Behind the Scenes at Summer Music Festivals

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The sounds of summer music festivals are in the air!

Across the US (and around the world) there are thousands of summer music festivals of every type and genre, from classical to jazz, from New England to the Southwest. If you are an aspiring musician, stage manager or production designer, a music festival looks like a dream summer job, right? Artzray followed violist and regular contributor Drew Alexander Forde, also known as ThatViolaKid, to his “summer gig” at the Colorado College Music Festival for a behind the scenes look at what it’s like to work at a summer music festival. (Featured photo Tanglewood Music Festival, Massachusetts, by Steve Rosenthal)


You’re from Atlanta right Drew? What’s it like being in Colorado? Ever been there before?
I am from the Atlanta area! I’m from Peachtree City, Georgia–land of the golf carts. Being in Colorado is amazing. It’s the complete opposite of Georgia in the summer: warm, extremely low humidity, cool in the evenings, and thin air! I’m currently in Colorado Springs, so the elevation is 6000+ feet! I’ve been here twice before. The first time was for this same festival, and the second time was to play for a fundraising gala! Both were amazing experiences, so I always enjoy coming back to this wonderful place!

Are you an intern or a student? Or is this one of those “took it for the experience” kind of things?

Well, I’m a festival fellow and a student, so I’m always doing things for “the experience.” The people of the community in Colorado Springs sponsor college students to come study at this festival with some the world’s best performers and teachers. So, I’m essentially here to perform for this community and learn from the best in the business.


Did you have to find your own place to live or did they provide housing? How is the roommate situation?
I’m staying in a decent dorm that they have provided, and I have the room to myself, which in an extra plus, both for me and for everyone around me because I sometimes snore like a wild hog.

What are the hours like? Are you working all day or do you get time to socialize with the other students?
I rehearse pretty much all day. We have coachings (we perform for faculty and they give us healthy criticism on how to improve) and rehearsals every morning. Then we have master classes and lessons in the afternoons, and orchestra in the evening. We do socialize, but we make time for it in the wee hours of the night.


Are you in the orchestras that are performing or are you backstage? What have the crowds been like? Some summer music festivals are outdoors, but not at this one right?

I am principally here as a performer, so I perform a LOT. The crowds are amazing. Extremely generous and eager to talk after performances. It’s truly fulfilling. We don’t perform outdoors, so we don’t have to worry about tuning or sound issues. We do, however, have to figure out to keep our instruments from shriveling in the dry air though.


Do you see this as primary a performance opportunity or a resume booster? Or a little of both?
I see this as a networking opportunity actually. We classical musicians go to festivals for the obvious reasons: to get better, learn from esteemed faculty, build our resumes, etc. However, we also attend these festivals to meet other musicians and teachers. Networking is key, for we will probably be running into these guys for the rest of our lives. You never know who could give you a life-altering performance opportunity.


What is the value to an aspiring musician to take a summer music festival job?

Just participating is where the real value is.

Do you get to interact with the guest artists or are you kind off doing your own thing with festival staff?

As students we get to perform for, and sometimes with, faculty and guest artists. This is where the true value lies, for you build connections and relationships with people who are on the frontline of this business!


What’s your favorite place to chill?

My bed. Or under a tree.

Thanks for sharing your experience Drew of summer music festivals! So whatever part of the country you live in, get out there and listen to the sounds of summer!

If you are a student instrumentalist looking for future performance opportunities you might want to explore some of these festivals:

Follow Drew’s regular Artzray series “Ask TVK” and on social media:

Snapchat: @ohsnapitstvk

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