Frequently Asked Questions

On this page are answers to questions frequently asked by people attending the Conference for the first time.

Contents

What can I expect as a newcomer to Bennington?
How should I prepare to get the most enjoyment out of my week?
What essentials should I bring?
I am traveling light; what items may I leave home?
What about the dorm room accommodations?
And the food?
I would love to bring my family; what activities are available for children?
I live too far away to drive to Bennington; what are my options for transportation?
By what hour must I arrive at Bennington?
If I am taking a late flight, may I book a room for an extra night and arrive one day early?

I am reluctant to take my instrument on a plane; is it possible to rent a quality instrument in the area?
What if I need urgent repairs to my instrument while on campus?
Must I buy all the music for my coaching groups? Some pieces are very expensive!
This is a vacation, right?

Questions and Answers

What can I expect as a newcomer to Bennington?

We will give you a warm welcome! After you are accepted, we assign a buddy to contact you in advance of your arrival in order to ensure that you have the information you need and to answer your questions. Upon arrival on Sunday, your buddy meets you for opening night dinner, introduces you to other participants, and arranges at least one free-play session. We schedule a newcomers' meeting before dinner so you can get oriented. Sunday evening closes with a mini rehearsal (Week 1) or round robin (Weeks 2, 3, and 4) playing event, enabling you to meet many more people.

Your activities outside of scheduled sessions are completely up to you. Many newcomers take advantage of free-play opportunities – arranged with your buddies, or with others at meal times or morning coffee or afternoon snack – in many sessions of the week. Others enjoy some free time for other activities. Even with a modest amount of free play, the amount of daily playing time at the Conference is more than most of us experience during typical weeks of our lives. We suggest that before the Conference, you try to increase your playing time at home, to get your muscles ready and decrease your chances of aches and over-use injuries. See the last of these FAQs (This is a vacation, right?) for more information, and feel free to contact your buddy or any of us with questions.

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How should I prepare to get the most enjoyment out of my week?

We expect participants to come very well prepared for coaching on each piece they have been assigned, so that coaching sessions can be as productive as possible. Obtain your music and start practicing promptly after receiving your coaching assignments. Obtain the score, look at other parts, and pencil in necessary cues. Number the measures in your part and score; or, if your music edition has numbered measures, check that the numbering matches our conventions (we will send you how-to instructions). To become familiar with the piece, arrange to read or rehearse it, or listen to one or more recordings.

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What essentials should I bring?

Your clothes, personal necessities, instrument, and music for coaching. We advise string players to get their bow hairs tightened in advance of arrival, and woodwind players to bring a variety of reeds, as Bennington weather can range from cool and dry to hot and humid. Cellists should bring a padlock for cello lockers and a rockstop or chair strap for playing.

We suggest you bring an umbrella and rain coat for occasional rainy days, long pants and light sweater/jacket for cool days and evenings; a pencil for marking music during coaching and a pad for taking notes. Optional items that can add to your personal comfort include a swimsuit for late afternoon swims in nearby Lake Paran, a portable fan for your dorm room, a flashlight for walking the paths at night (these are lighted, but some people prefer more illumination), a foldable music stand for practicing in dorms, and any music you would like to play during free-time hours. If you must stay connected to the outside world during your stay, the college buildings offer free Wi-Fi.

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I am traveling light; what items may I leave home?

Essentials are listed above. We have an extensive music library collection from which participants are welcome to borrow for free-play sessions; this is not to be used for coaching or signout for more than one day.

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What about the dorm room accommodations?

We assign you a private room unless you request otherwise. All accommodations are in dorm rooms on campus; we try to assign families to suites or larger units. We can accommodate requests for double rooms with roommates if you both specify the request.

Rooms are equipped with bed linens, one pillow, two light blankets, 4 small bath towels, and 2 small hand soaps. Each dorm has a kitchen with refrigerator in which you can store food or medications. Bathrooms are shared; each is designated for Men, Women, or Family. Laundry facilities are available in the dorms or in the Commons building at center of campus.

The campus offers free Wi-Fi. An un-air-conditioned exercise facility is available during a morning and afternoon session and nearby Lake Paran offers refreshing swimming.

Some people prefer to stay off campus in nearby motels or B&Bs; we neither make off-campus arrangements nor recommend specific facilities.

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And the food?

The college cafeteria is open 3 times daily during hours that fit our music schedule and offers a full array of hot and cold options for omnivores and vegans. The great majority of people following special diets will find ample choices at each meal. For those who want to prepare food, each dorm unit has a kitchen including refrigerator and cooking facilities. If you have particular questions about food preparation or allergies, please contact the College for details.

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I would love to bring my family; what activities are available for children?

We don't have a formally organized program for children, but activities abound. We do have a well-organized children's concert in each of Weeks 3 and 4; children at all stages of music study are welcome as performances range from a scale (very enthusiastically received) to a fully-rehearsed chamber music piece.

