Washington College music festival draws rave reviews
Special from the Kent County News
— There was literally music in the Kent County air from June 5 to 18, as people watched students and musicians from all over participate in the fifth annual National Music Festival at Washington College.
This year, the orchestral training festival featured more than 35 concerts and 200 open rehearsals, in various parts of the county.
The concerts and rehearsals were performed by 120 apprentices, ages 18 and older, playing various instruments under the guidance of mentors, who are experienced professional musicians. NMF
executive direc- tor Caitlin Patton said she thinks this year’s festival was better attended than last year’s, though the final count has not been tabulated.
“We did really well,” Patton said. “It was a great season, and everything went smoothly.”
At the June 20 Chestertown town council meeting, Councilman Liz Gross, who serves on the festival’s board, said attendance at festival concerts was up 30 percent over last year.
Patton said while the festival’s proceeds are being tallied, she thinks this year’s numbers also are higher.
She said several of the concerts were sold out this year, like the June 11 concert at Washington Col- lege’s Decker Theater that featured Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.
“There wasn’t a seat anywhere then,” she said. “So the weeks were fairly steady, although our larger concerts tend to be better attended. That’s where we had our sellouts.”
Patton said she has received positive feedback from the musicians about this year’s festival, both from students and mentors.
Community members in Kent County also participated in the festival but in different ways.
Realtor Doug Ashley said he and Retha Arrabal housed three students during the festival’s two weeks, each from a different state and playing different instru- ments.
“We were among other host families, and it went great,” he said. “We really enjoyed having them.”
Ashley said they plan to host next year and one of the students might stay with them again.
“They were great kids and left us a wonderful note thanking us,” he said. “Listening to them practice was a treat in itself.”
Kristen Owen, president of the Downtown Chestertown Association, said local businesses saw a solid amount of customers during the festival.
“Every business is different and so attracts a different audience,” she said. “But any event that moves around and throughout the town is good for the businesses.
Owen said she heard June 10 was particularly busy, as festival-goers took in the weather and “enjoyed what Chestertown has to offer.”
As in previous years, Emmanuel Episcopal Church opened its doors to festival musicians for free lunches. Volunteers from Emmanuel, as well as from Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Chestertown Presbyterian Church and First United Methodist Church pitched in to provide the meals.
A number of local restaurants also offered discounts to festival musicians. Chestertown Mayor Chris Cerino said he saw crowds of musicians in Play It Again Sam every time he went past.
“It’s a great event, great for the town,” Cerino said.
Gross said many musicians’ families attended concerts. She extended the board’s thanks to the town for the use of the visitors center as a staging area for festival attendees.
“We’re just lucky to be working in such a great community,” Patton said. “Chestertown has been amazing, both financially and with its support. We count ourselves lucky to be based here.”
She said next year’s festival is set for June 4 to 17.
For more information on next year’s National Music Festival, visit www.nationalmusic.us
Additional reporting staff writer Peter Heck. by