Robert Merfeld gave me my first viola lesson. I'll never forget it. It was during my 2nd year at Apple Hill Music Camp in 1975. I had wanted to study the Mendelssohn Octet, but the violin slots were already taken. I went to Robbie to see if he would be willing to make an exception. He said he couldn't, but that he was short one viola player. I said I would take it, but didn't have an instrument and didn't know how to read the clef. Robbie explained that the reading the clef was just like reading the treble clef in 3rd position, but played in first position. He showed me a couple things and I immediately got it. I was able to join the session and thus study and perform the Octet. Since then, I've studied viola with Betty Hauck and Dick Loomis.
At Hampshire College, I performed the Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 at Hampshire
After college, I joined the Pioneer Valley Symphony Orchestra, first on violin, and then switched to viola when they asked for volunteers. Richard Cartwright was performing with the orchestra at the time, and he loaned me the Monster for a few months before I bought it from him.
|"The Monster" Cartwright Viola|
In college, I played in several old-time and bluegrass bands including Pieces of Neck, The Lonesome Fish Quintet, Backwoods Medicine and Pig and the Idiot. After college, I joined Maple Ridge Bluegrass in '89 with Joe Blumenthal, Terry Atkinson and John Rough, and Swift River Bluegrass in '97 with Claiborne Woodall and John Rough. That year, I also co-founded Woodkerne Celtic Band with Dan Richardson and John Rough.
I'm a co-founder of Celticado with Jim Bunting and Claudine Langille, an acoustic wedding trio, and founder of The Americana Project, a bluegrass group. Brian Bender and I formed Fiddle Hill in 1995 and have been playing for dances, weddings and special events since.
Some recordings from various groups
Some recordings from various groups
|Mandolin New England|
South Hadley Town Hall 2015
I've always been fascinated by teaching. Since I was very little, my mother and father encouraged me to look things up on my own, and share what I learned. In sixth grade, I had a group of friends that shared what our teachers taught us. Jenny was learning bassoon, Lisa was learning flute, Rob was learning viola, Kristen, Alex and I were learning violin. We would often get together and talk about what we learned that week, or about concerts that were coming up. We kept up this tradition all through High School. In College, I joined the Five College Symphony Orchestra on violin, and later switched to the viola section. My first informal student was a violinist that wanted to learn the viola. I played fiddle in a bluegrass band called Pieces of Neck my first year. Our mandolin player was more of a jazz player and refused to chop. In bluegrass, you need the chop sound, which works kind of like a snare drum. I bought my first mandolin after months of frustration, and taught myself to play it. After College, I formally opened my studio and began to accept students on the mandolin, violin and viola. My first studio was at the Fretted Instrument Workshop in Amherst. A few years later, I taught at Downtown Sounds in Northampton, and then was one of the founding teachers at the new Northampton Community Music Center on
South Street. In '95, I was hired by the Keene Institute for Music and Related Arts, where I also received a certification in music education. I taught viola and guitar there. KIMRA as it was called, merged with the Keene Community Music Center. I taught there until my son was born in 2009. I now teach out of my home in Granby, MA.
Bio, written by a former student:
"Mr. Sweet attended the New England Conservatory of Music's pilot Suzuki program from 1966 until 1972, and the Conservatory at Rivers from 1972 until 1980.
Sweet attended the Apple Hill Center for Chamber Music from 1974 until 1980 where he studied chamber music coaching, and focused on the music of Mozart, Bach, Dvorak, Brahms, Schubert, Borodin and Mendelssohn. Sweet studied violin with Judith Canon, Mary Parker and Phillip Naegele; viola with Betty Hauck and Robert Merfeld. He attended mandolin master classes with David Grisman, Sam Bush, Adam Steffey, Mike Marshall; and fiddle master classes with Darol
Mr Sweet graduated with a BA in 1985 and opened his studio in 1986. Since then, Mr. Sweet has been teaching adults and teenagers how to play the violin, mandolin, guitar and bass. Mr Sweet performs and therefore teaches celtic music, bluegrass, klezmer and world music. With a background in chamber music coaching, Sweet coaches a classical mandolin ensemble that performs with Mandolin New England in western Mass and Providence, RI."