20 years, 17 programs, 1300+ alumni, 3 Festival Artists - impressive numbers!

When I accepted my position as Artistic Director of Wintergreen Performing Arts, one of the things that "sealed the deal" was the organization's commitment to teaching. Summer academies had been important to my own musical growth. Summer training programs in Michigan, South Georgia (yes - summer in South Georgia!), Aspen, Oregon, England, the Czech Republic, and more all offered me the support, structure, and freedom to truly explore my own musicianship. I am still in touch with friends made during these intense summer months through alumni associations, social media, and my current musical endeavors.

Here's the Wintergreen Summer Music Academy story:

Some of our students in 2015!

Some of our students in 2015!

Only two years after presenting its first Summer Music Festival in 1995, Wintergreen Performing Arts embarked upon an equally important mission – that of training the next generation of classical music artists. What began in 1997 as the American Sinfonietta Performance Academy has now grown into the six programs of the internationally recognized Wintergreen Summer Music Academy. We are celebrating this 20th anniversary with enhanced Academy offerings, excellent faculty, and a renewed passion for excellence in performance and community service. In fact, we are so proud of these two decades of music education that we are devoting our entire 2017 Summer Music Festival to the celebration of youth in music. You’ll hear much more about our Festival offerings in future posts, but for this particular blog, I would like to brag about our Academy with a few quick facts:

  • Since 1997, we have taught 1300+ young musicians.
  • We have mentored students in arts administration, bassoon, cello, composition, conducting, double bass, flute, French horn, harp, oboe, percussion, piano, trombone, trumpet, viola, violin, and voice.
  • Alumni are now members of professional symphony orchestras, creative chamber music societies, and well-respected graduate programs around the countries.
  • This year we are launching the Wintergreen Alumni Club to keep track of all of our marvelous alumni.

These are impressive stats for sure, but the best way to experience the Academy’s success is to see it in person. As a patron of the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, you can shadow our students, observe their masterclasses, listen in on their seminars, and cheer on their performances, all for FREE!

Joseph Kluesener

Joseph Kluesener

And, this year, you can hear three of our alumni featured in performance! That’s right, three of our esteemed alumni are now members of our professional core of Wintergreen Festival Artists. They will be giving a joint recital on Friday, August 4. Don’t miss it!

Joseph Kluesener – WSMA class of 2002 and 2006

Joey was a member of our training program for woodwinds. Since that time, he has become the bassoonist for the Paradise Winds and the Fountain Hill Chamber Players. He received his masters and doctoral degrees in bassoon performance from Arizona State University, and most importantly, he’s Wintergreen's second bassoonist.

Wallace Easter, III – WSMA class of 2005 and 2006

Wallace Easter, III

Wallace Easter, III

Wallace studied French horn at the Academy, under the guidance of his father and our principal horn player, Wally Easter. Wallace is now our third horn player, a performer in the Roanoke Symphony, and an instructor at Radford University. And, in addition to music degrees from Oberlin and the New England Conservatory, he has a degree in Physics!

“I enjoyed performing on the mountain, eating some great food, and taking in the beautiful views, but the memories that stick out most in my mind are those of meeting the wonderful people at the festival. I had the opportunity to work with many talented individuals whom I never would have met outside of the festival. Similarly, I met many amazing residents of the area who were beyond hospitable and among the most enthusiastic audience members for whom I have ever had the privilege of performing.”
— Wallace Easter, III

Elizabeth Coulter Vonderheide – WSMA class of 1997 (the very first year)

Liz is now Assistant Principal Second Violin of the Virginia Symphony. She has performed with the St. Louis Symphony, the Sarasota Orchestra, and the Hollywood Concert Orchestra (among MANY others!).

Elizabeth Coulter Vonderheide

Elizabeth Coulter Vonderheide

“I was a member of the very first Wintergreen Academy class in 1997. I had just graduated from high school and was on my way to the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Having the chance to completely immerse myself in the study of my instrument, chamber music with talented kids my own age, and (at the time) side by side orchestra experience with my teachers was deeply meaningful and inspiring. For a musical kid who knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life, there was something completely magical about ‘finding my people.’ Wintergreen is a beautiful setting to spend hours discovering and working on a new piece, or having a great conversation with a new friend about that one part of that one piece that you both love so much, or building connections with professionals who will be your teachers and mentors. I hope every talented kid gets the same opportunities to have the same eye-opening experiences that I did. Thank you Wintergreen!”
— Liz Vonderheide

A Few of My Favorite Things

A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS, by Artistic Director Erin Freeman

I’ve always been pretty good at keeping secrets. For example, when I was 16, I managed to hide the fact that my sister was getting a new car for Christmas for an entire month. And, years later, I pulled off a surprise party for my husband’s 40th birthday – in a city three hours away from home.

