Sue Mistretta celebrates 10 years of Mountainside Chamber Music in Nelson, B.C.

Photo by Adrian Wagner: Sue Mistretta (cello) and Pamela Bazinet (violin) at Mountainside Chamber Music

Former ACMP Board Chair (and daughter of one of ACMP’s early pioneers) Jane Stein Wilson recently sent me an email of introduction to ACMP member Sue Mistretta of Nelson, British Columbia, Canada. Being from British Columbia myself, I was curious to learn more about the adult amateur music scene in Nelson, and was inspired by Sue’s story, from her late start as a cellist (at age 47) to her experience co-creating a chamber music workshop from the ground up with her cello teacher Jeff Faragher, and running it for ten years.

If any of you are intrigued and would like to attend one of her workshops in Nelson this summer, she is extending her “early bird discount” to May 1, 2024 for members of ACMP. See the Mountainside Chamber Music website for details.

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy getting to know Sue through my recent interview with her (below) and if you are passing through Nelson, B.C. or anywhere nearby, please reach out to Sue in the ACMP Directory of Chamber Musicians.

Interview with Sue Mistretta

Stephanie Griffin (ACMP): Looking at your profile in the ACMP Directory of Chamber Musicians, I was very inspired that you started playing the cello at 47 and by your commitment to becoming the best cellist you can be over the past 18 years. Did you have any prior musical experience on other instruments? And what prompted you to start playing the cello?

Sue Mistretta: I started playing cello at 47 and I am now 67 so I have actually been playing for 20 years! I had minimal musical background growing up with maybe a year of flute lessons as a child and my father, being an organ player, taught me the keyboard layout and treble clef. Honestly though, I did not really have an interest, that is until I moved to B.C., Canada (from the States) in 2000 and witnessed a summer music camp known as the Valhalla Summer School of Music. In August each year hundreds of strings and piano students of all ages would descend on the small community I live in known as the Silverton/New Denver area. I heard the string rehearsals echoing through the streets and I attended the inspiring concerts and a had an inkling that I wanted to take up the cello, but I was not quite ready to commit. I needed to know that I was serious and had the time to devote to learning this glorious instrument. Heather Huether is a cellist and co-founder of VSSM and she happens to live in the same tiny community. I found a cello to rent and I enjoyed and learned solid foundational lessons with her which got me well on my way into the world of strings and music making. As the years passed I became more passionate about my goal of being the best cellist I could be with my remaining time on this earth! I found my current cello instructor, Jeff Faragher, who lives in Nelson B.C. and have been studying with him for around 12 years.

Stephanie: How did you find out about ACMP and when did you join?

Sue: I happily found out about ACMP about a year ago from Jane Wilson who registered for the Mountainside Chamber Strings program in 2023. She is a real music zealot who plays violin, viola and bass and she travels all over Canada playing in music camps. She was very excited to turn me on to this wonderful organization.  

Stephanie: Congratulations on the tenth anniversary of Mountainside Chamber Music! I see in the ACMP Events Directory that you have two upcoming workshops  – Cello Focus in June, and Mountainside Chamber Strings in July (with the Early Bird discount extended to May 1 for members of ACMP.) Can you please tell our readers a bit more about what they might expect to experience at both of those programs?

Sue: Thank you, yes we are proud of how our programs have blossomed. My cello teacher and cellist extraordinaire Jeff Faragher and I co-founded Mountainside Chamber Music and nurtured it along. We gear our programs to intermediate – intermediate/advanced players. We have included some less advanced yet eager students and find ways to accommodate everyone to get their musical needs met. Mostly the participants are adults yet we do have some young mature players from ages 12+. The Cello Focus program (June 7-9) has a new theme each year and Jeff invites another cellist to join him in co-teaching. Last year our focus was “Vibrato” with Jeff and Michael van der Sloot from Calgary, Alberta. This year our focus is “Musical Expression” and Jeff is joined by Olivia Walsh from Kelowna, B.C. The 12-hour weekend has typically under 10 participants with an intimate atmosphere and more personalized attention. There is instruction time and plenty of hours for playing selected pieces together to apply what we are learning. Chamber Strings (July 8-12) is also a smaller and more intimate camp experience with around 20 people including the 4 instructors. The typical day includes coached small chamber groups, orchestra, sectionals, 1 private lesson per person, plenty of time for practicing and playing together, an evening of Fiddle Fun, group picnic at the Lake and new this year: we will offer some sight reading sessions. Both programs hold an inspiring faculty concert as well. Students will get to perform on Friday afternoon at the end of Chamber Strings. The programs are inspiring, tons of fun and musically stimulating. The Early Bird deadline is set for April 19th but we will extend this early bird date to May 1, 2024 for ACMP members. Our regular deadline is May 17th.  

