Richard Sherman is giving back to the community that nurtured him as a young artist.
“This place is the centerpiece of my musical life,” said Sherman, winds and percussion chair and the Rita and Dunbar VanDerveer Symphony Principal Chair for Flute in the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra. “You spend your early life trying to build something, and then you want to help other people get through their stages. Chautauqua has enabled me to be that person.”
Sherman spends most of his summer performing for the community on the stage of the Amphitheater with the CSO and teaching students in the School of Music. But at 4 p.m. Sunday in Fletcher Music Hall, Sherman will lead a community master class that welcomes Chautauquans of all ages.
This is the second year Sherman is conducting this program.
“I don’t know what got into my head to do it,” Sherman said. “I just thought it would be fun to explore. I didn’t realize there was that hunger in the community for that access. There’s no reason to keep it to yourself.”
While he’s used to teaching students who are further along in their careers, as a professor of flute at Michigan State University, Sherman said his mission is to teach music appreciation through his instrument at all levels.
Chautauqua Institution gives him a platform to do so.
“I worked with an 8-year-old, an 18-year-old and a 68-year-old,” Sherman said. “I didn’t know how that would go, but some notion told me that really fit into the scheme of Chautauqua and lifelong learning.”
Sherman is no stranger to learning at Chautauqua. He first came to the Institution at 19 years old as a student in the Music School Festival Orchestra. He said he always remembered sitting in the back of the Amphitheater and thinking this was “the best orchestra job in the country.”
He returned to the Amphitheater stage as part of the CSO in 1989, and since then Chautauqua has given him an outlet to continue playing in an orchestra while teaching full-time.
Although teaching now takes up a large portion of his time, Sherman said he didn’t see himself as a pedagogue early in his career. He thought to be a teacher he’d have to follow a strict formula, which he said isn’t congruent with his fluid way of thinking and playing. But since taking teaching jobs out of practicality, he realized he was wrong about the profession.
“I would like to give a master class as much as I’d like to play the Mozart concerto with an orchestra,” Sherman said. “If you’re open to it, it’s about as freely improvisational as anything you’ll do.”
Sherman said the process that occurs when he works with students is creative, spiritual — and exhausting. Rather than just focusing on playing, a master class “splits your attention.” He said it’s an outlet that keeps him centered, and he never gets bored of it.
During a master class, Sherman said his main goal is to create a welcoming environment.
“I want them to feel they can do it,” Sherman said. “For me, that’s much more creative than trying to build myself up by putting other people down. What point does that serve?”
Unlike other professionals who he said can be territorial over their secrets, Sherman is “all about giving it away.”
He sees teaching as a win-win situation for everyone.
“My dad said to me once, ‘You should be thankful you get paid for what you love to do,’ ” Sherman said. “And it’s been true in my life. I found my calling.”