‘A mission, a passion, a joy’: Music in the Mountain’s annual SummerFest returns with classical music performed through new online format | TheUnion.com

‘A mission, a passion, a joy’: Music in the Mountain’s annual SummerFest returns with classical music performed through new online format

Victoria Penate
Staff Writer


WHAT: Music in the Mountains 39th Annual SummerFest

WHERE: From the comfort of your own home via our virtual concerts

WHEN: Several dates starting Thursday, June 18

TICKETS: Sliding scale donation, please see website to “purchase tickets”

MORE INFO: http://www.musicinthemountains.org

Music in the Mountains will not be canceling their SummerFest event this year, having opted instead to move the event online.

The 39th SummerFest will span just under a month, featuring an array of virtual events, including live concerts, workshop and storytelling activities for children and families, and educational presentations on music history.

The programming will kick off on June 18 with a live piano concert by pianist Natsuki Fukusawa, one of two soloists featured in the SummerFest’s program this year. Gabriel Martins will be a featured soloist as well, performing a live cello concert on June 25.

Both Fukusawa and Martins are widely renowned musicians, each an award-winning artist on their respective instrument.

One of the highlighted events of the SummerFest, the July 3 “Happy Birthday USA” concert, will include familiar patriotic festivities and music, while taking on one all-new feature – a “virtual picnic.”


The pre-Independence Day picnic is a coordinated effort between Music in the Mountains, Grass Valley Downtown Association, and the chambers of commerce of both Grass Valley and Nevada City. To participate in it, attendees will be encouraged to order meals for curbside pickup at partnering local restaurants including Emily’s Catering, Diego’s and Friar Tuck’s.

The programming closes July 13 with the second installment of a discussion on the life and music of Beethoven, hosted by Ryan Murray, the artistic director at Music in the Mountains.

The full calendar of events for this year’s SummerFest can be found at https://app.arts-people.com/index.php.


Music in the Mountains Executive Director Jenny Darlington-Person said that organizing the event involved a great deal of uncertainty at first as she saw new information constantly unfolding regarding COVID-19 and related precautions concerning large gatherings.

“As the situation developed, it became very clear that an in-person event couldn’t happen,” said Darlington-Person. “Not wanting to cancel, it made sense to make it virtual so that people can at least enjoy some of what we had planned.”

Music in the Mountains’ Marketing and Donor Services Manager Hilary Hodge weighed in on the organization’s determination to keep the event alive, saying, “Our mission is to bring classical music and musical education to our community in the foothills. We decided that, whatever it took, we were going to fulfill that mission.”

Rehearsals have taken on a different appearance lately for the Music in the Mountains chorus and orchestra members, all of whom are working to get used to using video conferencing to make music together.

“This is a really unique opportunity,” said Darlington-Person. “Classical music is not usually on the forefront of innovation, and this is forcing us to innovate. When we come out of this, we’ll have skills and experience trying things that we’ll be able to bring with us.”

According to Hodge, the largest challenge in virtual musical rehearsals is the inevitable delay in any sound coming through available conferencing software. This results in the need for each member of their musical ensembles to play or sing their part of the music on their own, to be edited together into a synchronized track afterward.

Hodge added that she wants to be proactive about any learning curve people may face in using technology to connect with Music in the Mountains programming, emphasizing that anyone encountering this type of difficulty should feel welcome to reach out for assistance.

“We are happy to help, and we want to make sure that this is about including more people, not less,” said Hodge.

The event will not be holding traditional ticket sales, instead offering access to anyone who would like it, asking only that they RSVP in order to receive necessary links and information on attending. The option to donate is also there for those who feel inclined to do so.

Hodge explained that the “pay what you can” system was decided upon because while Music in the Mountains relies upon and appreciates the support of the community, they want to share this content regardless of proceeds.

“We’re happy to have anyone have access to the programming,” said Hodge. “It’s a balance. Music, to us, isn’t a fundraiser. It’s a mission, a passion and a joy.”

Victoria Penate is a staff writer with The Union.

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