The Serafin Summer Music Program Spotlights Top Musicians

Featured courtesy of the Music School of Delaware

Delaware’s Serafin Summer Music program draws classical chamber performers from around the country.

For three weekends each summer, Delaware residents and visitors are treated to the dulcet sounds of classical chamber music performed by world-renowned musicians from across the United States. These concerts, part of the Serafin Summer Music program, feature 15 different artists, including vocalists and instrumentalists playing the violin, viola, cello, double bass, flute, oboe, clarinet, piano or harpsichord. Pieces performed include those by Mozart, Stravinsky, Mendelssohn and others.

“These musicians are a truly stellar and engaging group of individuals—experts at collaborative music-making,” Serafin’s violinist and artistic director Kate Ransom says.

The Serafin Summer Music Festival offers chamber music over three weekends and features performances from world-famous musicians who travel to Delaware from across the country to take part. From left: Hal Grossman, violin; Kate Ransom, violin; Charae Krueger, cello; and Amadi Azikiwe, viola.
The Serafin Summer Music Festival offers chamber music over three weekends and features performances from world-famous musicians who travel to Delaware from across the country to take part. From left: Hal Grossman, violin; Kate Ransom, violin; Charae Krueger, cello; and Amadi Azikiwe, viola. Courtesy of the Music School of Delaware.

Serafin String Quartet was founded in 2001, serving as the quartet in residence at the University of Delaware for nearly 10 years. This quartet grew into a flexible roster of chamber musicians (string, wind, brass, piano and vocalists) from around the nation and world. Filling a gap after the Delaware Chamber Music Festival folded, the inaugural Serafin Summer Music season launched in 2019 with the support of The Music School of Delaware.

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“The concept for Serafin Summer Music was to bring artists who are chamber music experts to Delaware from across the country, and have them stay with local hosts, giving them an opportunity for deep engagement with local music lovers, businesses and other arts organizations,” Ransom says.

Serafin Summer Music performances take place Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from June 9 to 25 at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington, The Clubhouse at Baywood in Millsboro and Bethel United Methodist Church in Lewes.

Kate Ransom, artistic director of Serafin Summer Music and violinist.
Kate Ransom, artistic director of Serafin Summer Music and violinist. Courtesy of Falvia Loreto.

Music is in the heritage of some of the Serafin musicians, including Amadi Azikiwe, a violinist, violist and conductor from New York City who has performed with Serafin Summer Music since its inception. His mother, Armenta Adams (Hummings) Dumisani, went to Juilliard, founded the Gateways Music Festival in Rochester, New York, and always inspired him to make music, teaching him about the importance of live performances.

“There’s no question everyone can gain something by going to a live performance,” Azikiwe explains. “There’s something about the classics. …It’s an unbelievable example of people working in tandem for the greater good.”

Most of the Serafin musicians have worked together in the past, and many say that each performance feels like a reunion of old friends. “Every person has something positive to contribute,” Azikiwe says. “It’s a learning experience, as there are no easy pieces in our repertoire. All of us have to be willing to listen and react while holding on to our own part but also meshing with the other artists. You have to be solid but also flexible. The energy I feel performing with other artists is what makes me love performing. The relationship musicians have with each other is important, but the electricity the audience gives us is what makes a performance!”

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Several of Serafin’s performers travel long distances to take part (including as far as Oregon this year), although some call Delaware home, including Gus Mercante, Serafin’s festival manager and vocalist, who started singing as a student at St. Anthony’s in Wilmington.

Mercante will pull double duty this year, as part of the series includes offering master classes for young musicians to learn from Serafin’s career performers. One of Mercante’s early inspirations was Jean Scalessa, his teacher and mentor from his grade-school days in Wilmington. “I think our teachers are so important, and that’s why I love teaching,” Mercante says. “Teachers are often the first people to breathe belief into a young person, to say, ‘You can do this.’”

Serafin’s artists in residence will also have the opportunity to explore the Brandywine Valley’s rich cultural scene. “We are expanding our partnerships to include our area’s special attractions, museums and horticultural offerings,” Ransom explains. “Our area is full of beauty and interesting, unique attractions. The more we collaborate on promoting that, the more Delaware will be known as an arts and culture destination.”

Participating musicians say they gain a sense of camaraderie as they tackle difficult pieces together. Here, cellist Charae Krueger joins pianist Victor Asuncion.
Participating musicians say they gain a sense of camaraderie as they tackle difficult pieces together. Here, cellist Charae Krueger joins pianist Victor Asuncion. Courtesy of the Music School of Delaware.

In addition, Serafin Summer Music also explores opportunities to involve other Delaware artists, including photographer Flavia Loreto. This summer, in conjunction with its Italiana! concerts (June 16 and 17), Loreto’s portrait photo exhibit Resonance will be on display through June 30 at The Music School of Delaware’s Wilmington location.

“A project like Serafin Summer Music both reflects and serves the people it reaches, and ignites a flame of connection between people, organizations, businesses and the arts in a manner that can’t be replicated,” Ransom says. “Bringing the richness of all the arts has to offer to our area helps transform Delaware into a recognized place for arts and culture—a place to experience the sweetness of what humanity has created and what the arts continue to bring to life.”

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