Students come from all over the world to participate at Chautauqua in some of the most elite performing and visual arts programs in the United States. These programs offer students the ability to attend master classes and meet guest artists, and provides them the opportunity to strengthen their talents. The Voice Program, School of Dance, School of Art, Piano Program, the Music School Festival Orchestra and Chautauqua Theater Company conservatory are all part of Chautauqua Institution’s Schools of Fine and Performing and Visual Arts.
There are a total of 300 students from more than 40 states and several foreign countries enrolled in the fine and performing arts programs at the Institution. Over $775,000 in scholarships were awarded in 2019 against the overall scholarship need of $1.4 million, with the average cost of attendance around $3,500. Without the generosity of those who support scholarships, some students may not otherwise have had the chance to attend their program.
Scholarship recipients who attend any of the performing arts programs have their own unique stories about their art form, how it has inspired them to attend their specific program at Chautauqua and how it has shaped their plans for the future. Wes Hart, Maria Fuller and Lindsey Reynolds all shared their stories about how the summer has not only helped them to become better artists through this experience, but also how their scholarships have been integral to their success.
Wes Hart never knew that after taking one ceramics class during his first year in college, he would be hooked.
Hart, a 22-year-old Arkansas native, is a student and emerging artist at the School of Art. He has been doing ceramics work for two years and is happy to be expanding his artistic talents at Chautauqua.
“I fell in love with the material; it was true, it was exciting,” Hart said. “It was interesting to be able to make something that you could use.”
When Hart transferred schools, he noticed that the University of Central Arkansas had a much more developed arts program than his last university, so he changed his major from art education to studio art, for which he is pursuing a BFA. He said that it was an exciting switch, and he felt more comfortable in this medium.
“I followed clay because I really liked it,” Hart said.
Hart received three scholarships for his program at Chautauqua this summer: The Roberta J. McKibbin Memorial Scholarship for Visual Arts, the Peggy and Andy Anderson Family Scholarship Fund and The VACI Partners Scholarship to honor Don Kimes and Lois Jubeck.
He and other VACI Partners Scholarship recipients met with community members and had a great time getting to speak with them.
“We did meet with all of the VACI Partners and got to know them, and we’ve been visiting some of their homes,” Hart said.
The scholarship support that Hart has received provided him with the financial means to attend the School of Art. He said that without the help of the scholarships and his university, he would not have been able to afford the program.
“In the application, it asked how the scholarships would benefit me, and I think I said something like, ‘The amount of money required to attend this residency is the amount that I have in my savings,’ ” Hart said. “I would never be able to come here if it wasn’t for VACI Partners (Scholarship) giving me money (and) for my school … being really generous and matching whatever they give, which is a lot.”
The Chautauqua community and the support he received this summer has made Hart enjoy the program even more. The community’s inclusivity and friendliness makes him feel welcomed and accepted.
“I have not been in a space that is this inclusive,” Hart said. “I feel like a lot of people can exist here that I don’t feel like can exist back where I’m coming from — where people can feel comfortable, where people can respect pronouns, where they’re upfront about asking for those things.”
Hart said he’s met a lot of artists from all over the country — people who he would have never otherwise encountered, which he finds exciting. He said both his peers and faculty have been important to him during his time at the Institution, helping him grow his talent while also helping him grow as a person.
“I feel like the program itself is built around a faculty and a director who are very considerate of people and how they occupy spaces, and just encouraging them to grow as an individual.”
Rural Chautauqua may seem small to some, but not for Maria Fuller, from Earl Grey, a 2,000-acre farm in Canada, that is located 8 miles from the nearest town with 200 total residents.
Fuller is the David Effron Conducting Fellow in the MSFO working under the mentorship of the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra’s Music Director and Conductor Rossen Milanov, and School of Music Instrumental Program Artistic and Music Director Timothy Muffitt.
Fuller’s interest in music began at a young age.
“My path as a musician started basically when I was 4,” Fuller said. “Apparently I would hear commercials on TV and I’d run to the piano, and I’d put my hands above my head trying to figure it out. I have perfect pitch, so I guess I was developing that.”
She started playing the piano and trumpet at 4 years old, and was in official lessons by the age of 6. At 8, Fuller had begun to compose her own music.
Fuller’s formal music education started when she was 18 years old. She attended McGill University in Montreal for an undergraduate degree in piano performance. Fuller also earned a master’s degree in piano at the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music. She has a total of four degrees in music and was asked to stay at CCM and complete an artist diploma in operatic coaching, where she received scholarships and stipends to do so. She said that this was a cool, wonderful opportunity because it allowed her to stay in the United States and to further her education.
“You’re paid to be in the States, and you can make connections and work, whereas you (typically) need a visa to do that in any other way,” Fuller said.