Visit for details or to register! 

Stephanie: As you know, I am from Vancouver, and I had the pleasure of going to Nelson once with my father many summers ago – it’s a beautiful town in a stunning natural setting. For ACMP members who have never been to Nelson, B.C., what are some of the destinations you would recommend?

Sue: Yes, Nelson is a wonderful little city! It is located about an hour drive north from Spokane, Washington. Actually the whole area surrounding Nelson, known as the West Kootenay region, is spectacular with jaw dropping views of mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls! For the outdoor adventure enthusiast who enjoys hiking, biking, kayaking, swimming etc… it is the place to be! The Selkirk loop is a spectacular drive through the Kaslo and Slocan Valleys. Ainsworth Hot Springs are worth a visit for sure. Nelson has a variety of delicious restaurants to choose from. Yoga, dance sessions, a Himalayan crystal salt cave and body workers abound, as do museums, art exhibits and musical experiences. 

Stephanie: What are some of the accommodation options for visitors who might want to combine a first trip to Nelson with one of your workshops? 

Sue: Best thing might be to visit the accommodation page on our website.  I have included many of the local motels, hotels and campgrounds. Of special mention, though, is the Dancing Bear Inn. It is a hostel, but one that caters to a more mature crowd and it is quiet, clean and affordable with shared rooms and great kitchen facilities. I have 2 double rooms and 1 quad pre-booked. There’s a box on my application form to check if you are interested in being a part of this booking.

Stephanie: What’s the amateur music community like in Nelson or nearby Silverton, where you live?

Sue: Honestly, the amateur music community is not very active. For example many of my former cello friends have stopped playing due to aging and sadly since Covid, many have re-prioritized their lives to other things. We had  weekly cello ensembles and at one time a small orchestra. Tides changed and things took different directions. That being said, there are some younger kids and new players entering the music scene. I personally have found a group of string players in the Silverton area and we have formed the “Lakeside String Ensemble.” We have lots of fun and I am so grateful to have this opportunity  after many years of not having this. 

The majority of the registrants for the camps are not local. They come from the Okanagan Valley, Vancouver, and Calgary. 

Stephanie: Living in Silverton, British Columbia, what kind of learning and playing opportunities did you have as an adult beginner on the cello?

Sue: The Valhalla Fine Arts Society has its home in Silverton and it offers beginner Cello and Violin group lessons to adults and children. There are also a handful of teachers scattered through the Kootenays that teach beginners privately. 

Stephanie: Are there any other summer chamber music workshops in or around Nelson, British Columbia?

Sue: The Valhalla Fine Arts Society  mentioned previously also offers the Valhalla Summer School of Music. That program has changed over the years to being for mainly for younger kids and teens and now they offer a new program called SOAR (String Orchestra Adult Retreat) for adult beginners and intermediate string players. There also is an adult program for Flute and Oboe. Chamber groups run in the afternoon for players of the wind instruments as well as strings. 

The programs are now held in New Denver.  

Stephanie: Did you and Jeff Faragher start up the Mountainside Chamber Music program 10 years ago to fill a need that you were not already finding in your community?

Sue: Absolutely, this is exactly why we started it. Jeff Faragher was trying some camp ideas out before Mountainside was born and he did not have enough support to keep it running and this is where I came in. We wanted to have a camp for players who were looking for more of a challenge musically and with music that would be manageable enough to be satisfying and sound good. We felt that our format mentioned earlier would offer a unique camp experience and we liked the idea of smaller and more intimate programs.  

Stephanie: What were some of the challenges you faced in the early years of starting your own chamber music workshop?

Sue: Like anything, the main challenge is getting the word out. It is mostly by word of mouth.   

Stephanie: Do you have any funny stories to share from the early years of Mountainside Chamber Music?

Sue: Not really a funny story per se but we do have a lot of laughs at the camps. I do remember one trio that I was playing with and for some reason we were very giddy and laughing so hard it was hard to play the piece in one of our rehearsals. We were making silly mistakes and it really felt good to laugh at ourselves and have so much fun! 

