The Music of Mount Vernon Belongs to Us All | Arts & Culture
The Mount Vernon Music Association (MVM) is one of the area’s little-known treasures, bringing fine music through concerts and outreach programs for 17 years. Founders Mark and Ute Miller are high-quality musicians who regularly perform with symphonies in Dallas and Fort Worth, but their desire is to share the music they know and love with people in rural communities.
MVM’s chamber music performances offer privacy and sophistication, typically with musicians from big cities performing professionally. Instead of an orchestra, their performances include a single player per part, giving them a closer and more connected experience.
MVM is unique to the Upper East Side of Texas and is similar to the Fine Arts Chamber Players of Dallas or the Texas Winds Musical Outreach, two organizations that perform in the Dallas area.
Chamber music is not always classical and can include more modern varieties of music such as jazz. In September, MVM hosted a performance by the Shelby Carroll Saxophone Quartet, which played jazz on four different types of saxophones.
The current season’s programs – collectively titled âWays Forwardâ – demonstrate MVM’s determination to bring great music to rural communities. The new season is all about healing, diversity and awareness. From “Hope”, “Reflection” and “Remembrance” in 2021, Mount Vernon Music enters in 2022 with “Challenges and Opportunities”, “Faith” and “Change and Endurance”.
The themes of the 16th season promote healing after the pandemic. “Reflection” featured music by American composers. “Remembrance” included a range of American and European compositions that shared the grief of the lives lost during the pandemic.
In the next three programs, MVM continues to bring exceptional music to rural audiences on the Upper East Side of Texas at its concert hall in Mount Vernon, TX, and beyond at venues such as Texas A&M University. -Commerce, local nursing homes and schools.
Ute Miller says the current season’s goal intentionally responds to the dramatic events of 2020.
âThe repertoire is more meaningful and more diverse because we are now really branching out into [compositions] and more pieces written by female composers, âsays Ute, who started playing the viola at the age of seven and studied music in DÃ¼sseldorf, Germany.
Ute traveled to Boston to study in 1986, where she met violinist Mark Miller, originally from Bloomington, Indiana. After the couple married, they moved to Germany for a few years before they wanted to play chamber music in smaller venues.
With few opportunities in Germany, the Millers took the advice of a friend and applied for a grant to play in the United States. A letter arrived from Ambassador University, a former Bible college in Big Sandy, Texas. After nine months, they continued to teach for Sulfur Springs Schools and East Texas State University (now Texas A&M) at Commerce.
While performing at Northeast Texas Community College, the Millers met attorney BF Hicks, who ultimately encouraged them to set up the concert hall in Mount Vernon while continuing to perform with symphonies in Dallas and Fort Worth.
Now in its sixteenth season, MVM continues its goals of bringing exceptional music to rural communities through concerts in their concert halls and through outreach programs.
âWe believe that music belongs to all of us. It is a human good; it’s a human resource, âsays Mark.
âWe will always do the music, the concerts here, but it must go beyond. We have to go out and bring [concerts] to people and serve them.
Others express their gratitude for MVM’s contributions.
âIt would take hours of driving to get the quality music you can get in Mount Vernon,â says David Mills, MVM technical advisor. âIt’s a luxury that we cannot do without.
In addition to the six annual programs, children at Mount Vernon schools are invited to experience a program in the concert hall each June. Composer Benedikt Brydern’s “The Town Musicians” program with illustrations by Madeline Crist is based on the Brothers Grimm’s “Bremen Town Musicians” and has been performed for thousands of children in schools across the region.
Other adapted stories include “The Donkey, the Goat and the Little Dog”, “The Cat That Wore Boots”, “Beagles’ Day Out”, “Villains & Sweethearts”, “The Town Musicians” and “Midnight Adventures” by Till McIvor Myen.
The Millers are excited about the new composition “Overtones” for young people, which is written as a lesson in music theory on modal scales disguised as history. Each modal scale is a place in a fantasy land.
The 16 MVM performances per year in nursing homes are known as the Musical Lifelines program. The organization’s eight or more annual performances in local schools are part of the MVM Youth Outreach program. Outreach shows are offered free of charge through grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
âIt’s the coolest music. Sometimes it sounds like blues; sometimes it sounds like jazz, âsays Mark. The piece is suitable for middle and high school students.
