As diverse and multidisciplinary are the arts in Taos, one might not imagine that a professional chamber music group has been thriving here for the past 23 years. That’s what we have in the Taos Chamber Music Group, founded and directed by Nancy Laupheimer.
Because Taos has a way of tweaking said disciplines that other places might confine to certain strict formalities, the TCMG has evolved into a fluid collective of artists and programming that borrows from the influences, cultures and general ambiance that defines our peculiar style. A given concert, for instance, might include Pueblo Indian flutes, an evocative slide show of fine art or photographs, or stunning guest performers — all of which can easily transport audiences outside the image of stuffy drawing rooms.
As the TCMG gets set to launch its 23rd season of classical music excellence with a Wednesday (Sept. 9) Contributor’s Concert, we thought we’d find out how this group has remained a fixture on the local scene for so long. Here’s what Laupheimer had to say …
1. How did the Taos Chamber Music Group begin?
Nancy Laupheimer: In the spring of 1993, I was asked to put together a concert at the TCA for Spring Arts Celebration. There were four of us, and for lack of a better title, I called it the Taos Chamber Music Group. Afterwards, people kept asking me when the next Taos Chamber Music Group concert would be! I got together with my friend and music lover Mary Burns, and together we laid out a plan for our first season, and miraculously it’s been 23 years.
Up until then, I had done recitals with pianists in Taos and was also involved in a lot of other kinds of music — for example playing in jazz bands and a world music duo, improvising on Native flutes in river canyons, composing for dance and mime shows, playing in community and kids musicals, as well as performing with the Santa Fe Symphony and other classical groups around the state.
2. What goes into choosing the performers for each concert program?
Laupheimer: Because of all the playing I had done previous to starting TCMG, I had formed close relationships with musicians around New Mexico. They have become core members of TCMG, and we also bring in musicians from around the United States and abroad. It’s all about connections, and the bottom line is always that they be great players and people who are fun to work with!
3. Each season, the TCMG offers several themed concerts. What goes into shaping them?
Laupheimer: They usually start with a suggestive title of a piece that I am interested in programming and then I have fun finding other works that tap into that concept in some way, and that also make for a musically well-balanced program. This season we have “Colores,” “Play It Forward,” “Into the Light” and “In A Dream,” to name a few of the more evocative titles.
4. Speaking of themes, the group sometimes includes artistic disciplines outside classical music, such as visual art and film. How does this enhance a chamber music group program?
Laupheimer: I have always loved the opportunity to collaborate with other creative people in any discipline, and there are so many in Taos. So it is a way to expand the musical experience as well as work with talented people from our community.
5. Over its history, the TCMG has also performed a number of original works. How has this become part of the group’s mission?
Laupheimer: It is very exciting to be part of the birth of a new composition and to work with its composer, plus there is a lot of great music being written these days which I believe is important to perform and nurture.
6. Who are some of the musicians in TCMG of whom audiences should take note?
Laupheimer: All of them, of course! That said, we are featuring for his third time here the virtuoso Russian pianist Gleb Ivanov in our opening weekend concerts Oct. 3 and 4 at the Harwood Museum. He is an incredibly dynamic performer and not to be missed if you haven’t heard him before. We are also bringing back the American String Quartet in November for its fifth time on TCMG’s series, and then in January our young composer Phillip Golub will be performing jazz and classical works as well as introducing his new composition. I am really looking forward to collaborating with artist Sasha vom Dorp in March for a program inspired by light, as well as poet Sawnie Morris in May for a dream-related program. By the way, I am going to be playing for Sasha’s The Paseo installation on Taos Plaza the end of September.
7. Why does the group perform contributor’s concerts in a private home?
Laupheimer: Suzanne and Bob Brock have been TCMG contributors for years and graciously open their home for this event. It is a concert where we receive no income from ticket sales since it is free for contributors, so it is nice not to have rent to pay. Plus the views of the Río Pueblo are pretty hard to beat, and it works really well to have a party after the concert with food and drinks.
8. What should audiences expect from this coming season’s concerts?
Laupheimer: Great musicians performing our signature mix of chamber music masterpieces with more contemporary works, as well as poetry, art and a special surprise appearance by some of Taos’ homegrown chamber musicians! Check out taoschambermusicgroup.org for details.
9. How did you first become interested in music as a profession?
Laupheimer: I started playing flute in fourth grade when I was 9 and continued through high school, although often reluctantly, to be quite honest. I have my mom to thank for keeping my nose to the grindstone when practicing was not what I wanted to do after school! Then in college I was inspired by a great flute teacher there as well as the opportunity to study music history, composition and theory, and ended up becoming a music major and then getting my masters degree in flute performance.
10. How did you wind up in Taos?
Laupheimer: In 1979 I was living in Boston performing and teaching there. I had received a fellowship to the Tanglewood Music Festival and was making the finals in a couple of orchestra auditions, which is what I was aiming toward. I got offered a job playing in the Orquestra Sinfonica de Sao Paulo in Brazil, but it fell through at the last minute. So, having given up my apartment and work in Boston, I applied to a couple of music festivals, and the New Mexico Music Festival, which was a full orchestra that performed at the TCA, invited me to come play and teach that summer. It was a magical experience, and after briefly returning to New York, I came back to Taos for what I thought would be a temporary detour, working for the festival and indulging my passion for skiing for a season (36 years later — yikes!).
Nancy Laupheimer was born in Baltimore, Maryland and spent her second and third years in Italy. She grew up outside New York City and received a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a master’s in flute performance from Boston University’s School of Music, as well as fellowships to the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals. Since moving to Taos in 1979, Laupheimer has performed with a wide variety of musicians and organizations throughout the the Southwest. She founded the Taos Chamber Music Group in 1993 and serves as its artistic and executive director. Married to Vishu Magee for 30 years, she has a multi-generational family, many of whom live here. Laupheimer lives with multiple sclerosis, which mostly affects her legs, so she is especially grateful for the ability to make music.
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