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