Lake Tahoe Music Festival | Summer’s Fantastical Classical Coda

Courtesy Lake Tahoe Music Festival

As fans of classical music well know, a coda is the concluding passage of a piece or movement, typically forming an addition to the basic structure. After a summer overflowing with cultural events by a world-class lake, the Lake Tahoe Music Festival is ready to take the season home. This will be your last chance to hear a full orchestra perform in luxurious outdoor locations in the Tahoe/Truckee region until next summer.

Aug. 23 | Sugar Pine Point State Park
Aug. 24 | West End Beach
Aug. 25 | Skylandia State Park and Beach
Aug. 26 | PJ’s at Gray’s Crossing

This season’s schedule will feature three distinct performances of 13 pieces ranging from an Italian opera to Shakespeare-inspired music to classics of Mozart and Beethoven, as well as a new composition by David Wendell Nelson. Guest soloists will include Daniel Gilbert on clarinet and Robert Sicular as the narrator of the Shakespeare performances.

Conductor and artistic director Timm Rolek has lead the Festival since 2003. Rolek lives in the southern Oregon coastal town of Brookings with his wife and two King Charles spaniels.

“I’m a hired gun,” he jokes. “When I’m not in Tahoe, my annual schedule varies from year to year.”

The week of the festival is a whirlwind experience of connections, rehearsals, performances and unforgettable memories. Beginning on Aug. 19, 26 elite musicians from around the country will meet at Granlibakken to begin rehearsals three times a day. These young professionals, ages 18 to 30, are a mix of returning players and newbies, selected through a competitive audition process.

Each hour of musical performance requires about six hours of rehearsal. As the performances begin in the evenings, the orchestra rehearses the movements for the coming days in the morning and afternoon. Although it’s intense and emotional, it is also an amazing way for the young musicians to bond with each other.

“That’s one of the big reasons why we do this,” says Rolek. “When I was in my 20s, there were many opportunities to connect with other players in settings like this, but they’ve kind of dropped off the map. The connections we make professionally can stick with us for a lifetime.”

This will also be Rolek’s third summer working in collaboration with Christin Hanna, the artistic director of Lake Tahoe Dance Festival, whose dancers will perform on Aug. 23 and 24 to music from Felix Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” that was written to accompany Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

“Unless you are a ballet company in a very large city like San Francisco or Seattle, you can’t afford live music,” says Rolek. “They usually dance to recorded music. It’s rare for smaller companies to dance with a live band. This is great reason to collaborate because they can’t do this without us.”

Aside from presenting diverse, quality aural experiences in one-of-a-kind outdoor settings, the Festival also works to create education and performance opportunities for aspiring young musicians in the Tahoe/Truckee school district.

“I think it’s part of our responsibility to keep the artform moving forward and the only way to do that is support new artists,” says Rolek. “At the end of the day, our main focus is supporting music in the schools and keeping instruments in the hands of Tahoe/Truckee students.”

While the Festival will provide scholarships to graduating senior musicians of the class of 2018-19, contemporary classical orchestras now have to think outside the box in order to maintain and grow future audiences. “If want to look what the future classical of music could and should be, take a look at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s schedule for the year,” Rolek says. “They are on the cutting edge of mixing up genres. I think that’s the only way to keep this thing moving forward: adaptability across style, format, and locations.” | tahoemusic.org