However, as you might have noticed, I’ve been leaking details of our 2017 Festival and Academy for the last few months. I’m just so excited about our programming and roster of musicians that I feel the need to shout our news from the mountaintop (the Wintergreen mountaintop, that is!). We have returning favorites and new surprises – all with a focus on celebrating the 20th anniversary of our Academy.

If you want to continue to get hints, informational tidbits, and news about our musicians, students, and alumni, make sure to follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Here are a few of the details that I just can’t help but spill – even though our Festival Brochure won’t hit your mailboxes for another couple of weeks.

Victor Yampolsky demonstrates excellent conducting technique for one of the 2016 Conductors' Summit students.

Victor Yampolsky demonstrates excellent conducting technique for one of the 2016 Conductors' Summit students.

Victor Yampolsky, the fiery Russian maestro and premiere instructor of young conductors across the globe, will be returning for his third year. This summer, he’ll lead a thrilling and stunningly beautiful set of works featuring our Wintergreen Festival Orchestra. The first piece, called Rest, is a string orchestra version of one of the most moving choral pieces I’ve conducted this year: There Will Be Rest, by Frank Tichelli. Give the original composition a listen below. Then, imagine that beauty emanating from our talented strings atop picturesque Wintergreen Mountain. Pair that with the powerful Dvorak Cello Concerto and Shostakovich’s brilliant Symphony No. 9, and you have a program that will inspire all. [Save the date: July 22 at 6:00 pm and 23 at 3:00 pm.]

Scott Wichmann in his more serious alter-ego: John Adams in Legends and Lies.  To read his take on John Adams, click here.

Scott Wichmann in his more serious alter-ego: John Adams in Legends and Lies.  To read his take on John Adams, click here.

I met actor, singer, and US Navy reservist Scott Wichmann when he narrated a version of Peer Gynt that I created for the Richmond Symphony. We first went through the script while sitting at my dining room table, and I don’t think I’ve EVER laughed that much. His timing, humor, and care for everything he does is palpable. He is a favorite at Virginia Repertory Theatre and a history buff, and as such it is fitting that he has played John Adams in Fox’s Legends and Lies AND VA Rep’s production of the musical 1776. And, he even had a small role in Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln. For us, he’s putting together a special cabaret show featuring jovial songs about youth (“Young at Heart,” for example) and hilarious tales of growing up in Massachusetts. I know that you will laugh just as hard as I did that afternoon in my dining room. [Save the date: July 26 at 7:30 pm.]

Finally, just last week, I received the greatest gift a musician could ever receive: a new score! That’s right, Daron Hagen sent me the music to his new work that accompanies Charlie Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life. Having myself just rescued a dog (a BIG 85-pound gentle giant named Bruno), I’m overwhelmed with the honor of bringing this music to life with the film. This year, our third annual movie night will not only feature this new work, but will also open with a world premiere score to Chaplin’s The Vagabond – written by our composition students. If you missed our inaugural movie night, featuring our world premiere performance of Daron Hagen Chaplin’s Tramp, check out the result on Daron’s website! [Save the date: July 28 at 7:30 pm.]

Chaplin and his Dog!

Chaplin and his Dog!

Me and my dogs (Bruno and Quigley)

Me and my dogs (Bruno and Quigley)

Blue Ridge Christmas with The Virginia Consort - Program Announced

2015's Blue Ridge Christmas.  Photo Credit: Lewis Dunn.

2015's Blue Ridge Christmas.  Photo Credit: Lewis Dunn.

A note from WPA Artistic Director, Erin Freeman:

There is no better holiday tradition than listening to great music! It binds us to each other, it connects us to our ancestors, and it reminds us of what's truly important.

For me, a Christmas concert is what got me involved in music and set my life on the wild and crazy ride I've been on since childhood. I'll never forget sitting on the last row of a packed Atlanta Symphony hall, listening to "Christmas with Robert Shaw," hearing music from Bach to spirituals, and sensing how it affected those around me. 

Our Blue Ridge Christmas tradition promises to have the same effect on YOU and your loved ones.

I encourage you to bring the young person in your life to this memorable concert! With music by Felix Mendelssohn, John Rutter, and more - plus traditional Christmas carols - you might just help someone fall in love with music.  

- Erin 

The Virginia Consort performs for a full crowd at the 2015 Blue Ridge Christmas.

The Virginia Consort performs for a full crowd at the 2015 Blue Ridge Christmas.

