Community Workshops

Amateur Music Network AT HOME


What a crazy time. Even while some segments of our society are able to restore their equilibrium and restart their activities, music is really taking it on the chin. How can we even imagine concerts in a world where people can’t gather? It’s going to be a long time before we get back to normal.

We have to create our own normal, a musical world we can inhabit in the meantime. Hooray for the new tools that allow us to play “together” even though we’re apart. And AMN is not going to stop doing workshops; we just have to do them from a distance. We invite you to join us in a virtual world of music connection.

We still want to connect you with amazing mentors. Our “At Home” series will allow these wonderful artists to welcome you into their worlds. Mentors will still share their passions with you, whether it’s a technique to share and learn, or a conversation about a personal interest that drives a musical life we usually only experience from the stage in performance. And now, with the advantage of online technology, every participant will have the best view in the house. You’ll be able to ask questions and enjoy a flow of information and interaction. It’s not less, it’s different.

We’ve presented two of these workshops so far and we are planning many more. We’re looking forward to some skills-focused sessions with great mentors including Scott Pingel, Evan Price, Nick Platoff, and Sandy Cressman. In June there will be a technical series to help you get up to speed with music recording at home. We’re working on a series of period-instrument workshops. And there will be wonderful conversations with musical luminaries.Take our survey to tell us if there’s a topic you’re particularly interested in exploring! 

We intend to continue offering these workshops as long as we’re forced to stay apart. If they prove valuable enough to stand on their own even when we can return to in-person workshops, they’ll become a permanent part of our AMN offerings.

Amateur Music Network is here for you, and we won’t stop supporting the community in music-making. We continue to look for ways to keep our passion for music alive in a tough time, and hopefully we’ll find them together. So please, as always, stay safe, stay healthy, and stay musical!

Lolly Lewis is a recording producer, amateur singer, and the founder of Amateur Music Network.

AMN mentors Orchestra and Symphonic Music Strings: Violin, Viola, Cello, Bass Workshops

Side By Side

Amateur Music Network’s Lolly Lewis spoke with SF Chamber Orchestra Music Director Benjamin Simon about AMN’S Third Annual Side by Side partnership with the SFCO: what drew him to this music and why he keeps coming back to working with amateurs.

Ben Simon has successfully made the transition to conductor following twenty-five years as a violist performing in several of the United States’ most elite ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Naumburg award-winning New World String Quartet, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In 2002 he was appointed Music Director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and has transformed that organization into one of the premiere professional ensembles in northern California.

Mentor Benjamin Simon, Music Director of the SF Chamber Orchestra, leads a Side By Side workshop in 2017.
Ben leads the Side By Side in 2017

Lewis says, “Ben was one of the first people I thought of when I started Amateur Music Network. We had worked together many times over the years, and I loved how the SF Chamber Orchestra, with its free concerts, was all about making the highest-quality music and giving back to the community. I knew he would really understand what AMN was trying to do. And right away he suggested the Side by Side – bringing audience member string players right onto the stage after a concert for a reading with professional musicians as stand partners. We’re in our third year of the partnership now and each one is better. I’m really grateful for his visionary leadership. Plus, we always have such a great time!”

Amateur Music Network: Elgar’s music really seems like it comes from another world, and so does Piazzolla’s. What do you hear in these pieces?
Ben Simon: I agree, Elgar comes from a gentler time. There’s so much emotion and deep feeling, but there’s a civility and ease about the music that just warms my heart. And I think Piazzolla is the greatest South American composer of the 20th century. His music captures the spirit of time and place in the way all great music does. This just happens to be the bordellos and brothels of some dark waterfront street in Argentina. The danger, excitement, and sensuality of the Tango infuses his music with a life we can hear and experience today.
AMN: What do you hope people will experience playing in the Side By Side?
Simon: It’s so much fun for our professional musicians to relax a bit with a new friend and stand-partner. We hope that fun communicates throughout the group and that we all have a great time. Making music with other people is what it’s all about!

Learn more at our workshop!

Join Maestro Ben Simon and the SF Chamber Orchestra in a reading of Elgar’s Serenade and Piazzolla’s Libertango on Sunday, April 28, at 5pm at the First Congregational Church of Berkeley.
The Side By Side takes place right after the SFCO’s FREE Main Stage Concert: come listen to some splendid music and then come make music together!

AMN mentors Vocal and Choral Music Workshops

Learning Medieval singing

Medieval Singing Workshop mentor Phoebe Jevtović Rosquist
Medieval Singing Workshop mentor Phoebe Jevtović Rosquist

AMN’s Lolly Lewis asked mentor Phoebe Jevtović Rosquist about what drew her to Medieval music and how she approaches this repertoire, music that can sound so alien to modern ears. Here is a sample of her thinking.

Amateur Music Network (AMN): I’ve always been really fascinated by the rhythms in medieval music. How is the meter structured, and why does it sound so different from music we’re used to?
Phoebe (PRJ): There is so much variety in how music was organized metrically—in some cases you get very little information and you get to be creative and decide for yourself—for example, the Cantigas de Santa Maria allow for many rhythmic decisions to be made by the performers. Other times you have syncopated music with parts that fit together like puzzle pieces—I think of Dufay in this category. Then in the ars nova period, you have music with rhythms precisely notated, but in such exacting and complex rhythms that they can be prohibitively difficult (we aren’t doing any of these, don’t worry!)

AMN: Where do the texts come from?
PRJ: When discussing about this expansive time period that lasted nearly a thousand years, the answer has to encompass so much material! Medieval poets and composers used everything from the Bible to their own chivalrous or bawdy imaginations. If you have the opportunity, Ben Bagby’s filmed performance of the epic tale Beowulf is a masterpiece of creative yet plausible performance practice.

AMN: How long did it take you to learn to read the medieval notation?
PRJ: Reading earlier stages of notation comes with practice and time, as you would expect. I spent a summer in Italy reading compline every evening, and the daily exposure to the neumes really sank in to my brain. I sometimes like working backwards—teaching a piece by rote, and then introducing the notation—it makes so much sense once you have already audiated it.