Through scholarships to arts students, Falks help keep music in the mix


Sigo and Jean Falk with Amy Pikler. Photo by Lauren Rock.

Sydney Maltese | Staff Writer

It’s no secret — though the outside world may think classical music is dying, those on the grounds know it is alive and well at Chautauqua.

The Falk family certainly believes so. Each year, the Falk Scholarship Fund supports one of the many students studying the arts at Chautauqua. This year, the scholarship was awarded to Amy Pikler, a violist in the School of Music.

“I had heard about the program through other people who have gone here,” she said. “I was looking for a program that provided merit scholarships for music study, and Chautauqua offered that.”

The natural setting of Chautauqua was also appealing to Pikler.

Chautauquan Sigo Falk, chairman of the Falk Foundation, is similarly drawn to the  beauty of the grounds and the music scene. An avid hiker and walker, Falk enjoys the trails of Chautauqua County as much as he enjoys the classical music the Institution offers.

“Chautauqua’s the kind of place that grows on you. What we do has migrated over the years. We used to do more sailing, and I used to do more running,” he said. “It happens to be that music is my thing, but my daughter spent a lot of time in the arts school.”

Falk’s daughter often enrolled in classes at the School of Art during summers at Chautauqua, and she now works as an architect.

“We’ve been in this house for 27; we’ve been coming roughly 45 years,” he said. “Jean’s mother, who would be 114 this year if she were still alive, started coming when she was 2. It does go way back.”

Falk also serves on the board of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He grew up listening to classical music and still fosters a deep appreciation for the genre.

“Somebody’s got to appreciate it for the people who play it,” he said. “The audience for classical music, nationally, is dissipating. But if you do the right program, they’ll come.”

Falk and his wife, Jean, believe Chautauqua does the right program. They often sit in the choir loft during concerts and attend student recitals at the School of Music.

Pikler and Falk share another favorite aspect of Chautauqua: the chamber music scene.

“I enjoy the fact that we get to perform chamber music, because I like playing in smaller groups and learning string quartet literature,” she said.

A rising sophomore at the University of Michigan, Pikler hails from Chicago and studies viola performance.

“I also like the fact that we do a lot of orchestra playing, which is my main goal in music — to be a violist in a major symphony orchestra,” she said.

Chautauqua has opened opportunities for Pikler that she could not get elsewhere, including collaborating with artists from other disciplines.

“I was doing two voice pieces. I accompanied two singers: a soprano and a bass. It was actually modern music. We did a piece by David Edelman, and he actually came to the performance,” she said. “It was a cool experience to do something completely different from what we normally do.”

The Music School Festival Orchestra also had the opportunity to accompany Chautauqua Festival Dancers during a performance earlier this summer.

“It was quite a neat experience,” Pikler said.

Cross-disciplinary opportunities are one of many aspects that make the School of Music an excellent summer experience for rising musicians. And the Falks understand just how crucial a music component is to the Chautauqua mix.

“It’s clearly one of the very important parts of what goes on here,” Falk said.

Thanks to the support of Falks and others, classical music at Chautauqua seems poised for a long and healthy life.