The program for our 2016 Blue Ridge Christmas has just been revealed! See below for the program and a few video previews.

Don't miss a note - get your tickets now!

The annual Blue Ridge Christmas concert is one of the Virginia Consort’s favorite concert experiences of their entire season. There is a special ambience in that beautiful, intimate sanctuary and a glorious warmth to the sound of the music being sung.
— Judith Gary, Artistic Director, The Virginia Consort


Jan Sweelinck: Hodie Christus Natus Est
Joaquin Nin-Culmell: La Virgen Lava Pañales
Laurie Betts Hughes, arr.: Mary, What You Gonna Call That Pretty Little Baby  
Barbara Bell/John Rutter: La Berceuse
Matthew Harris: On This Starry Night
Donald Fraser: This Christmastide (Jessye's Carol) 
Ian Loeppky, arr.: Adam Lay Ybounden
Felix Mendelssohn: There Shall a Star
Michael Murra, arr.: Ce Matin, J'ai Rencontré Le Train
James Gossler, arr.: Auld Lang Syne, traditional Scottish tune
Philip Stopford, arr.: I Saw Three Ships
Philip Kern, arr.: Mozart's Fa La La
Bob Chilcott: The Wellspring
Stacey V. Gibbs, arr.: See Dat Babe

PLUS - a sing-along


"There Shall a Star" - A stunning work from Mendelssohn's oratorio Christus.  

Mozart's Fa La La - Eine kleine Nacht Musik goes to a Christmas party!

2 or 8? 8 or 2? A Beethoven quandary.

When putting together the programming for the 2016 Wintergreen Summer Music Festival, I had a few "must-haves" on my list. With the theme "Expect the Unexpected," the great jokester Haydn had to be represented. We also needed some unique instrument representation (accordion, anyone?). We had to do Rhapsody in Blue, with its premiere that was a surprise to many, including the composer. And, of course, we needed to tell the unique stories of some surprising musical heroes - women such as Clara Schumann, Maud Powell, and Nadia Boulanger.  

By Friedrich August von Kloeber (1793 - 1864) - http://portrait.kaar.at/Musikgeschichte%2019.Jhd/image3.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=279449

By Friedrich August von Kloeber (1793 - 1864) - http://portrait.kaar.at/Musikgeschichte%2019.Jhd/image3.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=279449

But, we also needed Beethoven. Why? Because, well, Beethoven. There is something about his music and his story that brings together the past and the future of music, whips us up into a humanistic frenzy, and results in a breathless rush of shared excitement.

But which symphony?! Fairly recently, the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra has performed his first, third, fifth, sixth, and seventh symphonies, and we are aiming for a ninth in the near future. So, that leaves me with numbers two and eight. Although heard in recent seasons as part of our Academy, we have never tackled these two works as the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra. 

I have conducted both of these symphonies, and they are decisively joyful, playful, humorous, and bombastic. I love them both in very different ways, and I think each one pairs equally well with Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto, which is on the first half of the concert. Symphony No. 2 brings out the youthful characteristics of Schumann's brilliant concerto, while Symphony No. 8 highlights the concerto's mature forward-looking elements.

I have personal and musical reasons for doing either one (ask me the story about the second some time), and I know our musicians will dive into either one with their typical virtuosity, commitment, and artistry.

So, what is an Artistic Director to do when she has a rare moment of indecision? DELEGATE, of course.  I am leaving the decision up to you - our audience, friends, musicians, and students. Just head to Facebook before 5pm on Friday, June 3 to vote.  


The poll is "pinned" to the top of our Wintergreen Performing Arts Facebook page, so it should be easy to find. Feel free to urge your friends to vote for your favorite, too. Just share the poll on your own page and tell them how you want the vote to go. 

Thanks for participating!


If you need to do a bit of research first, here's a bit more information: 


Beethoven composed his second symphony soon after he wrote a letter to his brother - a heartfelt letter now known as the "Heiligenstadt Testament." In it, he admits to considering suicide upon realizing that he is losing his most precious sense: his hearing. He explains, however, that the art within him prevents him from committing such an act. 

(The most touching quote is excerpted on this page, but you can - and should! - read the entire text here.)

What was the art within him? The vibrant second symphony! It follows the model that Haydn set forth in his mature works: A slow introduction followed by a joyful, active first movement; a lyrical second movement with a melody that would make Mozart proud; a third movement scherzo with surprises abounding; and a finale that seems to start with a guffaw.

Ludwig van Beethoven Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 36.

Christian Thielemann conducts the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra.

