Every year, ambitious and creative young people all across the country spend summer months at arts camps, learning to hone their skills and expand their horizons, whether their chosen field is music, dance, theater, or studio art.
Just 10 years ago, Matthew Aucoin was one such camper, attending the Charles River Creative Arts Program in Dover to pursue his burgeoning talents in musical performance.
This week, Aucoin is back at a summer arts camp, this time as a guest artist and performer.
At 23, Aucoin has already received international acclaim as a pianist, conductor, and composer, and he’s delighted to be sharing some of his expertise with the young musicians and artists taking part in Summer Arts at the Cambridge School of Weston, where he will perform a midday concert followed by a talk with the audience on Monday.
The independent school’s summer program is only four years old, but Aucoin feels a special kinship with it through its director, Toby Dewey, who ran the Dover program that Aucoin attended for four years as a camper and then again as a counselor-in-training.
“What I’ve come to realize in talking with creative kids is that they are a pretty demanding audience,” Aucoin said about his appearance next week. “They know their stuff. I want to entertain them, show them some music, treat it like a performance. But I also want to talk with them about what it means to live a life in music. And what I mean by that is that it’s possible to do if you are crazy enough.”
That’s not the advice he always received in his teen years, Aucoin said.
“You have to believe in the power of your own dedication in a world where lots of people are going to tell you that a career in the arts is not practical. I’ve had to reject lots of advice in my life. People have always told me I really should do X, Y, and Z, and time and again I’ve had to step back and say ‘Yes, I really should, but I’m not going to,’ ” he said, adding that his time at the Charles River arts camp “fortified that spirit in me.”
Of course, it doesn’t happen without talent in addition to dedication, and talent is definitely something young Aucoin has demonstrated. The son of Boston Globe theater critic Don Aucoin, Matthew grew up in Medfield, attending public school and studying music at the Rivers School Conservatory, and then attended Harvard as an English literature major. “Harvard is a dream place to make music because it is crawling with talented musicians, most of whom are not music majors,” he said. “You’re surrounded by people who want to play music at night because they’ve been doing something else all day.”
Aucoin learned to play classical music first, and then at Charles River Creative Arts cultivated a passion for jazz, blues, and rock. Dewey remembers Aucoin as a talented boy who would interrupt morning announcements with a piano piece. “That spirit of creativity that drives his career now was definitely present back when he was 14,” Dewey said.
Aucoin went on to become the youngest assistant conductor for the New York Metropolitan Opera, and won the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Solti Conducting Apprenticeship. His compositions have been performed at prestigious venues including Italy’s Spoleto Festival, the Fire Island Opera Festival, and the Juilliard School. Earlier this year he premiered an original composition at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem entitled “This Same Light,” an exploration of the myth of Orpheus.
Most recently, the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge commissioned Aucoin to compose an opera for next season that will be directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus.
And based on his own experience with summer arts camp, Aucoin wants to impart to the youths in his audience Monday that they are immersed in a rare opportunity in being surrounded by like-minded peers for the next several weeks.
“I want the campers to understand that the people around them may well be their artistic colleagues for life,” he said. “Certainly that has been the case for me. I found more kindred spirits at CRCAP than I’ve found anywhere else. It gave new life to my creative activity. I saw so many new possibilities for where it could go.”
The public is invited to attend Aucoin’s free performance at 12:30 p.m. Monday in the Neugart Theater at the Cambridge School, 45 Georgian Road in Weston. For more information about the summer arts program, call 781-642-8600 or go to www.csw.org.
ALL ABOUT CHOPIN: This weekend the Rivers School Conservatory hosts a program of recitals, lectures, master classes, and round-table discussions focusing on the life and art of Polish composer Frederic Chopin.
In its sixth year at the Weston institution, the Chopin Symposium will also explore other composers from Chopin’s time and the cultural and artistic life of 19th-century Europe. Opening this year’s gathering on Friday at 7:30 p.m. is the Boston debut of acclaimed Russian pianist Pavel Nersessian, a professor at the Moscow Conservatory.
A concert scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Saturday features pianists Andrew Tyson, Ya-Fei Chuang, and Gila Goldstein. Three students from the Chopin Institute, a weeklong course for advanced pianists held at the Rivers School Conservatory, will also perform on the program.
The closing concert at 7 p.m. Sunday is a reenactment of a performance held at Chopin’s own salon in Paris. Performers include soprano Barbara Quintiliani, cellist Mickey Katz, and pianists Gila Goldstein and Roberto Poli.
The weekend includes a series of insightful lectures and discussions with speakers David Dubal, Mike Lee, A. Ramon Rivera, and David Kasunic.
All concerts and events are held at the Rivers School Conservatory, 333 Winter St. in Weston. Tickets for each concert are $25, or free for students. Lectures and some other events are free. For a complete schedule or to order tickets, go to www.riversschoolconservatory.org or call 781-235-6840.
LATINO SHOWCASE: The latest in series of events showcasing local artists, “ArtPOP: We Are You, Framingham!” is featuring the work of five Latino artists at multiple locations in downtown Framingham through Aug. 3.
The venues include the Amazing Things Arts Center on Hollis Street, and five restaurants, each with a different ethnic cuisine.
The series is organized by the Framingham Downtown Renaissance and Fountain Street Fine Art. A map of the exhibition’s locations is available at www.latinoartistsframingham2014.blogspot.com.Send ideas to nancyswest@ gmail.com.