There is a large community of highly trained classical composers living in the southeast portion of Florida whose work is deserving of more recognition and quality performances that can be attended by the people who live in this area. Perhaps even more so here than in many other areas of the country, chamber ensembles and orchestral groups underperform the works of living composers, and of American composers in general.
In October 2016, South Florida composers Clare Shore and Greg Stepanich decided to take action and bring our music to the people who live here; we co-founded Zimmermann’s Café Chamber Music, a series in Palm Beach County, FL, and presented the inaugural event, featuring new music by living South Florida composers performed by South Florida musicians.
Our idea was to present musical events in an informal fashion in a space not normally used as a “concert” venue and to have the composers on hand to talk about our pieces and converse with the audience between works. We planned to provide substantial refreshments as well, taking our cue (as well as our name) from the man whose coffee shop in 18th-century Leipzig hosted the collegium musicum founded by Telemann and directed by J.S. Bach.
The first event, held on October 16, 2016, in the parish hall of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church in Lake Worth, FL, with cabaret-style seating, featured solos, duos and trios for violin, cello and piano by Shore, Stepanich, Kevin Wilt and Marshall Turkin (ranging in ages from 30s to 90s), was well-attended and extremely well-received, with excellent give-and-take from an enthusiastic (and hungry and thirsty) audience, who eagerly inquired about the date of the series’ next event.
Our second concert, on April 30, 2017, at St. Andrew’s, featured pieces by Shore, Stepanich, Ferdinando DeSena, Timothy Thompson and Donald Waxman. It, too, was a great success.
Our third concert, on Oct. 29, 2017, at St. Andrew’s, featured works by Lansing McLoskey, Fredrick Kaufman, Thomas McKinley, Susan Epstein-Garcia and Matthew Evan Taylor. Performers include Jason Calloway, Mari-Liis Paak, Margaret Donaghue Flavin and others.
Our fourth concert, set for April 29, 2018, also at St. Andrew’s, includes works by Carlos Rafael Rivera (Raven Dance), Dorothy Hindman (Jerusalem Windows), Robert Hebble (Incline Thine Ear), Michael Bies (Blue Ridge) and Dennis Kam (Lokahi).
We plan to present two or three of these events a year during the “season,” when the fall and winter population swells here as chilled northerners head south. With a large pool of professional performers on hand to participate in these concerts, we can further establish South Florida as a good place to find interesting new music.
In presenting new music by local composers, sitting those composers down with an interested audience, and building an organization to host this music, we believe we can help raise the national artistic profile of South Florida as a place where the arts are flourishing. In the long run, raising that profile means economic development for the region and the state.