FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions for First-Time Participants

Are children welcome as participants at the Retreat?

The Retreat welcomes children as participants, however the program is not designed as a children’s activity. The vast majority of our participants are adult. They range in age from retirees to a handful of accomplished child musicians. Any participant younger than 18 years old on the first day of the Retreat must be accompanied by an adult family member. The accompanying adult will stay in the same housing with the child, and will be welcome at all meals and group activities. The fee for an accompanying adult is $300 less than the participant fee.

Is your child ready for the Retreat?

If your child already plays his/her instrument, can read music notation and is comfortable playing in an adult group setting, your child will likely adapt well to the Retreat program. Please contact us with specific questions at: arabicmusicretreat@gmail.com

Does the Arabic Music Retreat welcome beginners?

The answer is, it depends. At its core, the Retreat is not designed for beginning musicians. However, there are several types of ‘beginners’, and many will find that the Retreat is beneficial, although for some it may be quite challenging. If you have formal music training and can read music notation, even if you are a beginner on your instrument, you will find it easy to participate. If your music reading skills are rusty or you learn by ear, you will need to work harder to learn your chamber group material, but you can still benefit from participating. We are happy to discuss your individual situation. Please contact us at: arabicmusicretreat@gmail.com with any questions.

Do you loan instruments at the Retreat?

We do not loan instruments; you will need to bring your own.

I want to study more than one instrument at the Retreat. Can I do this?

Due to our very busy schedule, you will not be able to study more than one instrument. You will need to focus on one instrument for private lessons and commit to playing one instrument in your chamber group. At the end of the week, you will be performing in a chamber group and the large orchestra so you’ll need to concentrate on the instrument on which you’ll perform.

Why do I need to send an audition recording?

We require everyone attending for the first time to send us a simple recording of the attendee playing the instrument he or she plans to study at the Retreat. We use this recording to assess your playing level so we can assign you to the right private lesson instructor, and to assign you to a chamber group. Most of our chamber groups are ‘mixed level’, so we need to make sure there is a good balance of ability in each group.

I’m a western trained musician and don’t know anything about Arabic music. What should I send in my recording?

Play something you perform well, preferably as a soloist. If you send a recording of your playing in an ensemble, make sure your instrument is clearly audible.

Can I send an mp3, or provide a Youtube link for my audition recording?

Yes. That is fine. You can e-mail an mp3 or provide a youtube link. If you are sending a youtube clip, please make sure it is tagged as ‘not for children’. Send it to arabicmusicretreat@gmail.com

I have no clue how to make a recording. How should I do it?

You can make a simple recording on your smart phone. If you don’t have a smart phone, you should buy a hand-held recording device to record your private lessons and lectures at the Retreat. You can use that device to do your audition too. Once you’ve made the recording, you should e-mail it to: arabicmusicretreat@gmail.com


What are my housing options at the Retreat?

We offer several housing options for participants.

  1. Willits Hallowell Conference Center – shared double room in the air-conditioned conference center where everyone at the Retreat gathers for meals. The conference center has a limited number of double occupancy air-conditioned hotel rooms. Each room has a private bath. We assign two participants to each room. You can read about the facility here: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/willits
  2. Dormitory – The dorm is not air-conditioned, and like all college dorms, it has one big, shared bathroom on each floor. These rooms provide a basic bed with linens and towels. The location is close to the conference center where we all have our meals together. The dormitory has an elevator.
    1. Single dormitory room – single bed, desk with chair, chest of drawers, and closet.
    2. Double dormitory room – 2 single beds, 2 desks with chairs, 2 chest of drawers, and 2 closets.
  3. Commuter – For those who live in the area or prefer to find housing on their own, the commuter rate covers all activities, lunch and dinner. (Note: the commuter rate does not include breakfasts until the final day – August 1th).

I would prefer a single room at the Retreat. What are my options?

You can book a single room in the dormitory or you can book a room at the nearby hotels or bed and breakfast inns.

I really need air-conditioning and I strongly prefer a single room. What are my options?

Due to high demand for the air-conditioned conference rooms, if you want to stay in the conference center you must agree to have a room-mate. If you must have a single room with air-conditioning, there are two Bed and Breakfast inns that are a short distance from the Mount Holyoke College campus where the Retreat takes place. Their rooms are air-conditioned and most have private baths. Please book your room early because they sell out during the Retreat.

Daniel Stebbins House – http://www.danielstebbinsbedandbreakfast.com  – phone: 413-533-2149

Carson’s Bed and Breakfast – http://www.carsonsbnbandsalon.com/  – phone: 413-404-3446

There are also Airbandb possibilities in South Hadley and nearby towns. The town of Chicopee has several hotels as well.

