Interview with Chenoa Orme-Stone, Artistic Director of Lotus Chamber Music Festival

Chenoa Orme-Stone is the Founder and Artistic Director of the Lotus Chamber Music Festival, a three-week intensive program of chamber music study that aims to bridge the gap between classical musicians and the importance of physical and mental health.

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What inspired you to start working on this project?

Like many students, I was pretty overwhelmed when I first started college. I was thousands of miles away from home, my family, and my friends. We all know the scenario: Scrambling to get to classes, juggling time, homework, practice. Up at 6 AM, dropping back into bed at midnight. As amazing and exciting as it was to be awash with people that shared my passion for music, I lacked self-confidence, and couldn’t help but compare myself to other students. I found myself doubting my abilities and questioning whether I deserved to be there. I let my health and wellbeing take a backseat while I pushed myself to the limit. I was constantly physically and mentally exhausted, burnt out, and discouraged. I felt like I couldn’t move forward no matter how hard I worked. My wake up call arrived the day I fainted during an orchestra rehearsal and woke up to a fearful conductor standing over me. He sent me to a doctor who told me that I was simply too exhausted, stressed, dehydrated, and hungry. I realized that I couldn’t continue to live my life that way. I began prioritizing sleep. I made time for cooking healthy meals and packed lunches to bring to school. I started carrying a water bottle with me. I tried yoga, running, boxing, and dance. I read books on how to manage stress and anxiety. I made new friends. I wasn’t perfect, but I was learning. Over time, all of these small changes in my day-to-day life allowed me to make larger strides in my musical development. And more importantly, I was happy. I became so passionate about living a healthy lifestyle that I continued to study movement, mindfulness, and nutrition, and eventually went on to write my master’s thesis on musician’s fitness and wellness. I decided that I wanted to create a place where musicians could come together in a supportive, nurturing environment and learn about these essential topics that are very rarely taught in music schools.

What have you learned since you started this project?

That I’m not alone. As soon as I announced the first season of the festival, I was contacted by countless musicians who had similar stories to mine. Musicians who regularly play through pain in order to get through school or pay the bills. Musicians who suffer from “impostor syndrome” and constantly feel like they’re not good enough. Musicians who gave up on their careers altogether because of the taxing physical and mental stress. I think it is important that we continue to share our stories and build a community where we can support and learn from each other.

Who is the Festival for?

The festival is open to string players and pianists of all ages, ranging from talented high school students to post-doctoral professionals. We hope to expand the festival in the future to include a larger variety of instrumentalists, as well as offer additional retreats and gatherings throughout the year.

Why chamber music and not orchestra?

Chamber music was my first love. There is something truly magical about the intimacy of the genre. The close proximity of the musicians allow us to connect in a more intimate way than the experience of playing in an orchestra. Chamber music is the perfect fit or this festival because connecting with musicians in this way is the perfect setting to get to know yourself better as a musician and person.

What do you hope students will gain from attending the Festival?

Our mission is to guide musicians on a path toward peak performance and career longevity. I want our students to leave the festival feeling physically strong, mentally strong, confident, rejuvenated, refreshed, inspired, and ready to conquer the word!

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Chenoa Orme-Stone