Ah how could I possibly admit such an infirmity in the one sense which should have been more perfect in me than in others, a sense which I once possessed in highest perfection, a perfection such as few surely in my profession enjoy or have enjoyed . . . [W]hat a humiliation when one stood beside me and heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone heard the shepherd singing and again I heard nothing, such incidents brought me to the verge of despair, but little more and I would have put an end to my life - only art it was that withheld me, ah it seemed impossible to leave the world until I had produced all that I felt called upon me to produce.


When asked why the premiere of his eighth symphony received less attention than his seventh, Beethoven ironically replied: “because the eighth is so much better.”

Beethoven: Symphony No.8 in F Major, Op.93.

Paavo Jarvi conducts the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen.

The eighth symphony is a different story. It is sometimes called the "Little" symphony, because its position in Beethoven's output is between two giants: the famous dance-like seventh and the historic ninth. Also, Beethoven called it "my little symphony in F" to distinguish it from the much longer
"Pastoral" (sixth) symphony, also in F Major. But even with its comparatively diminutive stature, it displays Beethoven's maturity as a experienced symphonist. The first movement has no formal introduction, but rather starts right out of the gate briskly and "con brio" ("with vigor"). There is great confidence in this opening - a confidence that spills over into the second movement. Rather than blindly follow the model of the cantabile second movement, he offers a "scherzando" (literally "joke") in the style of a playful clock. The third movement, an old-school elegant minuet, delivers a moment of peaceful respite before the fourth movement brings the work to a close with a famously bombastic, drawn-out, and thrilling ending.  

Frank Almond releases new recording

Congratulations to Week 4 Concertmaster Frank Almond on the release of his new CD, A Violin's Life, Vol 2: Music for the Lipinski Stradivari.  Frank will be with us during our final week to lead the orchestra, to solo in Anna Clyne's Prince of Clouds, and to talk about the adventures of the famed Lipinski Stradivarius. You can order this new recording on Amazon - or purchase it in person at the Festival!  Either way, make sure you grab a sharpie so you can get Frank to autograph your copy!

Blue Ridge Christmas Program Announced

Imagine, it’s a chilly Sunday afternoon in December. You bundle up and head to the lovely Rockfish Presbyterian Church. You see friends – old and new, and you enjoy the sounds of the talented Virginia Consort singing carols – also old and new.

Sounds like the perfect way to kick off the holiday season, and it sounds like a community tradition not to be missed!

And, finally, we can unveil the program!

Buy Tickets HERE!

Hodie Christus Natus Est - Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina (1525 -1594), performed by A cappella Ammesse on October 20, 2012

  • Traditional Carols
  • Alan Bullard: A Little Child There Is Y-Born
  • François Couperin: In Notte Placida
  • Cornelius Freundt: Gaboren Is Uns Der Heilige Christ
  • Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina: Hodie Christus Natus Est (Preview to the right!)
  • Alan Bullard: Scot's Nativity
  • Tchaikovsky, arr. Jeff Funk: Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy
  • Tomas Luis de Victoria: O Magnum Mysterium
  • Mack Wilberg, arr.: Christmas Is Coming

The Salt Lake Vocal Artists perform "Heilig" by Felix Mendelssohn for double choir in Basilica di San Saturnine.

  • Bob Chilcott: Where Riches is Everlastingly
  • Frank Ferko: O Frondens Virga
  • Dean Rishel, arr.: Hang The Holly
  • Laurie Betts Hughes, arr.: Ain't That A-Rockin'
  • Robert DeCormier, arr.: The Souling Song
  • Felix Mendelssohn: Heilig  (Preview to the left!)
  • Stacey Gibbs, arr.: Somebody Talkin' 'Bout Jesus
  • Plus – you get to participate!  Warm up your voices for an audience sing-along of Hark the Herald Angels Sing

TBT - The night the lights went off...and then back on.

Subtitle: Erin's Favorite Festival Moment

Today's Throwback Thursday takes us back to our "Bold Bach at Bold Rock" concert. On a beautiful Friday night, we filled the stunning Bold Rock Cidery with chairs, people, pie, and music. Academy students and Festival artists performed the music of Bach to a maximum capacity crowd. Everything went smoothly, until between the coffee pots and the added spotlights, we blew a fuse, and the lights went out. Of course, it was right in the middle of a tricky piece for voice, oboe, harpsichord, and cello, with notes and German words in very small print. Despite the challenge, David Rezits, Peter Marshall, Bill Parrish, and I made it through the joyous piece with some success.  (The show must go on, right!?)  

Our reward at the end? Well, the lights came back on! Approval from Bach, or just a happy coincidence?

