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Music in the Mountains

What is your mission statement?

Music in the Mountains inspires and connects people of all ages through extraordinary classical music performances, community engagement and music education.     



What is your yearly budget (optional), and how many paid employees do you have?

Our budget is just under $800K, and we have five paid employees in the office, a couple in production and many, many contract musicians.




What is your nonprofit’s history?

Music in the Mountains was conceived and founded by Paul Perry and Terry Brown of San Francisco’s City Opera. The first festival in the summer of 1982 featured 14 concerts performed at St. Joseph’s Cultural Center in Grass Valley and the Nevada Theatre and the American Victorian Museum (now Miners Foundry) in Nevada City. Professional musicians were hired from orchestras throughout the United States and fell in love with the region. Many of those original musicians come back each year.

In 1985, the corporate name was changed from City Opera to Music in the Mountains. The Golden Chain Chorale has since been re-named the MIM Chorus, an extraordinary auditioned 90-voice powerhouse led by choral director Ryan Murray. In 2009, maestro Perry retired as artistic director and passed the baton to international conductor Gregory Vajda.

SummerFest remains a cornerstone of MIM. For two and a half weeks in June, more than a hundred musicians come together to create almost a dozen programs of world-class music at the Nevada County Fairgrounds. The 600-seat Amaral Center and the great lawn provide the perfect setting. Where else can you hear the amazing Beethoven’s “Ninth” and the music of Queen with a seven-piece band, full orchestra and several choruses? Our annual Patriotic Pops July 3 is a Nevada County tradition, drawing 2,000 young and old alike. This year we are partnering with Welcome Home Vets, an organization providing counseling resources to returning service members and their families as a concert beneficiary.

The MIM Chorus takes center stage for our Holiday Concert series in December and is the highlight of our spring. Their repertoire ranges from the touching and dramatic “Faure Requiem” to the comic opera “HMS Pinafore.” The group ranges in age from 16 to well past 60, so the multi-generational aspect is really captured in its sound.

Another cornerstone of MIM is music education. MIM’s multifaceted education curriculum has programs in nearly every Nevada County public school. We balance in-depth initiatives, such as our unique Young Composers Project, and broad-reach programs, such as the Brummitt-Taylor Listening Program, in which for five years, children listen to five minutes of classical music every school day. Young artists take the stage with the orchestra in our Side-by-Side program, and the Young Composers Project premiers 23 new works played by professional musicians. Our Young Musicians Competition takes place each spring, and it’s always heartwarming to see the next generation of musicians rising. We also offer several internal and external scholarships for young people.

Believe it or not, classical music is sometimes perceived as stuffy and elitist. So this year, MIM is developing a Musical Chairs series. The purpose of the series will be to provide more inviting access points to the music. The concerts will be a little informal, maybe even a little eclectic, but will always aim to delight and will take the performances into more intimate venues throughout the county.

In all, more than 600 volunteers, musicians, singers and educators work in harmony to produce great music and educational programs for the community year-round.

Who is your primary audience?

The citizens of Nevada County and surrounding communities.

Clients served:

Through our education programs, we touch the lives of more than 4,000 Nevada County youth. Our concerts draw an annual attendance of 10,000.

List the biggest achievements in your nonprofit’s history (up to three).

There is tremendous breadth and growth in our education programs. For example, our free Family Music Faire has had an overwhelmingly positive response in the community. An orchestra concert focused on young kids and families is followed by a free picnic lunch and music faire with activities ranging from the instrument petting zoo to face painting. Last year, we had more than 600 attendees. We currently have eight integrated education initiatives and are looking at expanding according to community demand.

The MIM Chorus has blossomed under the direction of Ryan Murray. It now anchors our holiday concerts and, this spring, is venturing into a semi-staged opera production of the “HMS Pinafore.” Choral music is big in Nevada County, and we have attracted some amazing singers from our community.

Bringing a world-class orchestra to the region for more than 30 years is a significant feat. There is something about the synergy among audience, conductor and musicians that is magic. Whether it is the music of the great masters or the music that is being created today, the live experience is an irreplaceable moment. And despite the perceived elitism in classical music, sometimes it’s the least experienced listener who has the most profound experience.

List the biggest challenges you face (up to three).

Fundraising is certainly at the top of the list. Classical music, and in particular orchestral music, is expensive to produce. MIM is also dedicated to partnering with the school districts to keep music education alive, and that takes resources.

Finding ways to broaden our audience is always on that list. Classical music CD sales are at their highest point ever, but live performance attendance is down across the country, and young audiences have migrated away from classical even as more and more pop musicians are classically trained. How can we create warm and inviting access points to classical music?

And fundraising — did I already say that?

What is your No. 1 short-term

goal for the next year?

Talking to our audience and the community about what is important to them. Finding out how we can create music that is extraordinary for everybody.

What is your No. 1 long-term

goal for the next three years?

Creating a sustainability roadmap that weaves together artistic aspirations, music education and community collaboration.

What are your major

fundraisers and dates?

We are blessed to have a veritable army of volunteers through MIMA, the Music in the Mountains Alliance. Each year, it raises 15 percent of our overall budget through special activities and events, which are listed on our website. Some of the largest are the Swing Along Golf Tournament, July 28; Sierra Brewfest, Aug. 24; and the Designs for Living Home Tour, Oct. 5-6.

What is the best way a person interested in your organization could help?

Check out our volunteer page on our website, or give the office a call. We are also looking for new board members. And did I mention fundraising?

Music in the Mountains is a member of the Center for Nonprofit Leadership, which provides the weekly Know Your Nonprofit feature. You can learn more about The Center for Nonprofit Leadership at http://CNLSierra.org. The Center is on Facebook http://facebook.com/NevadaCountyNonProfitLeadership and Twitter @NevCoNonprofits.


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