For Taconic Music, a new beginning

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MANCHESTER — The brand-new Taconic Music mugs on the living room coffee table in Ariel Rudiakov and Joana Genova's Manchester Village home say "where music meets life."

They don't say "festival."

And Rudiakov and Genova, who are co-directors and teachers as well as musicians (viola and violin, respectively), emphasize that their goal is for their fledgling organization to be a year-round presence in the community — one that also happens to run a music festival and an education program for aspiring chamber music students in the summer.

"We don't like to apply limitations," said Rudiakov, who is also director of the Danbury (Conn,) Symphony Orchestra.

Taconic Music's founders and directors are excited about the four-week festival they will present from June 25 through July 16, running concurrently with an educational program for nine chamber music students.

But they're just as excited about the community concerts that they'll be performing at schools throughout the region and at Manchester Community Library.

They'll play music Brazilian and Andean folk music mixed with western classical elements in the string quartets of Heitor Villa-Lobos and Gabriela Lena Frank, as well as the Argentinian tango of Astor Piazzolla, contemporary American composer Andy Akiho's music for marimba and string quartet, Russell Peck's "Don't Tread On Me or on My String Quartet" and Katy Czar's arrangement of "YYZ" by the Canadian rock band Rush, with Matt Gold joining the strings on drums.

There will be a total of three concerts coming up this week at MCL: 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, April 5, and at 10:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 8. The 10:30 a.m. concert is geared towards families.

Rudiakov and Genova, who also teaches at Williams College, are a couple who very much love what they do.

"When you bring the music and you see reactions from people who are disabled, who are veterans, who are children and offer it in some way that's not exclusive and difficult to attain, it really helps," Rudiakov said.

"It's about the music. ... I'm happy to play for free," Genova said. "If you tell me let's go play Shaw's in the grocery aisle by the vegetables, I'll go and play by the vegetables to keep people smiling."

It's a new beginning for the couple, who parted with Manchester Music Festival in September under circumstances which neither MMF nor the couple has disclosed.

There is a notable wrinkle in the schedule: The Sunday, June 25 series opener will feature Richard Strauss' Piano Quartet in C minor — which MMF will also play in their opening performance on Thursday, July 6. Rudiakov said he was not aware of MMF's schedule when he set the Taconic program.

Ariel Rudiakov's late father, cellist Michael Rudiakov, was director of MMF from 1985 through 2000, when he passed away. Ariel said he helped his father through his last few years as director. With Genova as his partner, he led MMF for 16 years, until last fall.

That family legacy does carry emotional weight, and the couple spoke about the experience.

"It meant a great deal to my mother [as well as his father] because she had every bit as much to do with the foundations of [MMF] as anybody. The fact remains it's the Rudiakovs who incorporated that organization into a not for profit ... MMF every day exists thanks to Michael and Judy Rudiakov," he said.

Rudiakov did not describe any details of the split. But they talked about the choice that he and Genova faced afterwards — and the freedom it gave them to set a new course.

"We're not unique in situations like this. It seems to happen. ... Should it or should it not happen, we can't comment," he said. "But you have a choice. You can decide if you want to continue, or set down your foot and say 'look, this has meant a lot to a lot of people, not just ourselves,' and continue the traditions."

When faced with the challenge of starting over, "What falls away is really quite astonishing," Rudiakov said. "If you have an opportunity to get yourself kicked in the butt when you're at a certain age, 40- and 50-something, then it's probably a decent opportunity to test yourself, you know? It's not necessarily a bad thing. Scary? Yeah. But you can stagnate if you stand still."

He added: "A lot of what we had been doing was really, really good work and I'll stand by it."

In the meantime, the groundswell of community support that has followed has been an emotional uplift.

"It means the world to me," Rudiakov said of the support he and Genova have received since last fall.

"It's really heartwarming to know so many people believe in you, they appreciate what you do as a musician, as an educator, as a colleague, as a parent, as a neighbor ... because we are all those things," Genova said. "It means we have to work harder too ... for everybody who has supported us to, to show that it was not for nothing."

Taconic Music's festival will host concerts on Sundays at 4 p.m. between Sunday, June 25 and Sunday, July 16 at Burr and Burton Academy's Riley Center for the Arts. The final concert will feature students from the program's Chamber Music Intensive joining the faculty for a performance of Bach's Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G major.

Tickets are $25 for adults and $10 for children, a price the couple said they set in order to keep the performances affordable for families to attend. They said they can afford to do so because they have no overhead — there's no paid staff, and the couple is not collecting a salary.

The festival will also offer free admission to its open rehearsals.

Reach Journal editor Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000.

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