Read This Before Starting Your Chamber Music Group (Read It If You’re Already In One, Too) – Kathleen Costello | Ep. 44

Kathleen + Ryan




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This week on the podcast, we have another installment of “Freeway Philharmonic”. This episode features Kathleen Costello. Although Kathleen is currently the principal clarinetist of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra, she is also a member of IonSound Project, a chamber music ensemble that she helped to found, based in Pittsburgh, PA.

Kathleen has been a part of this group for over 10 years, and she has a lot of experience and wisdom to share with us about starting a group, coming up with new and innovative program ideas, and some of the unforeseen difficulties of being in a self-run group. Here are a few takeaways from our conversation:

It Isn’t About The Money

Kathleen mentions several times in this episode that being a part of IonSound is not about making money. For her and the others in the group, it is a space for them to push their creative and technical abilities, and to try to create something new and worthwhile for people to enjoy. Being free from the distraction of making money allows the group to consider all avenues of expression; they aren’t limited to what they think others want them to do. 

Having other jobs allows them to be free from the concern for turning a profit, but the concept still applies to all of us. Finding a way to be true to your own creative spirit is essential in being able to create something that is unique, vibrant, and meaningful.

Everyone Is A Leader

One aspect of being in a chamber music group that can be difficult to navigate is the lack of a designated leader. Unlike a major ensemble, which defers to the conductor for it’s artistic concerns, a chamber group has to be able to resolve artistic differences respectfully. Developing a culture that includes honesty, respect, and having thick skin is paramount to the success of a chamber music ensemble.

Everyone Has To Pitch In

In a self run group that is trying to put on successful concerts, the responsibility of marketing, set up, printing programs, and other managerial tasks will fall onto the musicians too. This adds an element of difficulty that isn’t always anticipated when starting a chamber ensemble. Kathleen recommends working to balance that workload, and trying to assign certain responsibilities to members who have strengths in that area.

For example, if a member is very outgoing, they might be successful in the market and PR related tasks. Someone who is very organized might do well with typing up the program notes, making sure they get printed off, and then leading the set up of the venue on concert day. Trying to balance towards the strengths of your members will make all the difference in how successful the group is completing the non-artistic concerns for the ensemble.

Connect With Kathleen!

I hope you enjoyed this episode. If you did, please leave a rating/review in iTunes, and share this post on social media! If you want to learn more about Kathleen, here are a few places you can find her:

Kathleen’s website –

Kathleen’s Instagram –

IonSound Project’s website –

IonSound Project’s Instagram –

Thanks for listening!

Until next time,