Historic farm brings classical music to the masses

Catherine Psarakis, left, with pianist Leona Cheung.

BURRILLVILLE –  Playing classical music was always a passion for Virginia Sindelar, but a devastating car accident kept her from her calling for more than 20 years.

Now, the flutist has returned to her craft, and is on a mission to share her love of music with others via a series of new events at her Pascoag home dubbed, “Music at the Farm.”

An experienced musician, Sindelar has a long history with classical music, making her solo debut at the age of twelve with the Chicago Symphony String Ensemble. A pupil of Julius Baker at the Juilliard School, she later earned both BA and MS degrees, and was presented the Three Arts Award in recognition of her outstanding performance.

A Fromm Fellow at Tanglewood for three summers, Sindelar taught in the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and appeared as soloist with the Berkshire Festival Orchestra. She toured both North and South America presenting concerts and master classes and performed at the Seoul Arts Center as guest of the Korean government.

Sindelar recorded works by Mauro Giuliani and Music of the Romantic Era for flute and guitar on the Centaur and Titanic labels.

But two decades ago, the Chicago native was rear-ended while driving in Boston, sustaining injuries in the accident that would make it impossible to continue playing the flute.

That, she says, is when she decided to pursue a life involving her second love: horses.

In 1996, Sindelar purchased an 11.5 acre farm on Jackson Schoolhouse Road. The historic property, known as the Benjamin Smith homestead, is adjacent to the George Washington Management area and has been a working farm for more than 200 years.

For the past 20 years, Sindelar has taught music, and worked at building her horse farm and historic inn business.

In 2007, she worked out a cooperative agreement with the Burrillville Land Trust. Her “Grace Note Farm” would be the first town property to have a conservation easement – a contract intended to make the land and the structures on the property have the same look and feel forever.

Since that time, the land trust has hosted events during the year that include walking tours of the property as well as grave-site talks and more. And now, members of the Land Trust will take part in a new concert series featuring internationally recognized artists.

The decision, she says, came as her ability to perform music finally returned.

“I started playing the flute again, and playing concerts again, and it got pretty exciting,” Sindelar told NRI NOW. “I decided I wanted to be around other musicians. I thought it would be an appropriate time to bring world class artists into my home.”

The new concert series takes place on second Sunday of each month, and features a variety of music styles, from classical chamber music, to folk and jazz. And she’s using her experience as a classical musician to hand-pick artists who are exciting, easily absorbed, and who will appeal to first-time listeners.

“They have to be polished. They have to be motivated,” Sindelar said of her performers. “It’s their passion. It’s their life. It’s not just something they sort of do on the side.”

The flutist also requires that performers have played outside of the U.S.

In July, classical guitarist Peter Clemente performed at the farm.

“It’s rewarding to see the audiences love it so much,” Sindelar said. “They’re thrilled to death.”

The musician, turned farmer, turned hybrid of the two, says her goal is to have students in the area exposed to high level performing.

“They have no idea what it is,” she said, noting that normally, families would have to travel to Boston for a similar music experience with tickets costing up to $100. The events are child-friendly and Sindelar says she hopes to collaborate with the Burrillville school system in the future. “It’s really embracing the culture of music.”

And she says you don’t need to be a fan of classical music to enjoy the experience. Concerts last just one hour and are followed by food, drink, tours of the property and visits with the farm animals.

“It’s a more relaxed atmosphere,” Sindelar said. “It has to pass my standards of ‘interesting to almost anybody.'”

The next concert is Sunday, Aug. 12, when soprano Catherine Psarkis will perform My Favorite Arias and more. Psarkis participated in Music Theater Bavaria in Oberaudorf, Germany under the direction of Richard Owens, where she performed scenes in German including the role of Zdenka from Arabella.

Catherine Psarakis, left, with pianist Leona Cheung.

She also was a part of “Si parla, si canta” in Urbania, Italy under the direction of Benton Hess, where she performed scenes from Italian and English roles including Adina from L’elisir d’amore, Violetta from La Traviata, Nannetta from Falstaff, Lucia from Lucia di Lammermooor, and Cunegonde from Candide. At Rollins, she performed as Papagena from The Magic Flute.

On August 12, she will be accompanied by pianist Leona Cheung.

The concert begins at 2 p.m., and the tour of the property begins at 3:15 p.m., and lasts about 30 minutes. Music themed desserts will be served for a donation, and Sindelar says there will be time to meet and talk with the musicians in “a very relaxed bucolic setting.”

On Sunday Sep. 9, violinist David Bernat, with pianist Jialong Li, playing Ravel, Handel, Mozart and Brahms.

For Sindlar, it’s a chance to finally unite her two passions, and share them with the community.

“It’s an opportunity for people at a very affordable price to be exposed to very high quality music,” she said.

The schedule, available here, is planned through December.

Tickets for Music at the Farm cost $20, or $10 for students, and are available at the door or in advance here. The farm concert hall is wheelchair accessible.

For more information call 401 567-0354.

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