The Luzerne Music Center comes alive during the summer months, with students sprawled around the rustic campus rehearsing, their music drifting around the camp throughout the day.
This season, the campus has become a refuge for two Ukrainian musicians: Sergiy Dvornichenko and Mykyta Seleznov, both of whom were residents of Kharkiv when Russia invaded.
Seleznov, a 14-year-old clarinet student, is attending LMC’s junior session. Dvornichenko, a clarinetist, has been an LMC instructor since 2018 and is a long-time member of the Glens Falls Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Ukraine, Dvornichenko came to the United States at a young age and studied at the Yale School of Music and Oberlin Conservatory of Music. He’s spent years performing in the Northeast as well as in Ukraine. He also co-founded Muzichna Maysternya, a music festival in Ukraine.
He had been living in Ukraine during the pandemic and when Russian troops invaded the country in February. He and his family were able to escape to Poland within the first few days. They also worked to get the Ukrainian Youth Academic Orchestra of Kharkiv, which Dvornichenko’s brother manages, out as well.
The LMC community stepped up to help. Elizabeth Pitcairn, a violin virtuoso as well as the artistic director and CEO of LMC, had played with the orchestra many times over the last few years and started fundraising to get the musicians to safety.
She helped to raise around $10,000 to get the musicians across the border to Poland, no easy feat considering some of the musicians were men of draft age. The orchestra is currently touring the country, performing Ukrainian music and raising money for relief efforts.
Looking back at the experience of leaving Ukraine, Dvornichenko said it took a long time to process.
“From water to food, you have a huge city and then everything shuts down in a matter of days. . . . I didn’t actually realize after I was out to Poland how much it hit me in the process because you’re on adrenaline 24/7,” Dvornichenko said. “It took me a couple of weeks to start sleeping normally.”
“The emotional impact of it . . . you suppress it and just go. Just do your thing. But then later, you go through unraveling all of that. I think that’s just the beginning for [the] kids, especially because a lot of them just shut down. They follow [their] parents if they have them next to them. Just having this opportunity for them to come here is hard to describe,” Dvornichenko said.
He and Pitcairn tried to keep in touch with students they knew were interested in applying to LMC and raise funds to get them there. Seleznov, whose family sought refuge in France during the war, is the only Ukrainian student able to attend camp this year, though another is slated to attend next year. Dvornichenko and Pitcairn also helped to bring a few Polish and Hungarian musicians to LMC this summer.
“This is what we can do,” Pitcairn said.
It’s a unique time in LMC’s history. The center, which dates back to 1980 and was founded by Philadelphia Orchestra cellist Bert Phillips and Steinway pianist Toby Blumenthal, has long hosted students from around the world, offering intensive workshops with professional musicians, as well as ensembles, one on one sessions and an impressive performance component. The summer is broken into a junior session and a senior session.
“We’ve always had an ongoing philosophy that everyone performs, and everyone supports each other,” Pitcairn said. “They have a short amount of time, but we prepare them for success and then they all get up and they play their pieces. And that model has been here since 1980. Our whole vision and mission haven’t changed.”
The campus, however, has changed drastically in recent years. New rustic cabins, with space enough for bathrooms, room for counselors and eight students each, were installed starting in 2020. They replaced the original cabins that adorned the grounds and were falling into disrepair.
“So many people locally and actually from around the United States and even a few internationally came forward to make this possible and it’s been a game-changer,” Pitcairn said.
“I think that when the students are more comfortable, when the staff is more comfortable, what they’re able to contribute to the program increases too so the level has increased, the retention has increased,” said Emily Dobmeier, the camp and festival director. “Many of our faculty members have been here for five-plus years, which is just wonderful because then students come back and they get to see their teachers again and work with the same teachers and that’s something that I think is special.”
Beyond the cabins, there are two practice villages, featuring a few smaller cabins where students can work through their pieces. There are also a few other performance spaces and buildings where ensembles can gather to rehearse.
Throughout the summer, LMC invites the public to come to campus, with frequent student showcases, as well as faculty performances. Beyond that, LMC also hosts the Luzerne Chamber Music Festival and offers several performances throughout the season.
“We’re very ambitious but this is the result,” Pitcairn said.
Here’s a look at the next few shows on the LMC schedule:
Student Showcase: Chamber Showcase
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
Piano Prelude and Luzerne Symphony Orchestra
WITH: Brass Choir & Orchestra
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Friday
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Friday, July 22
TICKETS: Adults $25, seniors $15, students $5 and free for those 18 and under
Featuring: Reena Esmail, Anthony DiLorenzo, Alice Jones, Kevin Puts, Grazyna Bacewicz and Antonín Dvorák.
Student Showcase: Solo Showcase
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, July 23
Piano Prelude and Luzerne Symphony Orchestra
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 24
Fabulous Philadelphians with Toby Blumenthal and Elizabeth Pitcairn
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday, July 25
TICKETS: VIP $45, adults $35, seniors $25, students $5 and free for those 18 and younger
Featuring: Toby Blumenthal on piano, Amy Oshiro on violin, Elizabeth Pitcairn on violin, David Nicastro on viola and Ricardo Morales on clarinet
The Luzerne Music Center is located at 203 Lake Tour Road in Lake Luzerne. For more information visit luzernemusic.org.