The doors that have opened for Fuller amazes her. She has been conducting for less than two years, and did not expect to be in the position she’s in today.
“I’ve only been a conductor for 22 months,” Fuller said. “I had never picked up a baton before that, so to be here is an extreme blessing, but it’s shocking. It’s extremely rare that somebody would be conducting in so short (a period of time) and get this (opportunity), and I attribute it to the fact that a conductor is not a stick waver, as much as a conductor is a music maker, and my entire life I’ve been learning instruments and scores and stuff, so it’s put me in a good place.”
Fuller, 29, received the David Effron Conducting Fellowship, allowing her to join the MSFO and spend the summer at Chautauqua doing what she loves.
“There’s not a chance that I would be here today without the scholarships that have been provided to me, and I know I can speak on behalf of many of the people in the orchestra and the voice department,” Fuller said.
All of the Institution’s performing and visual arts programs search for the best talent and students when recruiting for the season. They then work with the students to further improve their skills and help them reach their full potential. Fuller said the program is humbling and remarkable because it shows that there are people out there who want to support her craft and help her perfect it.
“It’s extremely rare and generous that there should be people with their eye out for young talent like this,” Fuller said. “It’s humbling to know that there is somebody else out there seeing the position that I want to go for, and providing a means to make me be able to do that on a professional platform.”
Of the variety of experiences she has had this summer, Fuller said she feels “blessed” to have been the conducting fellow, and to have been able to work across disciplines — including in opera, ballet, composition and conducting. Fuller has even been able to take trumpet lessons.
Fuller finds Chautauqua to be a unique hybrid as a community: A small town that is also able to combine the cultural variety and intellectual atmosphere of a big city.
“Chautauqua is a combination of two things I value a lot, which is a small-town community feel in the concept that, you feel like you can approach people here because we’re all just here hanging out with not a whole lot to do, apart from go to these amazing artistic events and be with each other and talk with each other,” Fuller said.
While entering Brick Walk Cafe one day, Fuller accidentally mistook a man for a CSO trumpet player. When she addressed him, she found out that he actually knew the person she mistook him for, and that he used to conduct in Boston. They immediately sat down and ended up having an amazing conversation. In that moment, Fuller realized the second characteristic of Chautauqua that she values so much.
“It also combines the intellect and the variety and the charisma of people who live in cities,” Fuller said. “I’ve been very delighted to be a part of this place.”
Fuller’s experience in the MSFO has provided her with an abundance of opportunities for growth in her conducting career. She even was able to add her own strings composition to their final concert Monday night in the Amphitheater, where she played the piano and conducted.
“The triple combo is quite exciting, and has never been done here by a David Effron Conducting Fellow,” Fuller said. “Just to have people be like, ‘Yeah, we want to support Maria in all she does, the musician that she is, that brought her to us as a conductor,’ has meant so much.”
Since childhood, Lindsey Reynolds has been interested in singing.
“I started singing when I was 7,” Reynolds said. “I started in musical theater because my mom worked in the arts.”
Reynolds, a soprano, is a student in the School of Music Voice Program. Her voice teacher introduced her to the idea of coming to Chautauqua and attending the program because of her exceptional talent.
She has attended the Houston Grand Opera Young Artists Vocal Academy, and even went to Italy for two weeks to participate in a language immersion program. Reynolds has also traveled to San Francisco for a singing competition.
Reynolds, 20, received the Martha Mack Lewis Foundation Scholarship and a Chautauqua General Scholarship. The help from these charitable donations helped bring Reynolds to Chautauqua and give her the opportunity to be a student at the Voice Program.
“The scholarship helped get me here,” Reynolds said.
A typical day for Reynolds starts with a master class in the morning, then coaching and maybe rehearsals, depending on the day. On nights when the students don’t have performances, they like to get together and play volleyball and other games. One of Reynolds’ favorite memories from this summer is when the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream got together at a local pizza shop after a performance.
“All the cast got together and we went to Andriaccio’s, and we just hung out as a group,” Reynolds said. “It was nice to get to know people even more, beyond singing, and just to hang out with everyone.”
Reynolds has had the pleasure of participating in a master class with Peter Kazaras, a guest artist in the Voice Program. She said being surrounded by amazing talent and support is one of her favorite parts of the program because it allows her to grow, and utilize the talent around her to do so.
“Chautauqua is such a wonderful place,” Reynolds said. “It’s so magical and all of the students always have something so special to say. It’s a great learning environment because not only is everyone an amazing singer, but they have great artistry and it’s great to be in an environment where everyone is at the same talent level. It helps you grow; and you look at the amazing things that the person next to you is doing, and it inspires you.”
For more information about supporting annual scholarships for talented students at Chautauqua’s Schools of Performing and Visual Arts, contact Tina Downey, director of the Chautauqua Fund, at 716-357-6406 or firstname.lastname@example.org.