"It is different when you're the conductor's child. Everyone treats you a little cautiously," she recalled.
Her father started the apprentice program as a way a musician could play and learn alongside a paid musician. It allowed local musicians to improve and to become professional without leaving to study somewhere else. Schiff played one year as an apprentice and one year as a paid member of the orchestra.
Even as a paid member, though, she still wasn't fully committed to her music. After she transferred to Boston University, she said she realized she had only been a big fish in a small pond in Charleston. If playing music was what she wanted to do with her life, then it was time to get serious and make a commitment.
Although the visit this weekend will be a quick one, she said it will be a reunion of sorts. Schiff's college roommate is driving down from Morgantown to see the show, and another friend is driving up from Richmond, Va. But, most important, her mother is flying in from Atlanta to be here, in their former hometown, to watch her play.
After the concert, Schiff said she hopes she'll be able to spend time sharing memories with those who touched her life so many years ago.
As for Elysian Camerata, Schiff said the women have played together in different incarnations for 25 years, but seven years ago they made the commitment to form the group.
For years, Schiff said, they did what musicians do to pay the bills: playing bar mitzvahs, weddings, in other orchestras. But once a year they would play as a group, pouring their hearts into their love of chamber music.
After the annual concert, she said, the musicians were depressed because it would be another whole year before they could do it again. So they decided it was now or never. They would never be at a better place in their lives to try. They formed Elysian, meaning "heavenly," and they have been going strong ever since.
With a four-show season in Philadelphia, an active touring season and a new CD available on cdbaby.com, the women are pleased with their success.
The Charleston Chamber Music Association will present Elysian Camerata at 7 p.m. April 6 at Christ Church United Methodist. Tickets are $20 and may be purchased in advance at www.charlestonchambermusic.org.
Autumn D.F. Hopkins may be emailed at earthautumnd...@yahoo.com.