The NMF Experience

The National Music Festival has been called “boot camp for the Beethoven crowd.” You can expect an intense schedule, fabulous mentors and colleagues, an enthusiastic audience, a supportive community, and a great deal of learning!

The Festival begins with an orientation session, followed by orchestra rehearsals. Rehearsals generally take place in morning and afternoon blocks. You may receive private lessons, at your mentor’s discretion and only if you want them. Lessons are scheduled directly with your mentor. There will be at least one performance each day, usually at 7:00 p.m. The middle Sunday of the Festival is a day off, with no rehearsals. The season concludes with a finale concert on the final Saturday, and you are free to leave either after the concert or the next morning. (Housing is provided through the morning after the finale concert.)

Repertoire ranges from small chamber ensembles to large symphony orchestra, and everything in between. If you are accepted as an apprentice, you will have access to download parts for the upcoming season’s repertoire. Your part assignments are at your mentor’s discretion, and will be communicated to you via email. If you have any questions that are not answered in your acceptance letter, please feel free to email Festival staff at any time at

You will also have opportunities to perform repertoire of your own choosing, whether it is a solo work or a chamber ensemble that you put together with colleagues after arriving at the Festival. All apprentices will have the option of auditioning to perform on the “Potpourri” concert, and to perform at community events including the Chestertown Farmers Market. We sometimes also schedule impromptu concerts in the community when there is interest from apprentices in performing short programs for this purpose.

Additional Information

Traveling to Chestertown

If possible, we recommend that you bring your car with you to Chestertown. Chestertown is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. If you need to fly, the closest airports to Chestertown are the Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and the Philadelphia International Airport (PHL), which are each about a one and a half hour drive from Chestertown. We offer shuttles from the Baltimore and Philadelphia airports (only); details will be provided in your acceptance letter, along with a link to reserve a seat on the shuttle. There is no cost to you for the shuttle service.


Housing is provided in the dormitories at Washington College or in private homes in the Chestertown area. Accepted apprentices will receive a housing questionnaire to fill out so that we may match guests and hosts appropriately. Apprentices are expected to treat their hosts with respect — hosts have been generous enough to open their homes to Festival musicians and receive no compensation for doing so! Most hosts are able to provide laundry facilities, internet access, and sometimes kitchen facilities. Hosts are not required to provide meals, although some do invite their guests to eat with them when schedules permit. Hosts are also not required to provide transportation.

Age Restrictions

The age of most apprentices ranges from 20 — 30. All apprentices must be 18 years of age or older. There is no upper age limit.


  • Bring your own black music stand.
  • Perfume or cologne should not be worn at performances.
  • Musicians who come late or forget their sheet music must buy a round of drinks for everyone in their section after that evening’s performance. For Festival activities, always arrive sober and on time.
  • Participants at the National Music Festival are ambassadors to the community. Please interact with the Kent County citizens, hosts, volunteers, and visitors.
  • Obey all local laws and ordinances.
  • When eating at the restaurants offering discounted menu items, please calculate your tip on the original cost. If you are under 21 years of age, do not ask to be served alcoholic beverages.

International Students

The National Music Festival welcomes apprentices from all over the world. However, we are not able to assist with procuring a visa for your stay in the United States. If you are an international student with questions about the Festival, please feel free to contact us at