sonata1The Sonata is an unusual seasonal keyboard program for adults who temporarily want to escape from their daily routine by studying piano in a concentrated, creative and motivating atmosphere.

Years ago, parents of Summer Sonatina campers wanted a similar music program for themselves and other adults. The Sonatas have grown into a unique seasonal program that provides a ten — or eight — day haven for adults looking for the opportunity to focus on piano study in a concentrated, creative and motivating atmosphere. Everyone is welcome: beginner to advanced pianists, professional pianists who need more time to themselves, and piano teachers who wish to brush up on their performance skills. The professional combination of intensive practice, private and group lessons, and theory and master classes helps participants improve their musical skills significantly in a short period of time.

A unique feature of Sonata is "Monsters," ensembles made up of multiple pianos in a piano orchestra forum. This gives pianists a rare opportunity to play with as many as eight or ten other pianists. Polly says, "We've transformed a variety of piano duet settings into Monster scores and off we go for a great rollicking music experience!" The Sonatas have been the focus of many media articles and news programs. Autumn Sonata 1994 was featured in NPR Host Noah Adams' book Piano Lessons: Music, Love and True Adventures. September Sonata participant, Katie Hafner, wrote a piece on the Sonatas which appeared in the December 22, 2002 Travel Section of the New York Times. The August 2003 Sonata was featured on CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown and presented by Beth Nissen on August 29, 2003.

It's the incredible people experience that has made such a profound impression on me. Spending a week with people who love the piano — sharing pain, laughter and, most of all, music — creates a bond that brings me back again and again. I've made good friends through Sonata that I will have for a lifetime.

The Sonatas '99, '01, '02


Sonata piano camps are for beginner to advanced pianists, professional pianists who need more time to themselves, and piano teachers who wish to brush up on their performance skills in a non-competitive atmosphere. The professional combination of intensive practice, private and group lessons, and theory and master classes help participants improve their musical skills significantly in a short period of time.


Dates for 2014:


January Sonata 2014               January 17 - 26, 2014

Spring Sonata 2014                 March 28 - April 6, 2014

May Sonata 2014                     May 16 - 25, 2014

June Sonata 2014                    May 30 - June 8, 2014

Summer Sonata 2014              August 17 - 24, 2014    (8-days)

September Sonata 2014           September 19 - 28, 2014

Autumn Sonata 2014               October 24 - November 2, 2014

November Sonata 2014           November 7 - 16, 2014


About the Sonatas:



  • Held in a historic mansion in Old Bennington
  • 28 pianos in the house
  • 26 participants
  • All levels of ability, non-competitive atmosphere
  • All under one roof
  • A place where people from all walks of life can gather together with a single commonality: passion for piano



  • There are nine 10-day and three 5-day piano camps
  • Work with a number of teachers



  • 4 one-hour lessons per Sonata, different teacher every lesson (one on one piano lessons, where we work on your repertoire, your technique and refining the musical expression of the pieces you’re working on. If you are not currently working on any repertoire, we would assign new pieces for you and work on them with you while you’re at camp.)
  • 2 one-hour lessons per Intermezzo (see detail above)
  • Very supportive teaching environment



  • Polly’s sister, Tasha, invented the practice wheel at age 9
  • Rotating shifts, morning, early and late afternoon, lessons 1-1.5 hours
  • Camp chores may include: sweeping, dishes or surprise vacation!



  • These are lessons with an audience: students perform while others listen and follow the score. Faculty works with the individual and provides comments.
  • Immediate results by describing what the music is doing and how to improve technique
  • Live-streamed on our web site,



  • This is a piano orchestra with a conductor (This is music that is scored for two people at one piano but we play it with 10 people on 5 pianos all doubling and tripling up. I conduct these and the music is usually lighter and easier than the normal repertoire that people are working on because it is learned in a short amount of time. The final concert not only includes all of the participants playing their solo repertoire but also the Monster pieces.)
  • 1p4h to 5p10h! If you can’t play a particular measure, someone will cover
  • Lighter, easier music, you’ll get music when you arrive



  • Classes are held every morning, not conflicting with your practice time. Topics include basic to advanced theory, lectures on music and art interpretation, learning the blues, technique, how to approach contemporary (and avant garde) music, as well as setting up a dress rehearsal for the final concert.



