Becoming a Chamber Musician

Breaking into any career field can be difficult – I should know, I’m a recent college graduate – but becoming a professional chamber musician can be more challenging than other career paths. After receiving an education based on technical competency and musicality, it can be difficult for an ambitious musician to become an accountant, a web designer, and a musical agent at once. This year, at the festival, we were happy to have a fellowship trio of students from the Boston Conservatory. Made of Eric on viola, Iona on the harp, and Nayoung on flute, the Lyra Trio worked and played with our participants throughout the week and had their own performance during the concert.

Eric Hollander was able to share some of his insight into the festival experience and what it means to find mentors throughout the growing process from student to professional chamber musician.


For young musicians who are nearing the end of their time as conservatory students and looking to immerse themselves in the world of professional chamber music; an un-informed, obstacle-ridden, and lonely path awaits them. The situation can be stressful and terrifying; unless, they are fortunate enough to participate in a program like the WCMS Summer Festival Fellowship Ensemble. Becoming a chamber musician is an elaborate and fascinating journey: A journey of technical proficiency, of musical intuition, and most pertinently: of personality.

As this summer’s fellowship ensemble we had the privilege of working closely with both students and faculty. The students reminded us how far we have come on our journey, and the faculty showed us how much farther we have yet to travel. During one rehearsal with a student ensemble, I remember informing the student next to me on the proper articulation for a certain section. The faculty who was coaching the ensemble then stopped me. He asked all of the students which articulation they preferred, they were uncertain so he asked them to play the passage both ways. The opinions were stronger and the students were able to decide amongst themselves on one version. In this situation, the students reminded me that it is easy to consider the opinions of those who you respect, but the faculty taught me that real chamber music has no authority and everyone, even a student, deserves respect. Already, the chamber music world felt a little less lonely. We knew that even a newcomer has no reason to be frightened in this genre of music, a consolation which was effectively emphasized through our collaborative performance with members of the WCMS.

On several instances throughout the summer festival the three of us found ourselves in conversation with various faculty members. Through these conversations we gathered stories, lessons, tips, warnings, encouragement, and resources- all applicable to our current situation of transition from students to professionals. Every day since then our actions and experiences inspire a recollection of their advice, and not only do we know a little bit more about what to do in these situations, but we know that it’s been done before. Their advice has not only aided us with information, but also with confidence, courage, and inspiration.

There are many obstacles along the chamber music journey. Currently, for our trio, the most prevalent obstacle seems to be finding somewhere to perform. Before the festival this seemed to be a nearly insurmountable task- opportunities are scarce and competitive. It seems that this festival was not simply just another step in the road for our trio’s chamber music journey, but more like a curve in the path that runs alongside a hill or forest. And at the end, when the visual obstruction has been cleared, there is a new vista to behold; unexpected and wonderful. During our trio’s performances, we played for students, faculty, and various members of the Worcester community. These performances were the final few steps in the curve, and when the light began to squeeze over the edge of the forest, it was clear that WCMS was not merely an opportunity- it was, and is, a mission. When performance is inspired, when it has purpose, and there is passion behind that purpose, then there is no need to fear the scarcity of opportunity because it is simply a question of conviction.

Thank you to the WCMS, the students of the summer festival, and the people of the Worcester community for teaching us so much.