Miraculously, John Taylor took a picture at that exact instant. Thank you, John, for capturing my favorite moment of the Festival!  - Erin

TBT - 20 (++) premieres for 20 years

Daron Hagen in Phoenix in front of his well-earned dressing room.

Daron Hagen in Phoenix in front of his well-earned dressing room.

For today's "Throwback Thursday," we honor our Chair of Composition, Daron Hagen, and we celebrate the October 9th premiere of his Symphony No. 5. Under the baton of Michael Christie, the Phoenix Symphony performed Hagen's sweeping new work. Daron flew to Phoenix for the premiere, and he even got his own dressing room!  At Wintergreen, we don't have dressing rooms, per say, but we do have a memorable view of the Blue Ridge Mountains!

Find out about the symphony on Daron's website here,  and read Daron's article on Huffington Post  recounting why he is still committed to the symphony as a genre.  Yes - it is still relevant. It appears that Haydn, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky knew what they were doing! (That's a hint for the 2016 Festival, by the way).

Congratulations to Daron Hagen!

Speaking of world premieres, we at Wintergreen Performing Arts are proud to boast that we programmed more than twenty of them at the 2015 Wintergreen Summer Music Festival and Academy (our 20th anniversary). We are grateful for previous WPA Artistic and Executive Director Larry Alan Smith, whose vision started us on the path of encouraging and highlighting living composers.  And we thank the many, many composers who made this impressive list possible - including Daron!

Festival Performances

Artistic Director Erin Freeman and Chair of Composition Daron Hagen discussing Hagen's The Tramp before the world premiere. 

Artistic Director Erin Freeman and Chair of Composition Daron Hagen discussing Hagen's The Tramp before the world premiere. 

  • Clay, Danny and invoke - 1865 Suite (world premiere of entire piece) - Middle movement was previously performed - Good Night by Danny Clay - invoke Fellowship String Quartet
  • Fuhrman, Bruce - Shadow (world premiere of complete performance) - invoke Fellowship String Quartet
  • Hagen, Daron - The Tramp - original score to Charlie Chaplin’s The Tramp  - Thomas Josenhans, Clarinet; John Meisner & Jana Ross, Violins; Ann Marie Brink, Viola; Wesley Baldwin, Cello; Bleda Elibel, Bass; Erin Freeman, Conductor  - Featuring Peter Marshall on piano, playing the musical role of Charlie Chaplin.
  • Montopoli, Nick - Dogs - invoke Fellowship String Quartet
  • White, Michael - A Sephardic Life for string trio - Sharan Leventhal, Violin; Steve Larson, Viola; and Sara Sitzer, Cello
  • White, Michael - Duo for Violin and CelloAndrea Schultz, Violin and Michael Finckel, Cello
  • White, Michael - Trio for Oboe, Viola, and Piano - Aaron Hill, Oboe; Steve Larson, Viola; and Winston Choi, Piano            
  • White, Michael - In Memoriam for Flute and Orchestra - Lance Suzuki, Flute; Alfred Savia, Conductor; Wintergreen Festival Orchestra

Additional world premieres, featuring Academy composers

Academy Vocal Intensive Masterclass/Performance – Sunday, July 19

  • Baerwald, Josh - Canis Major - Victoria Rodriguez, Mezzo Soprano
  • Bandera, Carlos  - Stiller FreundErika Straus, Soprano
  • Weisensel, Maggie - AloneMaureen Brabec, Soprano

Academy Composers Concert - July 28

  • Bandera, Carlos - Florestan - Milene Rossato Moreira, Violin; Johanna Beaver, Viola; David Rezits, Cello
  • Tedesco, Frank - The Cracked Sandglass - Crawfords Climb Quartet
  • Tang, Joseph - Notion of Motion - Laurel Springs Quartet
  • Eber, Tevi - Still Waters Run Deep - Black Rock Quartet
  • Heyde, Zach - Totenstille - Rodes Farm Quartet
  • Baerwald, Josh - Bob Ross - Trillium Quartet
  • Flagello, Gala - Fast, Good, Cheap: Choose Two - Rebecca Racusin, Violin; Matthew Pegis, Viola; Michael Finckel, Cello
  • Keogan, Brandon - Small Piece for String Quartet - Ravens Roost Quartet
  • Avery, Dax - Steadfast Cactus - Lake Monocan Quartet
  • Blalock, Shelby - Elude - Shamokin Springs Quartet
  • Minigan, Colin - String Quartet No. 2 in Many Keys - Blue Ridge Quartet
  • Weisensel, Maggie - The Dim - invoke Fellowship String Quartet