  • You will receive coachings with a duet coach and we can partner you with an individual who is a good sight-reader or can pre-plan a duet with a former attendee.



  • Sonata programs culminate in a final (optional) concert on Saturday
  • Other opportunities to perform: duet concert night, master classes, open rehearsal
  • Discussions about performance anxiety
  • This is a private concert, just for Sonata folks, and we celebrate with a Victory Party


The Sonatas - A piano camp for adults

The Sonata is an unusual seasonal keyboard program for adults who temporarily want to escape from their daily routine by studying piano in a concentrated, creative and motivating atmosphere.
A unique live-in  program that provides an eight- or ten-day haven for adults looking for the opportunity to focus on piano study in a concentrated, creative and motivated atmosphere.

Sonatas include 4 lessons, master and theory classes, duet coaching, faculty concerts, and the final participant concert on Saturday. These programs have from 14-26 numbers of participants. Theory group classes, master classes and workshops round out the program.

Length:Friday 4:00 pm (except the Summer Sonata which is only 8-days long, starting Sunday afternoon) until after breakfast on Sunday 11 am. 9 nights and total of 10 days.

Number of lessons: 4

Number of master classes:at least 2, plus morning theory and group classes

Number of participants:  minimum of 14, maximum 24


A typical day at the Sonatas:

8:00-9:00 am              Wake up and breakfast

9:00-10:30 am             First practice shift and/or private lesson

10:30-12:00 pm          Group class (theory, history of music, scales, chords, etc.)

12:00-1:00 pm             Lunch

1:00-2:30 pm              Second practice shift and/or private lesson

2:30-4:00 pm              Sightseeing or other planned event/or free time

4:00-5:00 pm              Third practice shift/or private lesson

5:00-6:00 pm              Monster rehearsals or jamming sessions

5:00-7:00 pm              Pre-dinner chatter and happy hour

7:00-8:00 pm              Gourmet dinner

During the evenings musical discussions, concerts, master classes or lectures are presented by the Sonata Faculty.

Frequently Asked Questions – The Sonatas


Q: What is included in the Sonata program fee?

 A: Your fee includes dormitory-style accommodations (2 to 5 people per room) and three meals per day for the length of the program, as well as a series of private lessons, master classes, workshops and performances. At the end of each session, attendees participate in an afternoon recital which gives them the opportunity to showcase what they have learned during the week. CD recordings of the recital are available afterwards for a small additional fee.

Q: How are roommates assigned?
A: Participants are grouped by gender, with two to five people per room. Requests for roommate assignments will be honored wherever possible. There is no smoking allowed within the house.

Q: I would prefer not to stay in a dormitory environment. Are there other options?
A: Most participants find they enjoy the camaraderie and convenience of staying onsite during the program. However, for those who would prefer staying offsite, we can recommend a list of nearby accommodations or the Sonata Quiet House for an additional fee. Please call the office if you need more details!

Q: How should I plan to dress
A: Dress is casual, so bring comfortable clothes to match the Vermont season. Most participants do dress more formally for the Saturday afternoon recital.

Q: How many participants attend each Sonata session?
A: To maintain the personalized Sonata experience, each session is limited to 12 to 24 participants.

Q: How advanced do I have to be to attend a Sonata?
A: As with Summer Sonatina Camp, we welcome participants of all levels to the Sonata program. No audition tape is required. Participants will receive private lessons at their individual level. Beginners look forward to being able to interact with more advanced students and usually find they pick up tips and hints that improve their playing. Advanced students often marvel at how quickly the beginners learn. Sonata is designed to be a non-competitive.

