SEARSMONT — A gently sloping landscape of farmland, woods and blueberry fields on Muzzy Ridge will be the home of a new concert series hosted by composer Robert Sirota. At his light and airy home studio in the heart of the ridge, Sirota will bring together world-renowned musicians who are also his friends for a unique playing and listening experience.

Robert and Victoria Sirota built the music studio attached to their Muzzy Ridge home about 10 years ago, shown here July 30. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

On Sunday, Aug. 15, at 3 p.m., the group Duo Coquelicot will perform with Grammy-nominated flutist Carol Wincenc and Boston-based Parisian cellist Velléda, along with Sirota on piano. The program will include music by J. S. Bach, Haydn, Fauré, Debussy, Saint-Saëns and Villa-Lobos, plus a new work by Meira Warschauer. The group will also perform Sirota’s 2016 piece, “Broken Places.”

A Sunday, Aug. 22, show at 3 p.m. will feature violinist Laurie Carney and pianist David Friend performing Messiaen’s “Théme et Variations,” Prokoviev’s “Five Melodies,” “Op. 35,” Kodály’s “Adagio,” and Sirota’s “Summermusic.”

Sirota, a well-known composer who has written over 100 works, has gotten to know some of the best chamber musicians in the world. Whenever friends and fellow

A Mason and Hamlin vintage organ in the music room in Robert and Victoria Sirota’s music studio. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

musicians would visit him at his Muzzy Ridge home, the idea of playing together would arise. “This is something I’ve dreamed about for many years,” he said.

According to Sirota’s biography, he has over five decades of symphonic, choral, stage and chamber music experience, and has had works performed by orchestras across the U.S. and Europe. A native New Yorker who now calls Searsmont home, Sirota studied at Juilliard, Oberlin and Harvard and divides his time between New York and Searsmont with his wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota.

Before becoming director of the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, Sirota served as chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and director of Boston University’s School of Music. From 2002 to 2012, he was president of Manhattan School of Music, where he was also a member of the school’s composition faculty.

One wall in Robert Sirota’s Muzzy Ridge music studio contains shelves with piles of sheet music. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

Victoria said when the couple first looked at their current Searsmont home in 1986, there was an old school bus in the yard, along with a derelict kennel, and no septic system — she remembered it as “a real mess.”

Regardless, she said, the property spoke to her and she was able to see beyond its shortcomings. They made a low but reasonable offer and eight hours later it was accepted. “It was a blessing,” she said. “It has always been magical” ever since.

The Muzzy Ridge home is the setting where Sirota has composed many of his works over the last 35 years. ​About 10 years ago, the couple built an 800-square-foot studio onto their house — something they describe as “the perfect intimate venue for chamber music.”

This first concert installment at his Searsmont studio Sirota describes as his “beta test.” Depending on how everything goes, the music program could lead to a recurring seasonal series. Sirota said, “This is what we love, and this is the place we love, and we would like to put the two together. The plan would be to eventually do a couple of weekends or weeks in the summer, depending on how ambitious this gets. Even small concerts are a formidable logistical feat to do properly.”

Bob Sirota poses July 30 at his Muzzy Ridge music studio. Photo by Fran Gonzalez

The perfect size, Sirota said, would be around 50 to 60 people, which is ideal for chamber music. “We are taking one step at a time,” he said. “I know these are going to be beautiful concerts because I know the performers very well and the repertoire very well.”

For the Aug. 15 concert, Sirota said, he has known Wincenc for over 50 years, having met her when they were freshmen at Oberlin College. According to Sirota, she developed into one of world’s most sought-after flutists, transferring to Manhattan School of Music, then, after completing college, was recruited to the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. “And it’s been nothing but success after success after that,” he said.

The Aug.  22 performance will feature another one of Sirota’s dear friends, Laurie Carney. At the age of 8, Carney became the youngest violinist ever to be admitted to the Preparatory Division of the Juilliard School, and at 15 she was the youngest to be accepted into Juilliard’s College Division. She is a founding member of the American String Quartet, where she holds the distinction of performing quartets longer than any other woman in this elite field. She is currently professor of violin at the Manhattan School of Music.

These performances are a big deal for Sirota, who said he and his son gave their last live performance in March 2020 in Los Angeles, “before everything went dark.”

With the pandemic, there is also much pent-up energy to perform and to attend a live concert, he said. Given the uncertainty of the moment, he said, the ideal way to go to a concert is in a controlled environment with a small audience. “So we’re going to make lemonade — what can I say?” he said.

“All four of these people are just about as good as it gets anywhere, anytime,” Sirota said. “They have all had tremendously distinguished careers.”

Both concerts will run approximately 60 minutes without an intermission. All guests will be required to wear masks for the performance inside Sirota’s well-ventilated studio. Tickets are $20 for indoor seating with a capacity limited to 35 vaccinated guests, with some additional outdoor patio seating (also for vaccinated patrons only) available for $10.

To order tickets, visit For more information on Robert Sirota, visit

filed under: