Musical Conversations

By Sue Breding

Phoenix Chamber Music Society tells stories on its own

Doing meditation, attending a yoga class or burning scented candles. Those things often come to mind when people look for healthy ways to tame stress. Janet Green, however, has discovered another remedy.

“I have many people who attend our performances and say to me, they close their eyes and are magically transported to a place of peace and calm,” Green says.

As the executive director of the Phoenix Chamber Music Society, Green brings the world’s most acclaimed small ensembles of classical musicians to the Valley for a season of concerts each year. She agrees with music therapists who say songs can release endorphins in the brain, similar to what people experience with an exercise session.

“Plus, there’s a possible bonus with the ‘Mozart Effect,’” Green says with a smile. “That’s a term created by those who believe listening to classical music makes you smarter.”

The society celebrates 60 years serving the Phoenix area this year.

“In all that time, our goal has always been the same — bringing the most acclaimed small ensembles of classical musicians from across the globe, here for a season of concerts,” Green says. “We began six decades ago with organizing four concerts, held at the Phoenix Art Museum and we’ve continued to thrive, expand and outgrow our venues.” 

This season’s performances, which span October to April, will be held at Central United Methodist Church, just north of the Phoenix Art Museum.

While most people could easily describe what a symphony orchestra is, not everyone knows what chamber music means. The term comes from the 18th century, when the main form of entertainment when family and friends gathered was small ensembles playing musical instruments in a parlor.

“Chamber music is like watching the musicians having a conversation musically, they argue, laugh, cry, and have detailed ‘discussions’ with each other,” she explains. “Their body language and faces mirror the music you’re hearing and there’s no conductor ‘telling’ them how to feel, just raw emotion.”

Green is not only a gifted musician herself, but she owns and plays a number of musical instruments. At 10 years old, she enjoyed playing the piano so much that she practiced three hours each day. Her personal collection includes 20 musical instruments, many of them were used between the Medieval era (500 to 1400) and the Baroque period (1600 to 1750). “People say to me, what an eclectic home. Do you play all of these?” Green says. The answer is yes.

She has krummhorns (wind instruments), a vihuela (Spanish guitar), a dumbek (Middle Eastern drum), a psaltery (stringed instrument), a viola da gamba (bowed, fretted and stringed instrument) and a 7-foot French harpsichord with two keyboards.

“I built the harpsichord myself and rent it to the Phoenix Symphony for the ‘Messiah,’” Green says. “I have a dulcimer hanging on the wall and a square grand piano from the late 1800s that’s been made into my dining room table.” 

She founded Música Dolce, a local early music ensemble that performs around the Valley.

But the piano’s her favorite. By the time she was a high school senior, she was teaching piano to 45 students. “My student Buddy Strong, became Usher’s keyboard player for 16 years and is currently the keyboardist for the Dave Matthews Band,” Green says. “He called me from Tokyo once while on tour and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Her passion for chamber music started when her piano teacher, Annie Steinbach insisted she attend chamber music concerts as part of her music education. That’s when she began attending Phoenix Chamber Music Society performances. She has been the society’s executive director for 16 years.

Remembering the impact music had on her own life, Green made a critical part of the PCMS mission the goal of making a difference in the lives of local children by having a commitment to education. Multiple society programs now provide a variety of free musical experiences for Arizona students from low-income families. One example is the work the society does with providing masters classes for children at Rosie’s House, the largest 100% free after-school music program in Arizona. 

Rosie’s House CEO Becky Bell Ballard says they’re so honored to have their students exposed to the society’s elite musicians.

“I remember a recent master class Janet arranged with flautist Tara Helen O’Connor from the Lincoln Center in New York,” Ballard says. “Helen gave such a positive speech about how all young people should pursue their passions and find their path and it was a moment our students will never forget.”

While Green should be totally stress-free because she’s surrounded by the finest possible classical music, she says her solution when life feels chaotic is to open the door and walk around her backyard. There’s a swimming pool, surrounded by tall bearded irises and roses, a koi pond and fruit trees. She grows everything from lettuce, thyme and sage to mint, lavender and basil. “I do all the planting and if it doesn’t flower or produce something to eat then it’s not there,” Green says.

She describes herself as being happiest with her hands and bare feet in the dirt.

“I have a sign in one of the gardens that says, ‘Nothing bugs me when I’m in my garden,’ Green says. “That, the piano and a golf course are my solaces in life.”

Season schedule

For this 60th season, the Phoenix Chamber Music Society is moving into a new venue, Central United Methodist Church, 1875 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix.

Here are this season’s shows:

• Brentano Quartet with Dawn Upshaw, soprano, 7:30 p.m. Friday, October 25.

• Polonsky-Shifrin-Wiley Trio, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, November 9.

• Sextet, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, January 4. An evening of Brahms sextets played by Jaime Laredo and Pamela Franks, violins; Nokuthula Ngwenyama and Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, violas and Keith Robinson and Sharon Robinson, cellos.

• David Finckel and Wu Han, 7:30 p.m. Friday, January 31.

• Dover Quartet, Escher String Quartet and Friends, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 22.

• Festival Concert at Central United Methodist Church, time TBA, Saturday, February 22.

• East Coast Chamber Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 14.

• Fauré Quartett, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 28.

• L.A. Guitar Quartet, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4

Season tickets are $300. Tickets to individual shows are $48. Students younger than 21 with a current student ID can purchase tickets for $10. Purchase tickets online at or by calling 602-252-0095. For more information, email