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Reflections on a career

Editor’s Note: This is the second part of reflections on his long musical career by the founder and retiring artistic director of Music in the Mountains. The first part was in Thursday’s Prospector.

It was opening night for Music in the Mountains (previously known as “City Opera”), and our first concert was at St. Joseph’s Hall, 1982.

We had a sold-out house and everyone, myself included, was full of excitement to see and hear this new festival in the Nevada City/Grass Valley area.



By the concert’s end, it was obvious the orchestra had performed very well and the audience was jazzed.

The music critic from the Sacramento Bee wrote “Something very special indeed is happening here … It’s a brightly wrapped gift to the community and to those beyond.”




Lofty words of praise for this very new kid on the musical block!

My hope in coming here from San Francisco was that, perhaps, high musical standards could be set for performances in a small, rural area – at that time, only 30,000 people lived in all of western Nevada County.

I think we succeeded, and the standards of musical performances from the chorus, orchestra and guest artists has continued to go even higher. We now have artists of an international ranking visiting our stage, and the level of professionalism in the orchestra continues to soar. The chorus sounds better than ever, and artists clamor to join our ranks as guests or members of the orchestra.

Laughs – now

But not everything went perfectly.

One guest pianist got lost during a concerto with the orchestra, and there was some heavy breathing for a few moments.

During our very first pops concert, the warm weather caused a meltdown of the tuning on the solo piano, so we were in one key with the orchestra and the drooping piano was getting lower and lower every minute.

But those moments were the exceptions. Another Sacramento Bee critic, visiting during the fifth summer festival, said: “They call it Music in the Mountains, but when you consider M-In-the-M’s current summer music festival, ‘Miracle in the Mountains’ comes closer to the mark … The fare being offered at this festival is a veritable feast of musical delights.”

And a visiting music critic from the San Francisco Chronicle wrote: “The chorus also was important in the five a cappella settings of Dvorak’s Songs of Nature, which were ravishingly sung.”

Group effort

MIM has seen some wonderful high points: Fabulous pianists Aileen Chanco, Timothy Durkovic, Sara David Buechner, violinists Ertan Torgul, Robin Mayforth, Mariko Smiley and Alexander Treger, internationally known cellist Kristina Rieko Cooper, guest artists Chanticleer, American artists from throughout the States, The Air Force Band, and jazz artist Paul Smith and his combo.

It adds up to a fantastic run for me personally, one of which I feel justly proud, though it also represents the tremendous efforts of so many fine staff persons, members of our guiding board of directors and the hundreds of volunteers, without whom we could not exist.

Our founding Executive Director Terry Brown, has expended a Herculean effort; without his dedicated work, there would be no Music in the Mountains.

Lots of wonderful memories for me, and excitement, too, as I look toward MIM’s future with new artistic leadership to soar on even further! I’m truly thankful for the privilege of having been called “the Maestro” for all these years.

Ciao, Paul


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