While some recent Yale graduates flock to bustling cities like Boston, New York or Chicago, others, like Sam Hollister ’18, take their talents back to their hometowns.

Hollister, who graduated from Yale with degrees in music and mathematics, moved back to his hometown of Jamestown, Rhode Island to found the Aurora Collaborative. Aurora is a nonprofit chamber music and arts program for students, community members and professionals of all ages.

“I always have had a huge affinity for musical collaboration and I owe a lot of my musical passion to the work that I did on chamber music throughout my youth,” Hollister said. “So, I wanted to go back home after college and spend time building a musical community dedicated to expanding and reinventing that enriching experience I had when I was younger.”

Aurora seeks to enrich the chamber music experience by encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration among participating artists. The collaborative achieves this mission by pairing visual arts exhibitions with live music performances.

Hollister’s vision for Aurora coalesced after he considered starting an orchestra or community outreach program. Aurora’s first exhibition, which took place on Nov. 3, was titled “Contrasts.” It was hosted at the North Kingstown Free Library and featured photography by Rhode Island native Brooke Milosh ’21. Each photograph accompanied a piece of music that members of the chamber ensemble performed at the concert.

Milosh noted that Aurora’s concert schedule differs from other chamber music groups. While many groups rehearse for an extended period and host a showcase at the end of the season, Aurora plans to host multiple smaller concerts throughout the year.

The location of each concert is intentional, according to Milosh. Venues are often community centers, like libraries and art galleries, that will attract an audience from that specific community.

“What makes the Aurora Collaborative truly special is the fact that it incorporates art and lectures with the music, allowing other members of the community to be included in the performances,” Milosh said. “I really love that Aurora is more than just a chamber music group — it is an arts collaborative that brings a lot of different people together.”

Sofia Laguarda ‘20, the secretary for Aurora and a member of its board, echoed this sentiment, highlighting the opportunities Aurora gives its performers.

“I think Sam really wants the performers to feel like their music is alive and important — especially young people and students, who typically learn music by practicing in their rooms and performing for their parents twice a year at recitals,” Laguarda said. “Part of the appeal of Aurora is that artists at all levels are working together, so students can see how adults and professionals are engaging with art throughout their lives.”

Aurora’s second performance took place on Nov. 9 at the Coastal Contemporary Gallery in Newport, Rhode Island. The exhibit included pieces of fine art and fashion, as well as Hollister’s original composition “Unravel” for harp and cello — featuring an 11-year-old harpist and 16-year-old cellist.

Hollister enjoyed seeing how the “hidden corners of the professional fine arts world meld with the world of the student musician” during this event. Still, for Hollister, the level of community support remains the best part of this endeavor.

“It’s as though they have always wanted a program like this but never knew it,” Hollister said. “I had no clue it would be like that. The platform is flexible and able to provide the opportunities to the community that its members want, and so far, it’s going beautifully.”

Aurora also plans to host discussions featuring music historians and “ear-thinking” sessions with Hollister prior to performances. These sessions seek to inform audiences about elements of music theory in order to enrich their concert-listening experience and help move theoretical discussions outside of academia.

Hollister received assistance in his endeavors from several mentors, including his longtime piano teacher Manabu Takasawa, high school music director Norma Calazza and a founding member of the Jamestown Community Piano Association, Janet Grant.

Rianna Turnerrianna.turner@yale.edu