra,” Andrew says. “There is something very special about a chamber-size orchestra. Zon is always dreaming of cool projects, and when he asked me to join Juno what could I say but, ‘Yeah, sounds great.’”
On Saturday, June 9, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 10, at 3 p.m., in BMC’s new concert hall at 72 Blanche Moyse Way in Brattleboro, Juno will present two concerts featuring two works by Franz Joseph Haydn.
Eastes writes in a press release that “Haydn wrote Symphony 59, ‘The Fire’ when he was 35, then composed his second Cello Concerto nearly 20 years later.”
The program also includes a concerto grosso by English composer Charles Avison composed in 1744. “The work is unusual in that it is based on keyboard sonatas of Italian keyboard virtuoso Domenico Scarlatti,” writes Eastes. The program also includes a short, evocative work called “Petroglyph,” by New Mexico composer Michael Mauldin, written in 1978.
For the cello concerto, Juno Orchestra will feature cellist Eric Bartlett, long-time member of the New York Philharmonic. Bartlett grew up in Marlboro and received his earliest musical training in this region.
Rooted in the VSO
Though she has played and taught at many places in New England over the past three decades, Andrew’s longest affiliation is with the VSO, which she says remains central to her musical career.
“VSO is the oldest state-supported symphony orchestra in the country,” she explains. “I joined in 1989, although I took some time off from it. When Jamie Loredo became its conductor around 1999 I was eager to get back in. I adore Jamie. He’s done a lot to improve the orchestra, and he has brought amazing soloists. More than just that is his own artistic generosity.”
Andrew’s mission is to promote VSO.
“I want to shed some light on the VSO for the southern part of the state,” she says. “VSO hasn’t had as big a presence in Brattleboro as it should. A lot of people around here think it is just that orchestra up in Burlington. But VSO is a true statewide orchestra. VSO wants people to know that its musicians come from areas like Brattleboro.
“While we used to perform for Southern Vermont in Bellows Falls, now we are giving concerts at the Latchis in Brattleboro, which is starting to improve things. In each concert we are working to build up an audience here for this really terrific orchestra.”