Music in the Mountains unveils exciting, eclectic SummerFest program

“One festival, a world of music” is the theme for this year’s SummerFest at Music in the Mountains, and we would agree after hearing the program introduced at a launch party on Thursday night.

Stretching from June 16-July 5, MIM’s SummerFest features classical music, dance — often underemphasized in professional concerts locally — cabaret-style singing, the magic of cirque, and Boston Pops-style performances. It features veteran talent, as well as up-and-coming talent.

The performer lineup includes pianist Conrad Yiwen Tao, the only classical artist named by Forbes magazine in 2011 as one of the “30 Under 30” in the music industry; singer-songwriter Storm Large, a rock artist who has toured with the band Pink Martini and also branched out into theater and cabaret; and Maia Wilkins and Michael Levine, former principal dancers of the Joffrey Ballet. (Levine is the son of Howard and Peggy Levine of Grass Valley, who are active arts’ patrons. Michael and Maia are married and live in Sacramento).

In addition, SummerFest features guest conductor Daniel Stewart, the conductor of the Santa Cruz Symphony as well as the Metropolitan Opera’s Lindemann Young Artist Development Program; and Constatine Kitsopoulos, who has conducted at Carnegie Hall and Royal Albert Hall and leads orchestras on Broadway. MIM resident Ryan Murray also is conducting a classical music program. SummerFest also features the talented Festival Orchestra.

The popular “Cirque de la Symphony” is returning as well. An arts festival also will be held, in conjunction with Nevada County Arts.

All told, it is an inspiring and exciting lineup, ranging from “dazzling and grand to intimate,” as Artistic Advisor Pete Nowlen summed up. Executive Director Cristine Kelly showed her enthusiasm for the program in an informative audiovisual presentation at the Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley.

Highlights of SummerFest, from our iPad note taking, include:

June 16-20: Left Coast Chamber Ensemble
Young composers concerts, Wet Ink featuring new music

June 24: The Glory of Russian Ballet
Daniel Stewart, Conductor
Featuring Maia Wikins and Michael Levine
Tchaikovsky: Selections from Swan Lake
Stravinsky: Firebird Suite
Prokofiev: Selections from Romeo and Juliet

June 28: The Mozart Requiem
Ryan Murray, MIM Resident Conductor
Featuring the MIM Chorus and outstanding soloists
Mozart’s final masterpiece, paired with the symphony Haydn wanted to be played at his own funeral.
Haydn: Symphony No. 44
Mozart: Requiem

July 1: Beethoven’s “Emperior” concerto
Constatine Kitsopoulos, Conductor
Beethoven’s epic last piano concerto, featuring Conrad Tao, pianist, and the monumental Sibelius Symphony No. 2
Verdi: Nabucco Overture
Beethoven: Piano concerto No. 6
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2

July 2: Pianist Conrad Tao in a solo performance. As the San Francisco Chronicle reviewer said of Tao: “If NASA had a tenth of his talent, they’d be farming strawberries on Titan by now.” Tao also is an Avery Fisher Career Grant Recipient.

July 3: “Happy Birthday USA,” featuring patriotic music and music from Hollywood and Broadway.

July 5: Singer Storm Large in a benefit event. (We were pleased to see the program extended beyond the Fourth of July).

Another headliner will be announced in a few weeks, Cristine Kelly told the group.

This year’s SummerFest will be dedicated to Paul Perry, the co-founder of MIM, who died last week, board President Terry Brown said. Perry would have been particularly interested in the Haydn concert, one of his favorite composers, Cristine said. A party honoring Perry will be held close to SummerFest, Terry said.

For more information about MIM and SummerFest visit

(Photo credit: Vanessa Briceno)

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