VERBIER, SWITZERLAND – With the world renowned Verbier Festival currently in full swing in the Swiss Alps, The Violin Channel recently caught up with a number of former participants to get a better understanding of their time at the music festival – and the career-changing opportunities the annual event has presented.
2014 Verbier Academy member, Persian-Austrian VC Artist Kian Soltani guest blogs about his eventful experience:
"I was part of the Verbier Festival Academy in the summer of 2014.
It was somehow a stroke of fate that I was able to take part! I had missed the deadline for applying and had already given up on going at all… But I got a phone call a few days before the festival started, some cellist had cancelled! Needless to say, I was thrilled to jump in.
Few days later I arrived on the top of the mountain, Verbier! An amazing scenery, incredible nature and fresh air greeted me. I am somewhat spoiled: growing up in the west of Austria, in a valley, I know what beautiful mountains are. And still - Verbier really is something special, that I hadn’t seen before.
The first thing I did was to join everybody for lunch at the "Offshore", the gathering place for all academics and the staff. Right away I was greeted by many familiar faces of the students, but also many new friendly ones. And by a very tall man with a big smile: Christian Thompson, the academy director.
Over the course of the next few weeks "Offshore" was the place where the newest schedules would be announced, Christian would give many serious speeches (and many more less serious ones), and the students just generally hung out over nice lunch.
Next it was time to get ready for the lessons and masterclasses. A quick walk to one of the massive chalets (swiss wooden villas), where the generous residents of Verbier hosted the students, to pick up the cello and on the way to the first lesson with Frans Helmerson. Many more were to follow, including chamber music lessons with Ferenc Rados and Gabor Takazs-Nagy, to name a few.
In the afternoons, there were usually time to meet up with the chamber music groups to rehearse and prepare for one of the performances that were given at the local cinema/concert hall, or to listen to more masterclasses in the various locations throughout the village.
Around 7pm, I felt the unescapable pull of gravity to join the big masses of people wandering towards the big festival tent to hear and experience great artists and fantastic concerts. And what an experience it was! Hearing Gabor Takazs-Nagy conduct the Verbier Chamber Orchestra with Beethoven's "Eroica" was truly inspiring and an experience that stayed with me until today.
Then it was time for the nightly meeting point of the whole festival: Pub Mont Fort. Hanging out with everyone, eating, drinking, playing table soccer or "Mafia" and just generally having a good time.
When I finally fell into my bed that first night (at a very reasonable hour, I assure you), I felt that this would be a really special time, with many adventures, discoveries and new friendships made. And I was right!
But apart from all the fun, the festival gave me the opportunities to make auditions for promoters and artists, which led to some great connections and invitations to other festivals.
I can highly recommend everyone to apply and take part in that very special "Verbier experience".
A student of Frans Helmerson at the Kronberg Academy, VC Artist Kian Soltani is a former 1st prize winner at the Antonio Janigro, Karl Davidof and Paulo International Cello Competitions. Upcoming highlights include concerts with Sir Neville Marriner and the Zurich Tonhalle-Orchestra - and a summer tour as soloist with the conductor Daniel Barenboim and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.