Conductors, Musicians Mark 75th Summer of Hancock's Monteux School

By Curtis, Abigail | Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME), June 19, 2018 | Go to article overview

Conductors, Musicians Mark 75th Summer of Hancock's Monteux School


Curtis, Abigail, Bangor Daily News (Bangor, ME)


Every summer for 75 years, young conductors and musicians from all over the world have made their way to the quiet Maine town of Hancock to study somewhere special: the Pierre Monteux School & Music Festival.

Rural Maine often feels like it is way off the beaten track. But for aspiring conductors, the Monteux School is the right place to be.

"This place means so much to me," Tiffany Lu, the conducting associate at the Monteux School who spent four years there as a camper, said this week. "So many conductors come through here. It's certainly one of the widest-known workshops, and it has such history. There aren't that many workshops geared towards helping out early stage conductors."

The history began in 1943, when French-born conductor Pierre Monteux and his American wife, Doris Hodgkins Monteux, founded a summer music school in Hancock, where she had grown up.

Monteux was the first conductor for many important works of the 20th century, including the infamous 1913 Paris premiere of Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring." That night, the scandalized audience nearly rioted as the avant-garde, dissonant music and dance performance unfolded, but all reports indicate that Monteux stood firm during the uproar and calmly conducted his musicians safely to the conclusion of the piece.

He was a conductor with a gift for bringing new, difficult music to life, and led over the years a number of internationally prominent orchestras, including the Boston Symphony Orchestra. But Monteux had another mission, too.

"Conducting is not enough. I must create something," he once said, according to the school's website. "I am not a composer, so I will create fine young musicians."

And for three quarters of a century, that's what his namesake school has done. Every June, 60 or so students arrive with their instruments in tow, ready to play music together for six weeks. Of those musicians, 15 to 20 are aspiring conductors, who understand that when they're not behind the podium, they will be in the orchestra, Lu said. That's important to her because often, when people become conductors, they can forget what it's like to be part of the ensemble. That's problematic, she said.

"What really inspired me about the Monteux School ... was his philosophy, which is a very humble one. It's the idea that the conductor is just one more musician," she said. …

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