A ‘Dream’ Campus At Aspen Festival Becomes Reality

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Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum Campus for music students at Aspen Music Festival (Harry Teague Architects)
Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum Campus for music students at Aspen Music Festival (Harry Teague Architects)
By Grace Lichtenstein

With a brass fanfare and a sunny Rocky Mountains backdrop, the Aspen Music Festival and School held the ribbon-cutting ceremony July 8 for its multi-million-dollar Matthew and Carolyn Bucksbaum Campus. It updates the facilities used by the more than 600 music students from all over the world who study and play at the Aspen, Colorado, festival for eight weeks each summer.

L to R: Festival president-CEO Alan Fletcher, Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum, music director Robert Spano and board chair chair Robert Hurst cut the ribbon (Aspen Music Festival)
Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum helps cut the ribbon (Aspen MF)

In remarks at the dedication, Carolyn “Kay” Bucksbaum hailed the “audacious dream” of Music Festival President and CEO Alan Fletcher that is now “coming to fruition.”

“These buildings aren’t nouns, they are verbs,” said Music Director Robert Spano. He praised the brand-new facilities as “spiritually transformative” places where the orchestras are better because the rooms themselves “encourage what sounds right. It’s truly exhilarating.”

As CEO Fletcher proudly told a crowd of several hundred people including many contributors, the project, designed by architect Harry Teague, is “on schedule and on budget.” He urged listeners to continue to contribute to the school campaign.

The setting of the campus is majestic; it is surrounded by the Elk Mountains and almost hidden in a small valley outside the actual town of Aspen. The handsome new buildings blend well with the older ones. I felt like I was a world away from the bustle of the town, yet it’s only a short bus or bike ride or long walk from its core. More important is the fact that the students love it; they are reveling in the additional space that enhances their activities without overwhelming them.

New rehearsal hall (Harry Teague Architects)
New rehearsal halls are part of the complex (Harry Teague Architects)

Finished so far: two new rehearsal halls, 68 new practice rooms, and a percussion center. On its 38-acre campus just west of town along Castle Creek, the Aspen Music School since 1951 has offered a select group of the world’s finest pre-professional and early professional music students the opportunity for study at the highest levels. The average age is 22; almost 70 percent receive some form of financial assistance. The campus classrooms, offices and teaching studios are shared with the Aspen Country Day School.

As part of their training, summer Aspen students have the opportunity to perform as fully participating orchestra members with some of the world’s finest artists under the leadership of world-renowned conductors. Musicians of all ages learn from their instructors not only in classroom settings, but also as they perform side-by-side at the festival’s venues in Aspen itself – its Benedict music tent, Harris concert hall and Wheeler Opera House.

Grace Lichtenstein, a former New York Times reporter, is the author of six books including Musical Gumbo: The Music of New Orleans, written with Laura Dankner. She has written about all styles of music for numerous publications, and is the book critic for MusicMediaMonthly.com. She contributed an essay to the collection Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island, edited by Greil Marcus. She lives in New York City.

Editor’s Note: The Aspen Music Festival continues through Aug. 18. Highlights on weekends include chamber orchestra concerts on Fridays, chamber music and recitals on most Saturdays, and orchestral concerts every Sunday. Guest artists for the second half of July and in August include the Dichters, Gil Shaham, Anton Nel. Garrick Ohlsson, Alisa Weilerstein, Edgar Meyer, and Vladimir Feltsman; ensembles include the Jupiter and Emerson Quartets; and operas include Candide, Peter Grimes, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi, and L’Incoronazione di Poppea. For the complete schedule, click here.