The children’s programs, called MVM Youth Outreach, are presented about eight times a year in schools in Winnsboro, Sulfur Springs, Quitman and Mount Pleasant and as far south as Palestine and Lufkin.
MVM’s Children’s Summer Concert features a new composition by rising black composer Quinn Mason of Dallas. His compositions are performed by performers across North America. Mason is currently preparing a children’s concert based on African folk tales which will debut at the MVM performance hall in June.
The composition “Beagles’ Day Out” features the sounds of the Millers playing with original artwork and dialogue of two beagles escaping to explore the world beyond their home. Benedikt Brydern’s score intertwines playfully with text and illustrations by Rose Roeder for an almost cinematic presentation.
The Betty Whitlock Scholarship Fund provides financial assistance to approximately a dozen young people each year for music studies, private lessons, music camps or instruments and equipment. Contestants also have the option of performing in front of an audience in MVM’s performance hall.
A great plan
Mount Vernon Central Church served as a vibrant center of worship from 1905 to the 1950s, but then experienced decades of neglect. Newer owners have turned the church into a wedding chapel.
The building was in poor condition when the Millers visited it almost two decades ago, but saw promise in the acoustical qualities of the old sanctuary. They invited friends from the Dallas Symphony to take a look and became convinced of its promise.
The restoration involved removing the torn carpets and baptistery, restoring the ceiling and hardwood floors, building an intimate stage, and adding contemporary art inspired by musical performances. After renovations, the concert hall retains the excellent acoustics but offers a more welcoming atmosphere.
The Millers handed over the performance hall to the new nonprofit, the Mount Vernon Music Association. They were soon able to add a 10-foot Steinway grand piano built in 1896 to the intimate concert hall with a generous donation.
The piano adds exceptional musical quality to the concert hall, as in the breathtaking November performance titled “Remembrance” featuring soprano Corrie Donovan and pianist Evan Mitchell.
Mitchell is also giving upcoming concerts in January, February, and April 2022 at MVM Music Hall and other locations on the Upper East Side of Texas.
MVM presents âChallengesâ at 7:30 pm on Saturday January 22 at MVM Hall. âChallengesâ presents the music of female and black composers Valerie Coleman, Jennifer Higdon, Emilie Mayer, Manuel Ponce and MÃ©lanie Bonis for flute, clarinet, strings and piano.
“We are delighted to share several pieces of evidence to prove that the world of music is even bigger and richer than we often think,” said Mark Miller.
Players for the winter performance include Julee Kim Walker on flute, Daryl Coad or Mary Druhan on clarinet, Evan Mitchell on piano, Mark Miller on violin, Ute Miller on viola and Sara Birnbaum Hood on cello. Two more performances of “Challenges” are scheduled for 2:30 pm on January 23, at the Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas at 4316 Abrams Road and 7:30 pm on February 1 at the Texas A&M University-Commerce Music Building.
âFaithâ is scheduled for 7:30 pm on Saturday April 23 at Mount Vernon Music Hall. In âFaith,â MVM presents inspiring music from the Renaissance to the 20th century, including vocal works sung by baritone James Rodriguez, PhD and instrumentals by Mark Miller and Yuko Mansell on violins, Ute Miller on viola; Laura Ospina on cello and Evan Mitchell on piano.
Additional performances of “Faith” are scheduled for 2:30 pm April 24 at the Steinway Piano Gallery, 510 Commerce Street in Fort Worth and 7:30 pm April 25 at the Texas A&M University-Commerce Music Building.
The final program for the 2021-2022 season is called “Change” and features new music by Benedikt Brydern and William Grant Still and enduring music by Barber and DvorÃ¡k at 7:30 pm on May 21 at the MVM Association. Players in this performance include Ivan Petruzziello on clarinet, Mark Miller and Yuko Mansell on violin, Ute Miller on viola, Laura Ospina on cello and Jack Unzicker on bass. Consult MVM’s online calendar for additional performance venues.
Memberships cost $ 25 and more per year and offer discounts on admission to shows throughout the year. For more information on the shows, become a member or make a donation, visit www.mountvernonmusic.org.