Q: What is the background of a typical Sonata participant?
A: There really is no one typical profile. Participants come from all walks of life and age ranges, and some even travel to Vermont from overseas to attend the program. While some have extensive experience with piano or other instruments, others are beginners or intermediate students. Their interests range from classical music to new age to jazz and rock. Many have chosen to first take up piano study as adults. They have a common desire to come together with a group of adults with similar interests to study piano in a warm, nurturing, safe environment.
Q: How many teachers are on staff?
A: At least 5 faculty members are on staff for each Sonata session.

Q: How many private lessons will I receive at camp?
A: Each participant will receive 4 to 5 one-hour lessons at each Sonata except the Summer Sonata (shorter program) where each participant will receive 3 to 4 one-hour lessons.

Q: How are students assigned to a particular teacher?
A: There are no assigned teachers. Instead, the program offers participants the opportunity to learn from multiple teachers, each bringing their own insights and expertise. Faculty members teach in a supportive and encouraging style, coordinating comments and suggestions.

Q: What type of music should I be preparing for Sonata?
A: This is entirely up to you. Many of our participants use the session as an opportunity for focused work on pieces they are currently studying. Others bring new pieces they would like to start learning. The range of music extends from the standard Classic repertoire through 20th century music, including jazz, new age, rock, etc. Our staff can also help you find suitable pieces to match your performance level from our extensive music library.

Q: What are the meals like?
A: Meals are served buffet style. Our very own gourmet chef, Nelson Altman, has a reputation for delivering tasty yet nutritious meals, ranging from Cornish Game Hen with Rhubarb Chutney to Grilled Salmon with Tomato Cilantro Salsa and Flank Steak with Wild Mushroom and Peppercorn Wine Sauce, always complemented with his specially prepared dessert creation du jour. Vegetarian alternatives are always available; special diets can be accommodated with advance request.

Q: What recreational options are available?
A: Many participants enjoy regular walks through the historic Old Bennington area. Shopping is available in town as well in the surrounding areas, and museum options include the local Bennington Museum as well as a world class art museum in nearby Williamstown, MA. Additional recreational activities are available at a nominal fee through a local country club or fitness center.

Q: How far in advance do I need to register to attend a Sonata program?
A: We are pleased that many of our attendees have chosen to return to Sonata on a regular basis. Therefore, our programs fill up quickly, and often are booked several seasons in advance. If your first choice session is filled, you may request to be put on our waiting list. We are often able to accommodate many people from the waiting list as cancellations arise.


Q: If I am placed on a waiting list, what happens to my $400 deposit?

A: We will process your deposit only when we have a mutually agreeable Sonata place for you.

Q: What if my schedule changes after I have signed up for a Sonata session?
A: If you cancel with a minimum of three months notice, your deposit/tuition, less $100 cancellation fee, can be applied to a future Sonata/waiting list of your choice. If you give less than three months notice, your deposit/tuition is forfeited unless we can find a replacement for you at which time you will only be charged the $100 cancellation fee.

 Q: Are there additional expenses?

A: We have a small gift shop with Sonata brand merchandise, perfect for take-home gifts. A professionally recorded CD created from your Saturday Sonata recital is also available for your purchase. You may also want to bring personal spending money, perhaps to purchase music, photos or for an additional outing above and beyond scheduled events. Many participants choose to provide an optional gratuity for Sonata staff members as well.

Q: What is the best way to get to Sonata? Will I need a car?
A: The closest major airport to Bennington is Albany, NY; participants may also choose to fly into Hartford, CT which is about a 2 hour drive or Boston, MA, which is about a 3 hour drive. Many participants choose to utilize limousine service to/from the Albany airport. To learn about the service, the fees, and make a pick-up arrangement, please call Carmen's Limo Service at 802-442-6050. It is not necessary to have a car, although some participants prefer to have one to sightsee through the scenic Vermont back roads or shop at regional factory outlets during free time.


Q: What should I bring?
Each participant will receive a list of what to bring, arrival and departure times, and additional helpful information upon acceptance to the program.