Classical Camp Comes to Beacon

Two student cellists play with a resident counselor (center).

Two student cellists play with a resident counselor (center).

Summer program relocates from Massachusetts

Though the description “classical music conservatory” may sound more rigorous than nurturing, that is not the case with the Lyra Music Young Artist Performance Program, a two-week residential summer program that this year relocated from Massachusetts to the Highlands. 

Its administrative offices are now in Beacon, and its residential quarters at the Storm King School in Cornwall. Students are returning in-person for the first time since 2019 and, beginning Tuesday (June 28), will perform at venues throughout the area, including the Beacon and Cold Spring farmers’ markets and the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon.

Lyra Music was founded in 2010 in Vermont to work with students of classical music, many of whom aspire to professional careers. Along with its two-week summer program, it organizes a music festival, master classes, free outdoor performances in public spaces and a competition, which raises money for scholarships.

Sasaki and Odo

Sasaki and Odo

Its co-founder and artistic director is pianist Akiko Sasaki, who has lived in Beacon with her family since 2015. She is a faculty member at SUNY New Paltz and last year was named the music director of the Howland Chamber Music Circle.

Most of the musicians who audition for and attend Lyra’s summer program are between 11 and 18. For many, it is their first opportunity to share their talents with professionals. 

Most performances are before an audience, either at ticketed events or free community concerts. The aim is to give each student experience in solo and chamber performance, as well as to constructively critique the work of others.

Lyra Concerts

Lyra students in performance

Proof of vaccination and masks will be required at indoor concerts.
For tickets and more information, see

Sunday, June 26
Staff Performances
11 a.m. Beacon Farmers’ Market

Tuesday, June 28
Staff and Student Performances
4 p.m. Benmarl Winery, Marlboro

Wednesday, June 29
Horszowski Trio
7 p.m. Howland Cultural Center

Friday, July 1
Student Performances
6 p.m. Storm King Art Center

Saturday, July 2
Student Performances
10 a.m. Cold Spring Farmers’ Market

Sunday, July 3
Student Performances
6 p.m. Storm King School

Wednesday, July 6
Estelle Choi (Cello), Henry Kramer (Piano), Kristin Lee (Violin)
7 p.m. Howland Cultural Center

Saturday, July 9
Gala Concert
2 p.m. Howland Cultural Center

Sasaki says her goal with Lyra from the start was to create an intensive, performance-focused program. “In bigger programs, you might only get to play for an audience once a week,” she says.

The summer program culminates in a gala on July 9 at the Howland Cultural Center, a venue Lyra’s executive director, Rachel Odo, calls “incredible for music, especially chamber music — the way music sounds in that room, the ability to sit so close. At a place like Lincoln Center, the energy is different. Here, you feel this community.”

Violinist Kristin Lee works with a Lyra student.

Violinist Kristin Lee works with a Lyra student. (Photos provided)

Sasaki recognizes that she has competition. “The middle school years are often the most challenging, with kids active in other things like sports,” she says. “Things like these summer programs keep the playing going. The experience, the challenge of working up to the final performance, keeps them motivated and practicing through the year.” 

Odo concurs: “A beautiful aspect of our program is bringing together diverse people from diverse places and watching them learn how to support each other, rather than compete for one spot. Our counselors are trained to reinforce that.

“The social component takes over, which is actually a positive, because when students have peers it motivates them,” she adds. “There’s an assumption made that children are only interested in certain kinds of music, but we’ve found, when we do our outdoors concerts, younger kids gravitate toward seeing older kids playing classical music. We’re trying to build those audiences. We want to show young aspiring professionals how people enter this field.” 

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