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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

Chamber Music Takes Center Stage In Cactus Pear Music Festival

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Stephanie Sant' Ambrogio
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Stephanie Sant' Ambrogio

It's a San Antonio music festival originally conceived over River Walk margaritas. Stephanie Sant Ambrogio created the Cactus Pear Music Festival 20 years ago, and she says this year's fest features three themes.

"One is that on every program there is one living, American composer."

Ambrogio fights the persistent notion that chamber music is stuffy, or just for old people. Presenting new works helps combat that.

Second theme: "That we are bringing back at least one master works from a previous season. So for instance the Dvořák Piano Quintet is just an all-time favorite for everybody. And the Brahms F-minor Quintet as well."

And the third theme for the Cactus Pear Music Festival is using musicians from Cactus Pear's Young Artist Program.

"The students that we audition and who win...they actually start three days before the festival artists arrive."

That rehearsal gets everyone on the same page--an important feature when there's no conductor to guide them. That young blood infusion gives the Cactus Pear a youthful verve, and is a way of passing on the love of music to young players.

"We have two pianists, two violinists, two cellists, one violist and a bassoon player.  I like to help the musicians who are trying to make it in the field because classical music is not an easy field; it's very competitive."

Ambrogio teaches violin at the University of Nevada, Reno. I had to ask the obvious question: "So this is how you spend your summer vacation, isn't it?" She laughed heartily.

"Right! Chamber music just doesn't feel like work to me. I just love playing chamber music.  When people come to our concerts they're surprised at how much fun we're having."

Cactus Pear kicks off Thursday night in Kerrville, goes through the weekend in San Antonio and Boerne, then continues next Thursday.  

Find more on the Cactus Pear Music Festival here