Friends of Music Concerts, Inc., is an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that for 65 continuous seasons has brought the finest chamber music to Westchester audiences. In an annual six-concert series, it showcases both world-renowned ensembles and distinguished younger artists who illustrate the diversity and fine quality of chamber music today. With its residency program in public schools and free student admission to its concert series, it gives young people in the community enhanced exposure to and appreciation of classical music, with a view toward building audiences for the future.
Starting with its first sold-out concert in Croton-on-Hudson on March 27, 1954, by the then-fledgling Juilliard String Quartet, each new season has brought to the Friends of Music concert venue an exciting mix of the established and the new. Many groups and artists, such as the Emerson and Tokyo String Quartets, Garrick Ohlsson, Gil Shaham, and Jeremy Denk, have made multiple appearances over the years. Since the 2010-11 season, the series has included a concert by the winner of our Performance Award (which see), presented to a winner of the Young Concert Artists International Auditions held in New York City. Programs for each concert have been chosen carefully so as to provide overall an eclectic repertoire for Friends of Music’s audiences. In celebration of its 50th anniversary in 2004, the season’s final concert (by the Guarneri String Quartet) included the world premiere of a new string quartet from American composer Richard Danielpour, commissioned by Friends of Music Concerts and now part of the general chamber music repertory.
With its growing popularity, FOM’S audience expanded well beyond the original Croton/Peekskill boundaries, attracting music lovers from nearby communities, including Ossining, Briarcliff Manor, Chappaqua, Pleasantville and Yorktown. Changes of venue over the years, from Ossining High School to Sleepy Hollow High School to Pleasantville High School and now back to Sleepy Hollow, has expanded that core to subscribers from Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, Valhalla, Somers, Armonk, White Plains, and beyond. Single ticket buyers, often drawn by particular artists, have come from the entire county as well as the Bronx, Manhattan, Rockland and Putnam. The near-by Tarrytown station of Metro-North’s Hudson River line makes getting to concerts easy for all.
Friends of Music’s founder and first president George M. Raymond, who subsequently served on the Board of the Council for the Arts in Westchester where he helped establish its Arts in Education program, was the original inspiration for Friends of Music’s residencies in the public schools. A generous bequest from a long-time subscriber enabled the continuation of those Spring residencies, that include performances and master classes, for professional chamber groups at local schools in Croton, Briarcliff, Ossining, and Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown. In 2008-09, the program was transformed into Partnerships in Education for which all public school districts in Westchester were invited to apply. Successful such partnerships since have been held in New Rochelle, Sleepy Hollow, Briarcliff Manor, Bronxville, and Ossining, with the young Afiara, Carducci, or Amphion String Quartets, or the PubliQuartet in residency.
Despite rising artists’ fees and increases in other expenses, Friends of Music Concerts prices remain affordable. At $140 for the six concert season subscribers pay well below the cost of similar series. The single tickets price of $35 is comparably low. Students ages 18 and under attend free of charge. Maintaining such affordability has been possible in part because of our low administrative overhead but also through grant support received from ArtsWestchester as well as support from local businesses and corporations, the Rotary of the Tarrytowns and the many subscribers who contribute over and above the cost of their subscriptions.
Founded on the principal that artists of quality could be attracted to perform for its musically-knowledgeable audience close to home, FOM often has been the first to bring particular ensembles and artists to the county. It fulfills its missions and, in its longevity, it is unique.