Parents and children find their counterparts on campus: the younger gang is supervised by older responsible teenagers (many of whom have grown up during summers at Bennington) or available adults; sometimes, families hire one or two companions to help out. Self-organized nature walks, arts and crafts, games, puzzles, water balloons, frisbee, and other outdoor games are some of the activities available on campus, as well as rehearsals for children's concerts, for those inclined to participate.

Within a few miles of campus, Willow Park (east of campus) has a good playground, Lake Paran in North Bennington is a popular swim spot, and the historic Bennington Monument and Bennington Battlefield are Revolutionary War sites. There are several covered bridges near the main campus entrance, hiking trails in North Bennington that connect with the campus, and kayaking and tubing just a few miles away. Farther afield, within one hour's drive, are Adams Family Farm, Manchester outlets, Hildene historic home, Mount Equinox, Bromley Mountain Adventure Park, Uncle Don's Barnyard (Ioka Valley Farm), and MassMOCA. Saratoga, NY is a bit over an hour away and features the historic Revolutionary War battlefield, a children's museum, and amusement parks.

If you wish to join a formal summer camp, the Bennington Early Childhood Center (http://www.benningtonecc.org)is close by and has a day camp with half-day and full-day options for one week sessions. The Vermont Arts Exchange (http://www.vtartxchange.org) offers a variety of summer camp activities, many of which overlap with the dates of our music weeks.

See more information at the Beyond Music page.

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I live too far away to drive to Bennington; what are my options for transportation?

Albany, NY, is a transportation hub for bus (several companies provide service from New York City or Boston), train (Amtrak), and air (several airlines fly to Albany International Airport).

From Albany, you can take a rental car, a bus, or a van service to Bennington. The drive is approximately one hour.

Vermont Translines provides bus service to Bennington that can be booked as part of an itinerary on Greyhound. As of this writing, the Vermont Translines bus operates once a day. It leaves the Greyhound bus station in Albany at 2:05, picks up people at the Albany airport at 2:30, and arrives in Bennington at 3:35. Returning from Bennington, it leaves at 11:30 a.m. and gets to the airport at 12:35 pm and the bus station at 1:00 pm. Please confirm the schedule with Vermont Translines at 1-844-888-7267 or the Vermont Translines web site.

If you are taking a bus and you notify us in advance, we can arrange to pick you up on arrival at the Bennington bus terminal at 215 Pleasant Street.

To inquire about van service to Bennington College (approximately $50 one way), call Erin at 802-733-8465.

If connections through Albany are not convenient, consider flying to Boston or one of the New York City area airports and renting a car. The drive from Boston or New York to Bennington is approximately three hours.

Williamstown, MA, has bus service from the New York City Port Authority bus terminal, operated by Peter Pan Bus Lines. If you notify us in advance, we can arrange to pick you up on arrival at the Williamstown bus station.

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By what hour must I arrive at Bennington?
If I am taking a late flight, may I book a room for an extra night and arrive one day early?

All newcomers should plan to be on campus no later than 3:00 PM Sunday in order to allow time for registering and unpacking in advance of the orientation meeting. You may be able to book a room the night before, but you must contact our office as early as possible in the spring to reserve your room; early openings for Week 4 can be sold out by July. There is no option for early arrivals for Week 1, but motels and B&Bs close to campus offer alternatives under these circumstances.

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I am reluctant to take my instrument on a plane; is it possible to rent a quality instrument in the area?

We recommend that string players contact:

Wind players can contact Bruce Faller at Faller Music Company, on North Street in Bennington, at 802-442-4977 or on Facebook.

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What if I need urgent repairs to my instrument while on campus?

We will provide a list of resources in your welcome letter, which you will receive in June.

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Must I buy all the music for my coaching groups? Some pieces are very expensive!

Most of the literature is public domain and is available inexpensively at music stores or online sites. Free parts and scores for music that is off-copyright is available on several websites. In addition, public libraries in major cities have large chamber music collections for lending. We will include detailed information about music sources when we send you your assignments.

If you indicate interest in being coached on a commissioned work by a Composer-in-Residence or a Composition Fellow, and you are selected, then we will send you a part and a score in advance of the Conference, free of charge.

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This is a vacation, right?

We think so, but if you are attending as a participant, the Conference is definitely a vacation that requires advance preparation and a commitment to your coaching sessions. You must attend all coaching sessions for the duration of the session – please do not schedule business or personal activities during coaching hours.

Outside of coaching sessions, your time is free. Most participants arrange to play chamber music with others during some parts of the day, but this is a joy, not an obligation. You can choose instead to nap, walk, hike, bike, play tennis, swim, use the college exercise facility, visit the library, go shopping, browse the internet, sit on the quiet lawn and watch the view, read a book, or engage in conversation: the pleasures of the college campus, downtown Bennington, and the bucolic surroundings are many and yours to enjoy.

If you wish to forgo coaching and have all of your time free for playing or for any other activities, you can attend as an auditor.

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The Chamber Music Conference and Composers’ Forum of the East, Inc.
Tobias Werner, Music Director
Donald Crockett, Senior Composer-in-Residence
Marilyn Bell, Executive Director

212-927-5053  •  cmceast@cmceast.org
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