Lake Tahoe Music Festival: “Small is beautiful”

11923245_10206077101278378_7747871940237856367_oThe arts & culture scene in western Nevada County is spectacular for a population of our size: This summer alone, we’ve enjoyed WorldFest, thanks to The Center for the Arts; Randy Newman, thanks to Music in the Mountains; and in October, Joshua Bell, thanks to InConcert Sierra.

I do worry, however, about the stress and pressure it creates on our performing arts organizations in this “race to the top.” It is hard to land such world-class talent in the first place, and then make sure enough seats are filled to make it a profitable venture.

I hope the attendees appreciate this. It’s one thing to enjoy the performance; it’s another to be working inside the “sausage factory,” of programming and logistics to present the musicians.

“Up the hill,” we’ve been supporters of the Lake Tahoe Music Festival for nearly 20 years.

Founded in 1982 by Edgar Braun, conductor of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Lake Tahoe Music Festival presents a series of concerts at scenic venues throughout North Lake Tahoe each summer.

In the ’90s, we would drive up from San Francisco to Lake Tahoe’s West Shore for the weekend, where we’d camp and later camp on our sailboat to enjoy the outdoors, as well as the Festival. It was a welcome reprieve from our “city life” and long work hours.

The concerts — our favorites were set in Homewood on the shore of the lake — included the Reno Philharmonic, Berkeley Opera, Chuck Mangione and Pete Escovedo (2000), Rita Coolidge (2001), Vienna Choir Boys (2003), Blind Boys of Alabama (2004), Kenny Loggins (2007), Dave Koz (2008), Huey Lewis (2009) and others.

It became a tougher row to hoe for the Festival in later years, however, thanks to the Great Recession. The Festival also faced competition from the free Common’s Beach concerts and others around the Lake.

The Festival has been “downsized” since, focusing on outdoor classical music in great settings, such as the Hellman-Ehrman Mansion at Sugar Pine Point State Park. In recent summers, a 20-Piece Academy Orchestra (recent Julliard graduates, for example) has presented a 5-day concert series at the lake and in Truckee. The motto: “Bring your picnic, chair and wine for a wonderful evening of music.”

Timm Rolek — a longtime artistic director for the Sacramento Opera — has served as the artistic director and principal conductor for the Lake Tahoe Music Festival since 2002. Timm founded the Academy Orchestra in 2010.

This week, we enjoyed the music of Schubert in the gardens of the Tahoe Tree Company. Christopher Kachian of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Minnesota Orchestra was a guitar soloist. It was a wonderful performance. Timm was relaxed (more relaxed than with the pressure of the past “giant” seasons, it seemed), and he did a great job conducting Schubert’s Symphony No. 5.

11060331_10206077109558585_5865082404374797739_oFor us we’ve come full circle. Our magazine is a sponsor of the weeklong Festival (along with some “big wheels” such as the Ann & Gordon Getty Foundation), and we promote the Festival in our summer issue.

We enjoy the big-name concerts and all the work that is required to make it happen, but we also appreciate the “small is beautiful” ones. That’s OK too. Relax; take it easy.

(Photos: Sierra FoodWineArt)

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