Stephanie: Do you have any heartwarming memories from the past 10 years of running your workshop?

Sue: It is just a beautiful experience to see a piece coming together and the satisfaction that the players feel. It is so awesome witnessing the progress that people including myself are making throughout the week in chamber strings or on the cello focus weekend. I can remember several times opening my vision and hearing to take in the fullness of the beautiful pieces we are co-creating. I would imagine others are doing the same. 

Stephanie: Based on your experiences over the past 10 years, do you have any advice for ACMP members who might like to start a small workshop in their own communities?

Sue: It starts with an idea and lots of passion. It does require time and energy to design the program and come up with a name, vision, goals, website, and marketing ideas if you are thinking of an actual ongoing program.  Jeff and I worked (and still work) very well as a team. I would say that depending on the size of the program or workshop, it is very helpful to have like-minded people with complementary and diverse skills working together for the common goal. Networking is critical as well. Reaching out to other musical instrument teachers and their students is very helpful. Jeff is the Artistic Director for the Symphony of the Kootenays, so this is one platform to get the word out. 

I want to thank you so much, Stephanie, for this opportunity to share my story and experience!

More Articles

Wine, Weiner and Witt

Read ACMP violinist and coach María Catalina Paredes' story about the recent Just Play-supported concert “Wine, Weiner and Witt” in the city of Quito, Ecuador  at Café Rio Intag (and continued at Pizzaria Amici Miel) on March 11, 2024.  María Catalina organized this international gathering of ACMP members with the help of fellow Ecuadorian violinists Eudin Ramos and Keyber Perez and American cellist Tom Cappaert.

Read More ↗

Connecting the generations through music

Lorraine Marks-Field founded two intergenerational orchestras in New Jersey and Florida, emphasizing inclusivity and personal growth through music. Her approach connects players of all ages and abilities, fostering mentoring relationships and intergenerational bonds that extend beyond musical excellence to enrich lives.

Read More ↗

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Cal-Wiersma-class_20240407_ACMP_Cam-1.00_05_24_13.Still001-a-1600x1055.jpg

New Masterclass Video: Calvin Wiersma coaches Messiaen!

Check out the video recording from our recent class with violinist and chamber music coach extraordinaire Calvin Wiersma on Olivier Messiaen’s seminal work, the Quartet for the End of Time. During the class, Cal worked with ACMP musicians Kenneth Margolis (clarinet), Yolanda Wu (violin), Ben Pfeifer (cello) and Skip Kennon (piano.)

Read More ↗

Two new videos: ACMP Film Club

In 2023 ACMP launched its new Film Club series, and so far we have had two amazing conversations between filmmakers, musicians and our community. Watch the videos of both Film club events!

Read More ↗

2024 Worldwide Play-In Events

ACMP's Official Worldwide Play-In Weekend takes place from Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19, 2024 but we have extended the whole Worldwide Play-In initiative to encompass Play-Ins throughout May, which is National Chamber Music Month here in the United States, and early June. Keep checking this article and the ACMP Events and Workshops Directory for public Play-Ins near you!

Read More ↗

Notes from the Rehearsal Studio: Learning the “Quartet for the End of Time”

In advance of the live and livestreamed masterclass this Sunday, April 7, I interviewed the four intrepid adult amateur musicians who took on the first and sixth movements of Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time." For the clarinetists, pianists, violinists and cellists among you, I hope you will be inspired to delve into Messiaen's masterwork yourselves!

Read More ↗

Announcing the 2024 Worldwide Play-In Weekend: May 17-19

May is Chamber Music Month! And ACMP is happy to announce its official Worldwide Play-In weekend: Friday, May 17 through Sunday, May 19, 2024

Read More ↗

Calvin Wiersma class on Messiaen’s “Quartet for the End of Time”: Sunday, April 7, 3pm ET

ACMP is proud to present a special live (and live-streamed) class with violinist and chamber music coach extraordinaire Calvin Wiersma on Olivier Messiaen's seminal work, the "Quartet for the End of Time," with ACMP member musicians Kenneth Margolis (clarinet), Yolanda Wu (violin), Ben Pfeifer (cello) and Walter Kennon (piano.)

Read More ↗

An orchestra that lives up to the ideals of the United Nations

Ever since the United Nations was founded nearly 80 years ago, it has stood for nothing less than “peace, justice, and better living for all humankind.” When it comes to living up to those ideals, nowhere does that happen more than every Wednesday night in a nondescript office across from UN headquarters.

