WATERVILLE — The Atlantic Music Festival will kick off its ninth consecutive season Saturday at Colby College, giving the public nearly a month of opportunities to come and hear free classical music.
The festival, which began at Colby in 2009, brings together student musicians and professionals to play dozens of concerts around campus, most in Lorimer Chapel but others in Given Auditorium, the Strider Theater and the Marchese Blue Light Pub. An estimated 175 students will perform chamber music written by festival composers for instrumental ensembles at the first concert at 1 p.m. Saturday at Lorimer Chapel.
Richard Dillenbeck, a volunteer with the organization, said the schedule has to remain flexible and musical content could change from week to week.
The concert series, which runs until July 29, is broken up into five divisions: chamber music, full orchestra, composition, conducting and opera. Over 300 performances have taken place during the festival’s first eight years, and this year about 40 are planned. The festival has many recurring events, such as the festival orchestra performing eclectic programs at 7 p.m. on Saturdays and the festival Chamber Music Series playing on Wednesdays and Fridays at 7 p.m. Additional performances also may be scheduled.
Most of the musicians are students working toward master’s degrees who plan classical music careers, Dillenbeck said.
“The quality of the music is very good. It’s not amateur,” Dillenbeck said.
Dillenbeck, who has gone to the festival every year, said he volunteers because he loves classical music. The events have not always been well attended in past years, and Dillenbeck said that’s probably because festival organizers are more concerned with the students than with publicity.
“They don’t want to take time to spend on putting out information on concerts,” he said. “They want to focus totally on the students.”
Dillenbeck said this year, the festival is working with Waterville Creates! to get the word out.
Colby, which hosts a variety of programs during the summer, always has hosted the festival. The students stay in the college’s dormitories and eat on campus, while some of the program’s staff members reside off campus. That staff is made up of professional musicians from around the world, Dillenbeck said, representing an “unusual group of people satisfied and energized by classical music.”
While the Atlantic Music Festival isn’t the only classical music training facility around, Dillenbeck said it’s an important one. The festival offers participants an opportunity to experience performing in front of an audience.
“This is the way they’ll spend their professional lives,” he said.
Solbong Kim, the program’s artistic director, said the festival is more a retreat than a camp. “It’s a sanctuary of sorts.”
Kim, whose role is to oversee the artists and the kinds of music being created, said the festival is a way for younger musicians from all over the world to get to work with “great masters of music.”
Kim said the benefit of a retreat like this is that it’s not set up to be a competition. Many younger musicians spend much time at competitions, he said, which can lead them to forget why they fell in love with classical music in the first place. He said the point of the festival is to get these musicians back into that mindset.
“We’re all just friends playing music with each other,” he said.
The festival also continues its “I Am Four Years Old” philanthropy campaign. Launched in 2012, the campaign donates all concert proceeds received via donations to various causes.
The last concert, on July 29, will be a full orchestra performance in Lorimer Chapel at 7 p.m.
For more information about the festival, including the complete schedule of events and ticket reservations, visit the website at atlanticmusicfestival.org or call the festival office at 888-704-1311.
Colin Ellis can be contacted at 861-9253 or at: