Geneva Music Festival’s Native Sons and Daughter Staying Busy, Practicing their Craft

The inception of the Geneva Music Festival (GMF), in 2011, was only one weekend long, and featured gifted musicians that included three Geneva natives: violinist and Festival founder Geoffrey Herd, violinist Eliot Heaton and cellist Hannah Collins. Ten years later, Herd is the director of a now three-week-long festival, and Collins and Heaton have returned for nearly every season. No one could have expected a global pandemic would postpone their plans to celebrate GMF’s tenth anniversary in person. It comes as no surprise, however, that all three continue to keep in touch with each other and the music they love as they revise plans to celebrate with the Finger Lakes community. We hope you find it interesting to see how they have spent the past couple of months in isolation, and the music they’re enjoying during this time.

Herd is a lecturer of violin at the University of Tennessee and had to move his teaching to an online format beginning in March. “My studentsGeoff Herd did well and, if anything, practiced more than usual as other obligations faded,” reflected Herd. He’s also been using technology to connect with colleagues and friends. He notes, “Esther Park (a GMF featured pianist for several seasons) and I have been collaborating on video recordings, and I’ve been publishing videos from our archives for GMF.” Among recent videos he’s shared is one of himself with Hannah Collins and Esther Park from a tour they did in the fall.

While cooking and eating dinner, Herd likes to listen to The Bill Evans Trio.

He explains, “Their music has a wonderful vibe and eases the stress of being at home 24/7!”

Collins is a cello professor at the University of Kansas School of Music, and also moved instruction online at the end of the semester.  “While it’s amazing how much can be done via the internet, nothing replaces live one-on-one instruction and performance,” she says. She used the opportunity to introduce her students to some of her professional cellist colleagues via online Q&A sessions and master classes.

She has been having regular FaceTime and Zoom hangouts with her family and friends to stay connected and has also been playing video chamber music with some colleagues.  “I’m lucky enough to be living with Clara Lyon (who has performed at GMF in the past) so we are able to play violin and cello chamber music together. In recent weeks, we’ve done several online performances.” For her enjoyment, she has taken advantage of free presentations such as the Strauss opera “Der Rosenkavalier” on the Metropolitan Opera’s free nightly livestream, and the Dvorak Seventh Symphony on The Berliner Philharmoniker Digital Concert Hall. For inspiration, she’s also turned to favorite videos of Aretha Franklin paying tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, as well as a famous moment in baseball history, Ichiro Suzuki’s tremendous catch. “I’ve also listened to lots of ’70s and ’80s pop as a cooking and cleaning soundtrack,” adds Collins.

Heaton, concertmaster of the Michigan Opera Theatre, says he’s “been trying to memorize a page or so of music every day to give my brain and my hands something to do.” He has worked his way through some Ysaÿe, a number of movements of solo Bach, and several caprices by Wieniawski and Paganini. “These are all things that are very satisfying to play by myself and normally there is not enough practice time available to do them justice,” says Heaton, adding, “I’m also working on a transcription of a great Sonny Stitt version of “I Got Rhythm,” which is something else that I was never able to find enough time for, once I finished school.” A sample of some of the pieces he’s been working on is available online.

Heaton also listens to jazz in the evenings, including “Kind of Blue,” “Something Else,” “Moanin’,” Study in Brown,” and “Sketches of Spain” classic albums that provide him with a mixture of engagement and comfort.

He is also finding time to collaborate with other musicians, including his wife, violinist Ran Cheng, with whom he’s recorded duos for the first time. His colleagues from the opera have been doing various projects together to stay connected and have something fun to do. “Everyone seems to be at different stages of figuring out how to play together from remote locations. No matter how well it’s done, I think that we can all agree that it does not come close to the experience of a live event with everyone in the same room. I miss being able to play with other musicians, and we all miss having an audience to play for!”

Over the next few months, the Geneva Music Festival will offer performances and interactive discussions through audio and video recordings as well as live-streamed formats so you will still be able to connect with many of your favorite GMF artists. The latest updates will soon be posted at



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