Read More ↗

Meet Joel Epstein: violinist, violist, writer, arranger, educator and ACMP member since the 1970s

Violinist, violist, writer, arranger and educator Joel Epstein has been a member of ACMP since the 1970s. Get to know Joel and read about his book "Music for the Love of It: Episodes in Amateur Music-Making" and about his important work teaching music to status-less children in Israel.

Read More ↗

Meet ACMP Pianist and Educator James Daly

You may have been wondering about the people featured in the mockups for ACMP's new Timbre app-in-progress. AI was not involved in any way - all of those people are real members of ACMP with profiles in our Directory of Chamber Musicians. California-based pianist and educator James Daly is the man in the header image for the blog article about Timbre. Read all about his path to becoming a musician and educator and enjoy a 20% ACMP member discount on his original T-shirts and other merchandise.

Read More ↗

Timbre Reveal: a sneak peak at ACMP’s new app-in-progress

Take a sneak peek at “Timbre” - ACMP's first ever app, in its early stages of development. Timbre will be a fun, visual, and more immediate way to find other ACMP members while you’re casually scrolling on your phone.

Read More ↗

A conversation with filmmaker Hilan Warshaw

In the lead-up to the ACMP Film Club event about Hilan Warshaw's "Secret Song" on Sunday, February 18 at 2pm ET, ACMP's Executive Director Stephanie Griffin had the pleasure of catching up with Hilan, and asking him about how his background as a musician led to a unique career as a filmmaker with a primary focus on musical subjects.

Read More ↗

Eugene Drucker and Hilan Warshaw discuss “Secret Song”

Join ACMP on Sunday, February 18 at 2pm Eastern for an online discussion with film-maker Hilan Warshaw and former Emerson Quartet violinist Eugene Drucker about the genesis of "Secret Song," the making of the film and the sultry story behind Alban Berg's Lyric Suite for string quartet.

Read More ↗

Harmonizing Decades: A 2024 Follow-up to our 1996 Quartet session

When ACMP member violinist Gualtiero Morpurgo was visiting the United States from Milan in 1996, he found fellow violinist Mark Atkins in the ACMP Directory. Mark organized a string quartet session with Gualtiero, and later in life learned of his touching life story.

Read More ↗

How to put on a great adult chamber music workshop

Join ACMP Secretary and Grants Committee chair Susan Alexander on Tuesday, January 23 at 2:30pm Eastern for an illuminating online panel discussion about how to organize your own adult amateur chamber music workshop. Susan will be joined by experts in the field: Javier Caballero (Executive Director of the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music), Susie Ikeda (Executive Director of the Chamber Music Conference) and pianist/educator Nancy Breth (founder of the Levine School of Music's Chamber Music Weekend for adult amateurs.)

Read More ↗

Announcing the 2023 Holiday Caption Contest Winners!

ACMP’s 2nd annual Holiday Caption Contest was a resounding success! We received 96 captions from 44 ACMP members – exactly twice as many participants as last year. This year's winners were Raul Kottler, Ken Margolis and Rebecca Sayles.

Read More ↗

Rochester Report: An Interview with NAOC Councilor Roberta Zalkind

On a recent visit to Rochester, NY, ACMP Executive Director Stephanie Griffin reached out to local NAOC councilor and fellow violist Roberta Zalkind. Roberta gave Stephanie a tour of the Eastman Community Music School (a repeat ACMP grantee), introduced her to the school's director Petar Kodzas and invited her home for dinner, where the two violists got acquainted with one another and discussed the state of amateur chamber music in Rochester. After the visit, Stephanie followed up with this interview with Roberta.

Read More ↗

Report from the Netherlands: Excerpts from “Amateurs in European Music”

Here are a few highlights from an essay written by Marine Park, participant of the Wijnhaven Festival, Dordrecht, Netherlands in conjunction with Bas van Ouwerkerk, organizer of the Festival. This version is a translation of some selected excerpts from the full essay which was published in Korean in the Music Journal of Korea.

Read More ↗

Introducing new IAC Chair, Sean Knox

ACMP is pleased to announce the appointment of Sean Knox as Chair of its International Advisory Council (IAC). Sean is a professionally trained cellist and also plays the piano (and recently started learning the harp). He is passionate about playing chamber music, and has done so with numerous groups in London, Switzerland and his home country of South Africa.

Read More ↗

Load More


All Articles By