Utah Music Festival & School is director’s labor of love
Eric Samuels, director of the Utah Music Festival & School, has been on a tour for the past seven months.
He has driven around the country recruiting professional musicians and faculty members to participate in the Utah Music Festival & School summer sessions that will begin on July 7 and run through Aug. 26.
The catch was, Samuels did all the recruiting and driving around on his own dime because the festival doesn’t have a promotional budget.
"I took off and booked my own performing gigs to pay for my gas and visited conservatories and music schools around the country and talked with the musicians," Samuels said during an interview with The Park Record. "We’ll have about 75 to 80 faculty members who come from major symphonies and music conservatories around the nation here in Park City for the summer and they will provide training and classes for students from the ages of eight to adult during the sessions."
The Utah Music Festival & School is a multi-discipline music program that covers everything from classical, jazz, folk, pop to tango and film music.
This year, the students will also study country music, because Stephanie Quail, a singer and songwriter based in Nashville, Tenn., who has performed in Park City during past Sundance Film Festivals, will be one of the featured artists.
"Our musicians will back her up while she performs around the area," Samuels said.
Samuels said he is also partnering with Jeff Whiteley, director of the Excellence in the Community Concerts, who will help with the singer and songwriter aspect of the Festival and School.
"We’re also working with the Youth Conservatory in Logan," Samuels said. "They have a big after-school program with the Utah State University and get their kids to Park City as well."
All classes, which will be taught to all different levels of students, will be held at the Weilenmann School of Discovery, 4199 Kilby Road, where Samuels’ wife, Alison, teaches band and choir.
"We will teach those who still need to be introduced to the Suzuki method in Book One to those who need to learn to read music all the way up to college kids from Weber State University, Utah State University, the University of Utah and Brigham Young University," Samuels’ said. "(Principal) Mary Kimball and (Middle School Dean) Cindy Phillips have taken the music program from zero to 60 miles an hour in the past two years. They, along with Devon Colby, the string Suzuki expert at the school, are great arts proponents."
The class schedule for locally based students is simple, Samuels said.
Students can either take classes from 9 a.m. until noon or from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. or all day, he said.
"If they come full day, we take an hour break for some recreational activities such as hikes in the woods behind Weilenmann," Samuels explained. "The cost is $10 an hour for the half-day sessions and $60 for full day, or $250 for the whole festival, and we want them to at least participate two days a week."
At the end of each week, Utah Music Festival & School students will perform with each other and their teachers during concerts that will be held at the Temple Har Shalom, Park City Community Church and St. Luke’s Church in Park City as well as at the Sundance Resort, Madsen Recital Hall at Brigham Young University and the All Saints Episcopal Church in Salt Lake.
"This gives the students a tremendous amount of confidence with their performing," Samuels said. "The students, in turn, not only become technically more proficient, but can build relationships with people who are upcoming professionals, semi-professionals and full-time professionals in the business.
"The teachers will become a resource for these kids and provide them with information about upcoming auditions and things like that," he said. "This will give young musicians a leg up to meet the pros, and we give the pros a place to bring their students and families for the summer."
There are also plans for all the students to attend concerts performed by the Utah Symphony, the musicians who perform for Mountain Town Music and the Utah Festival Opera in Logan.
"These are perks for the students who attend our festival and school," Samuels said. "We want to piggyback on whatever else is going on around us to help serve our local community educationally."
All children and students will be admitted to these concerts for free, and half of the performances will be free for adults, Samuels said.
In addition to the opportunities for students to perform with these professional musicians, the UMFS will also give the students a chance to get up-close-and-personal with the music faculty on a personal and professional level, Samuels explained.
"We’re launching a jazz program this year with University of Utah jazz students and Ray Smith from Brigham Young University is going to pitch in with some of his resources," Samuels said.
In addition to Weilenmann School, Canyons Resort has also opened its doors to the Utah Music Festival & School.
"We’ll do open rehearsals and master classes there, as well, and we’ll also play at their restaurants and present some informal concerts," Samuels said. "We’ll present nonstop music week in and week out."
Living quarters for students and faculty during the festival will be located in condominiums at Red Pine, Crestview, Hidden Creek, Canyons and Promontory.
"We’ve got property-managing companies helping us out with housing," Samuels said. "We have been heavily dependent and grateful for donated housing over the years and we still need help."
In some cases, the faculty members will be housed in the same complex as the students and their families.
"The teachers will not only coach the students at least 30 hours a week, but also, at times, cook with them and just hang out with them.
"That way, they are, in a sense, saying to the student, ‘I’m (a part of) your life. I want you to get connected with the right college and the right graduate school teacher.’"
Samuels said the mission of the Utah Music Festival & School’s goal is to "bring nationally-recognized performers and faculty to Park City to entertain locals and visitors, and provide unparalleled music education for Park City, Summit County and Utah music students.
"We’re trying to fill a niche where the students get to be treated like professional musicians and the faculty members are accessible to the students," Samuels said. "We’re also looking to reach 50 to 100 students over the summer."
For more information about registering and donating to the Utah Music Festival & School, visit http://www.utahmusic.org or call Eric Samuels at (800) 998-UTAH or (435) 640-9393.
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