The Play Every Town Project
Pianist David Feurzeig to play a free concert in every town in Vermont between May 2022 and December 2026
Live music is back after a long Covid pause. Great! But existing touring models are not sustainable. Like so much of our everyday fossil-fuel-intensive culture, touring needs to change rapidly and radically if we are to maintain a livable world. Long-distance jet-dependent concertizing is not limited to star performers: for academic musicians as well, like me, there are incentives to fly, fly, fly. The farther the gig, the more prestige and promotion/tenure brownie points earned—even at UVM, my green-branded employer. (Look at my bio right here, I still boast about my premiere in Dresden! my performance in Bangkok!)
But I’ve given up flying. I’ll have to travel to the rest of my gigs by public transit or in my solar-powered EV, and that’s going to narrow my radius; passenger boat service to Asia isn’t what it used to be. And there’s so much beauty and variety right here in Vermont. I think about what Thoreau said: “I have traveled a good deal in Concord.” So I decided to play 251 concerts in my little home state.
I hope this tour will amplify the actions I’m taking in response to the climate crisis. The solution is not individual action, obviously, but there’s no solution without it. When I decided to stop flying, at first I kept quiet—because who wants to be a scold, holier-than-thou, making people feel bad about going to see Grandma? Then I realized that the only thing more maddeningly, laughably insignificant than me not taking a flight here and there would be me not taking those flights…and not telling anyone. We need to normalize behavior that’s currently fringe, and that doesn’t happen in silence.
This project is also a reaction to Covid. In November 2021 I played my first full-length solo gig since the start of the pandemic. I felt rusty! I asked myself what would be the opposite of not performing a single recital for over two years. How about 251 in under five?
While Vermont’s local communitarian ethic is easily exaggerated and often idealized, it’s a real thing. But the sense of community and place is threatened here as everywhere. I want to support the vibrancy of village centers and downtowns by performing in places where live music isn’t often heard anymore.
In that spirit, I will tailor each concert to its place in some way, by accompanying a local musician in a piece or two, or playing music by a local composer where possible. Every program will be different at least in some part.
OK, every town in Vermont. But for a pianist, that’s easier said than done. The median town in Vermont has about 1300 inhabitants, and towns that size don’t necessarily have a decent piano in a public space. (I live in a town of over 1900 that doesn’t.)
My preference will always be to find a good acoustic instrument in good working order. Living rooms are eligible! Where there is no viable option, I will use an electronic keyboard. But I welcome tips and suggestions: if you know a good place to play, especially in smaller communities, please let me know!
I am not the first person to think of this. In the 1980s, to celebrate its 50th year, the Vermont Symphony launched “Project 251,” sending chamber groups to every Vermont municipality and earning national publicity. Pretty sure I’ll be the first individual performer to do it though.
Music aside, visiting all 251 municipalities in Vermont has become something of a sport. The 251 Club of Vermont builds a community around this pastime, with resources and ideas for those interested in exploring the Brave Little State.
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About the Artist
Composer-pianist David Feurzeig specializes in wide-ranging, genre-defying recitals that bring together music of an astonishing variety of musical styles, from ancient and classical to jazz, avant-garde, and popular traditions. These striking juxtapositions, peppered with informative and humorous commentary, create eye- and ear-opening programs that change how audiences hear all kinds of music—attracting new audiences to so-called “classical” concerts and bringing new insight to existing enthusiasts.
David is the silver medalist of the 2001 World Championship Old-Time Piano Playing Contest and recipient of the 2003 “Best New Rag” competition of the Old-Time Music Preservation Association (OM-PA). Since moving to Vermont in 2008, he has enjoyed working with local groups as both performer and composer. He has been performed with and been commissioned by groups including the Vermont Symphony Orchestra, the Vermont Contemporary Music Ensemble, and the Bella Voce Women’s Choir.
His own music has been performed throughout the United States as well as in New Zealand, Asia, and Europe. His Songs of Love and Protest were selected by the Dresden Chamber Chorus for the city’s 800th jubilee in 2006 and premiered in the fabled Semper Opera House. His work has been awarded the Silver Medal of the Royal Academy of Arts (London), the Hugh MacColl and Thomas Hoopes prizes from Harvard University, as well as grants from the American Composer’s Forum, Meet the Composer, and the Vermont Arts Council. A CD of his chamber music, Lingua Franca, is available on AMR/Naxos.
David is currently a Professor of Music at UVM, where he teaches composition and theory. While he is “from away” and thus will never be a Vermonter, he intends to grow old and die here.