Vermont Mozart Festival
|Founded||1974 (first concert)
Incorporated: December 3, 1976
|Dissolved||December 21, 2010|
|Method||Summer Festival, Winter Series|
|Key people||Tim Riddle, Executive Director
Melvin Kaplan, Artistic Director
|Employees||2 paid employees|
|Slogan||Every Event is a Unique Musical Experience|
The Vermont Mozart Festival (1974–2010) was a series of indoor and outdoor concerts presented annually at sites throughout the state of Vermont. The Inaugural Festival of 1974 was conceived as a celebration of both the natural beauty of the state and the genius of the Festival's namesake, composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The Festival's mission quickly grew, and since its third season it featured performances of a much broader range of classical and other repertoire.
The Festival was founded in 1974 by Melvin Kaplan, oboist and teacher at Juilliard, in collaboration with conductor William Metcalfe and the University of Vermont. The first season featured all-Mozart performances at the UVM Show Barn, Shelburne Farms, Royall Tyler Theatre, Robert Hull Fleming Museum, St. Paul's Cathedral, and aboard the S.S. Champlain. Notably, the Shelburne Farms concert marked the first time that the site was opened for a public event. In all, ten concerts were held over two weeks; every concert sold out. The following season, the Festival's format was expanded to include 15 concerts and three workshops. This format remained mostly unchanged for rest of the Festivals 37 years, though in 2006 the Festival presented 19 concerts. The Festival performed more than 3,000 pieces in over 50 locations, including at least 278 of Mozart's 626 works—possibly more than any other festival or concert series in the United States.
The Festival was incorporated as a non-profit organization in late 1976; the first full board of directors was assembled in early 1977. Following a successful fundraising campaign, the Festival achieved national recognition when CBS Sunday Morning filmed a week of concerts on location. A series of winter concerts began in 1978, and by 1979 the Festival was firmly established, drawing praise from the New York Times, Boston Globe, Los Angeles Times, and Montreal Star. In 1983, the complete Winter Series was recorded by National Public Radio and aired on Performance Today. In 1984, the Festival presented its first concert on the meadow of the Trapp Family Lodge in Stowe, Vermont, which quickly became, along with Shelburne Farms, one of the Festival's two largest and most popular concert sites. In the 2000s, all concerts on the Trapp meadow were followed by fireworks displays.
- The Grand Opening Concert of the Summer Festival was preceded by a classical dressage exhibition.
- The Summer Festival concluded with Mozart's Ave verum Corpus.
Despite having a volunteer staff for concert support functions (ushering, stubbing tickets, and parking facilitation), and financial support from both individuals and organizations; the Festival faced significant financial obstacles throughout its history.
In early 2005, the new Executive Director announced that the Festival was about $140,000 in debt—enough to put the Festival's continued existence in jeopardy. Supporters responded; and in two seasons, 65% of that debt was eliminated. The same Executive Director then resigned citing differences with the Festival's board of directors. Over the following four seasons, the deficit climbed to almost a third of the million dollar annual budget. After 36 years, the Festival closed its doors following the December 2010 winter concert.
Over the years, the Festival featured various performers including both established musicians and up-and-coming talent.
- Julius Baker, flute
- Charles Bressler, tenor
- Daniel Epstein (pianist), piano
- Eliot Fisk, guitar
- Claude Frank, piano
- Marc-André Hamelin, piano
- Sharon Isbin, guitar
- Louis Lortie, piano
- Robert Mann, violin
- Harvey Phillips, tuba
- Menahem Pressler, piano
- Mike Seeger, folk artist
- Walter Trampler, viola
In the media
- “Melvin Kaplan, the oboist who is the Festival’s artistic director, has pieced together a remarkably attractive season that in its resourcefulness, sophistication and occasional downright giddiness puts many of our better-established festivals to shame.” – Henahan, Donal. New York Times (1978)
- “One has all the ingredients necessary for a splendid musical vacation. For those with… a love of gorgeous sites and sounds, the Vermont Mozart Festival is a definite must.” – Montreal Star (July 1979)
- “The Vermont Mozart Festival brings the music of Mozart to life.” – CBS Sunday Morning (August 1991)
- “Mozart under the lights at Lincoln Center is an enchanting musical experience. Mozart under the stars at Shelburne Farms… is something else again. This is a perennial favorite.” – New York Times (1992)
- “On the score of settings, it’s difficult to beat the Vermont Mozart Festival.” – Boston Globe (1993)
- Hill, Mary Siegchrist (1998). The Vermont Mozart Festival: The First Twenty-Five Years.
- Hallenbeck, Brent (April 3, 2007). "Vermont Mozart director resigns; ‘differences’ cited". Burlington Free Press.
- "Mozart Festival Closing Its Doors". VPR News (Vermont Public Radio). December 22, 2010.
- "Vermont Mozart Festival calls it quits". the Stowe Reporter. December 23, 2010.
- "Curtain falls on Vermont Mozart Festival". Local News (WCAX). December 21, 2010.