The Colgate Scene ON-LINE


by Rebecca Costello

Colgate’s first MusicFest

Summertime and chamber music go hand in hand — small ensembles performing in outdoor amphitheaters, green lawns dotted with aficionados reclining on blankets, attentive to the music and enjoying the breeze. This June, chamber music came to Hamilton as Colgate teamed up with the village to put on the first annual Chenango Summer MusicFest.

Master class in the Barge

The guest artists were world-class: string players Laura Klugherz, Stephen Clapp, Linda Rosenthal and Susan Salm; guitarist Pablo Baron; pianist Jill Timmons and the Meridian Arts Ensemble, performing everything from Schubert to Duke Ellington to Frank Zappa to a children’s concert. Their mainstage concerts — in a tent by Taylor Lake, in local churches, in the Colgate Chapel, on the Village Green — were complemented with public masterclasses and impromptu recitals by students from Colgate and area high schools.

Opening night fireworks, a wine tasting soiree, horse-drawn carriage rides, farmer’s market, a chicken barbecue, pancake breakfast, and an ice cream social offered between-concert diversions.

"It was a smashing success," said Laura Klugherz, associate professor of music and director of the festival. "We were delighted to see that most of the events were very well attended." Saturday was Village Day — all events were free — and drew "huge crowds."

All day, anywhere you went, there was music. Accessibility was key. When not performing, the artists mingled — on the green, at the ice cream social, at the pancake breakfast. People felt free to get close to the musicians, to ask questions, to get to know them.

After honing their pieces in public masterclasses with festival artists on Friday, students played informal half-hour concerts every hour, at different village locations on Saturday — trailed by roving audiences who picked up and moved with the musicians.

"Having the center of the festival in the village made it different from what we do the rest of the year on campus," remarked Klugherz. "Hamilton lends itself well to this format."

A core of volunteers from the village and college, outfitted in red T-shirts, carried walkie-talkies, running errands, helping people. "The ambassadors were crucial to our success," Klugherz stressed.

Attendees signed the guest book from as far away as Illinois, Georgia, Tennessee and Florida and from closer places like New York City, Ithaca and Hamilton itself. They were alumni, current Colgate students and Colgate parents, faculty and staff, as well as many local and regional residents, who made the trip either for the day or the entire festival.

"It’s a great reason to be up here," said Andrea Kretchmer ’84, who came up from New York City with her husband. "I looked forward to this for six months."

"You should always have a music festival here," said performer Steven Clapp, who is dean of the Juilliard School. "You have a terrific template in place." The village has expressed the desire to do it again, and the foundation is already being laid for next year.

Visit the Chenango Summer MusicFest web site at

Reorient, revise, refresh

Leila Philip conducting a workshop.

Leila Philip described the "dance between factual information and the language needed to convey it" in a craft talk on literary nonfiction. Reginald McKnight spoke of getting "drunk on words" as he helped student writers get at the "heart and soul and meaning" of their short stories in a group workshop. Jill Bialosky and Elaine Markson discussed the ins and outs of getting published in the 1990s in a publishing conversation. John Herman gave a highly personal account of being an editor-turned-author in an evening lecture. At Colgate’s second summer Chenango Valley Writers’ Workshop, these sessions and many others sparked passionate discussions, detailed analytical debates, warm lighthearted moments, and most important, real sweat equity in the form of improved manuscripts.

Instructors were renowned authors, including Colgate English faculty members Peter Balakian and Philip as well as David Bradley, Deborah Digges, Hilma Wolitzer and McKnight. Publishing conversations brought in distinguished editors, agents and publishers including Bialosky, Markson, James Monaco, Alice Quinn, Michael Seidman and Herman. Each evening, participants — and the public — were treated to a reading by one or more of the workshop faculty.

With slots for poetry, fiction and nonfiction, the reasons writers attended were many — and a number of students were Colgate alumni, among them Eric Haggman ’70, Sandy Ionno ’87 and Dick Oleksiak ’70.

The second Chenango Valley Writers’ Workshop sparked passionate discussions, analytical debates, and real sweat equity in the form of improved manuscripts.

Oleksiak, a screenwriter, came to work on expanding screenplays into novels. Ionno, who by day runs a national nonprofit group for ethics in science and technology, has been writing poetry as long as she can remember. For her, a workshop was a new experience, and the familiarity of Colgate made it the right place.

"I find the campus inspiring and peaceful," she explained. "If I’m going to take a personal risk, this is the place to do it."

The workshop enjoyed an increase in enrollment over last year, to 62 students, but remained within the goal of 60 to 70. "With this size we still have an intimate feel," said Fred Busch, Fairchild professor of literature and director of the workshop.

Instructor Reginald McKnight, who has taught at numerous other conferences, concurred on the benefits of the workshop’s size and expressed appreciation for Colgate’s wonderful facilities. "These small workshops are great because you get a chance to really work with the people individually," he said. "It’s the Club Med of writer’s workshops."

Haggman, who owns an advertising agency, came to get help on a fiction book about advertising. "It’s been a terrific experience," said Haggmann, who attended the workshop with his adult son Matthew, also a writer.

"We had marvelous teachers and brilliant interns, and the students were very good writers," said Busch. "My sense is that they went away refreshed and inspirited."

Visit the Chenango Valley Writer's Conference web site at