Traveling to the Retreat

What is the nearest airport to the Retreat?

The closest airport is Bradley International Airport (Airport code BDL) located in Hartford, Connecticut, which is about 45 minutes from South Hadley, the town where Mount Holyoke College is located.

How do I get to the Retreat from Bradley International Airport?

You can either arrange an uber or taxi, or book a limousine service such as Valley Transporter.  www.valleytransporter.com  Valley Transporter carries many Retreaters and faculty to the Retreat, so they know the location of Willits Hallowell Conference Center at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

I am flying to the U.S. just to attend the Retreat. Into what city should I fly?

Boston and New York are the closest international airports. If you have the choice, fly into Boston. It is much closer and more convenient that New York.

Arriving in Boston

From Boston, you will need to take a bus or train to Springfield, MA or Amherst, MA.  Bus line:  www.peterpanbus.com  Train: www.amtrak.com Then you will have to take a taxi or Uber to the Retreat.

It is possible that some Retreaters may be able to drive you to the Retreat from Boston. Please contact arabicmusicretreat@gmail.com to find out if anyone is available.

Arriving in New York City

Try to arrive in New York the day before the Retreat, since it will take a full day to get to the Retreat from New York.  After arriving in New York, you will need to take a bus or taxi to Manhattan, and then take a bus or train to Springfield, MA, followed by a taxi to the Retreat. See information below about bus and train service from New York.

How can I get to the Retreat from New York City?

Bus: There is a daily bus that runs from the Port Authority in New York to the center of the town of South Hadley, which is a 10 minute walk (downhill) to the Conference Center. The bus leaves at 5:30 am and arrives around 10:30 am. This requires one bus transfer in Springfield, MA. If you decide to come later in the day you could take a bus to Springfield or Amherst, MA. Link to Peter Pan bus: www.peterpanbus.com  In all cases you will need to take a taxi or uber to the Retreat.

Train: Amtrak runs trains daily to Springfield, MA. From there you will need to get a taxi (or Uber). www.amtrak.com

How do I get to the Retreat from the Springfield bus station or train station?

You can either arrange a taxi, book a ride on Uber, or book a limousine service such as Valley Transporter.  www.valleytransporter.com  Valley Transporter carries many Retreaters and faculty to the Retreat, so they know the location of Willits Hallowell Conference Center at Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, MA.

Getting to New York and Boston after the Retreat

After the Retreat, you will have to make a reservation for a train or bus. It is not the Retreat’s responsibility to arrange your travel plans to or from the Retreat. Many Retreaters are happy to drive others, but you will need to arrange this on your own.

What is the weather like at the Retreat?

The weather in August can be hot, rainy, dry or cool. Keep an eye on the weather forecast ahead of time, and bring a jacket as well as some kind of rain gear. Here is the intellicast link for the South Hadley, MA weather forecast:      https://www.wunderground.com/weather/us/ma/south-hadley

Working out at the retreat.

The Kendall Sports and Dance Complex contains a fitness center, gymnasium, pool, and dance studios that may be used by Retreaters, though on a limited “summer hours” schedule. In recent years the pool has been closed during the Retreat week. Check with the Willits Conference Center reception desk for the current hours and open swim times when you arrive on campus.

There are also very pleasant short walking/running trails on the campus.

Doing laundry at the Retreat.

If you need to wash clothes while you are at the Retreat, you have to wash them yourself using the washer and dryer at the dormitory. This involves getting a special card and detergent. You cannot pay cash. To avoid wasting your practice time on laundry, plan on bringing enough clothes to last the week.

Buying supplies at the Retreat.

South Hadley is a small town. There is a deli-restaurant, a bookstore, a local bank with an ATM, a post office, and two places to get coffee. There is also a campus store that is only open part of the day. If you need supplies during the Retreat and you don’t have a car, you will need to get someone to drive you off-campus to shop. The Retreat doesn’t provide the service, but usually some Retreaters will make a run to the store if needed.

I need to send a package to the Retreat:

FedEx, UPS, and the USPS deliver to Willits Conference Center. Address your package as:

Your name
Care of Arabic Music Retreat
Willits Hallowell Conference Center
Mount Holyoke College
50 College Street
South Hadley, MA 01075
phone: 413-538-2215

Additional packing list suggestions:

  • Rain gear.
  • Music stand for practice and chamber groups.
  • Portable luggage cart or wheeled cases for large instruments. (5-10 minute walk from dorm or conference center to music hall for classes).
  • Swimsuit or workout wear if you wish to use the athletic center.