Our history

The Society for Chamber Music in Rochester, the oldest chamber music society in the area, was founded in 1977 by Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra violinist Richard Luby and acoustical engineer and music lover John Bouyoucos. In 1977, there was no outlet for faculty members of the Eastman School of Music or players in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra to perform chamber music repertoire together. SCMR provided an opportunity for the community to hear these musicians, as well as selected local and visiting artists, in performances of the great works of chamber music of all periods and styles.

The first venue for SCMR was the George Eastman House; pre-concert lectures were given in the living room and concerts were presented in the Marble Room. Five concerts a year, a summer series at Sonnenberg Gardens in Canandiagua, and runouts to Geneva and other Western New York towns were all a part of the first twenty-five years of SCMR’s history. Concert Royal was in residence for two weeks in spring as SCMR presented a Baroque Festival from 1979-1989. 

In 1988, the George Eastman House underwent a total restoration and the House was no longer available for concerts. The Memorial Art Gallery was procured as the SCMR’s new home through the work of Joan Morgan, a member of the SCMR’s board and the Gallery’s board. Over the past decade, other venues have been used when called for by the repertoire, such as the Hochstein Performance Hall, Lyric Theatre, and CityView Ballroom at the Strathallan.

Over the past decade, SCMR has continued to bring vibrant music to an appreciative audience. The tenure of the Artistic Directors permits the repertoire to expand to the new and contemporary while reconnecting us with the masters. 

In addition to concerts, SCMR has an award-winning outreach program for primary and secondary school students, in which students participate in master classes and conversations with the musicians. The Young Composers Composition Competition was started in 2003 as a regional high school competition, and expanded in 2007 to include a college-level competition. A winning composition is always performed as part of one of the series concerts. We have established an Outreach Program with area schools that brings chamber music to students, and we provide financial support for a chamber group of young people studying at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance. 

The prestigious CMAcclaim award, presented to SCMR in our 35th year by the international organization Chamber Music America, is a reward for decades advocacy for chamber music.

Stefan Reuss, Joe Werner, Margaret Lili, Jim Willet, and Don Hunsberger

Staff history

2013-present: Julianna Athayde and Erik Behr, Artistic Directors

2001-2013: Joseph Werner and Stefan Reuss, Co-Artistic

2000-2001: Joseph Werner and Ilya Kaler, Co-Artistic Directors

1997-98: Nancy Howe Webster, Assistant Artistic Director and
Administrative Assistant

1994-95: Deborah Dunham, Artistic Director
James Dunham, Music Advisor

1992-93: Andrzej Grabiec, Music Director
Deborah Dunham, Assistant Music Director
Nancy Howe Webster, Administrative Assistant

1988-89: Nancy Howe Webster, Administrative Director

1987-88: James Richman, Artistic Director, Baroque Festival
Ann Siller Sherman, Administrative Director

1986-87: Richard Luby, Assistant Artistic Director, Baroque

1983-84: Sharon Hicks, Administrative Assistant

1982-83: Lynn Richmond, Assistant Music Director

1980-81: Michael Webster, Music Director

1978-79: Richard Luby, Music Director