Brevard Music Center Brings Summer to Life

Brevard Music Center Artistic Director Keith Lockhart leads the symphony orchestra at a concert at the Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium. / Photo by Mike Belleme

Brevard Music Center is coming alive for the summer season with students engaged in musical studies as sounds of rehearsals for upcoming performances drift across the wooded campus.

The music center is beginning its 82nd season with a wealth of performances by noted artists and talented students selected for the summer institute.

Each summer more than 40,000 people come to the small town of Brevard to hear concerts and operas performed at the music center’s large outdoor auditorium and at nearby Brevard College.

This summer’s offerings include a wealth of symphonies, chamber music and opera along with innovative offerings. The movie West Side Story will be shown while accompanied by a symphony orchestra performing composer Leonard Bernstein’s score for the musical on July 14.

A few weeks later on Aug. 3, multi-media visuals provided by Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute will appear as the Brevard Concert Orchestra performs “The Planets” by Holst.

Other performances of classical works at the summer festival include Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony on June 29 and Puccini’s timeless opera, “Madame Butterfly,” on June 28 and 29.

A dance performance of Terpsicorps, a contemporary ballet corps based in North Carolina will take place at Brevard College on July 17.

The summer festival features a “Brevard Music Presents” series that showcases popular contemporary music groups. On Aug. 18 award-winning banjo player Bela Fleck will perform a Blue Ridge banjo concert at the music center.

Another recent addition to the music center’s summer offerings is a “festival within a festival” that showcases the work of a noteworthy composer. This year’s selection is American composer Leonard Bernstein whose works are featured in a series of performances and special events.

“Leonard Bernstein was a composer whose mastery reached across multiple musical genres,” said Brevard Music Center President and CEO Mark Weinstein. “BMC is thrilled to celebrate Bernstein’s legacy and 100th birthday with a rich and varied series of inspired performances and events that showcase his important roles as musician, educator, cultural ambassador, and humanitarian.”

In addition to performances of Bernstein’s works, including his musical comedy “Candide,” Joseph Horowitz, a former New York Times music critic and authority on American music, will participate in a series of free lectures on the composer’s accomplishments and challenges.

Among the 80 performances offered at the Brevard Music Center festival are those featuring students who have come to develop their musical abilities under the direction of Artistic Director Keith Lockhart. Each summer 500 gifted students ages 14 through post-college come to the center to study.

The heart of the music center is in its educational program for high school and college students, said Cally Jamis Vennare, director of marketing and communications for Brevard Music Center.

“We are a mission driven music center,” Vennare said. “Our mission is training of the next generation of classical musicians … Classical music is at our core.”

The music center also is focused on reaching out to the community, Vennare said. Many of the performances in the outdoor setting are family-friendly, with space for bringing a picnic to enjoy while listening to music.

“We really work to make it accessible to the community,” she said.

Performances also are reasonably priced from $20 to $40, and many offer free admission to children 17 years and younger accompanied by parents.

Another recent innovation designed to help people enjoy performances is an induction loop hearing system installed at the Whittington-Pfohl Auditorium, Vennare noted. The hearing loop can be connected for people who use hearing aids and implants.

Vennare is also excited about plans to build a 400-seat concert hall at the music center, which will become home to the piano program and will have space for classes, recitals and special concerts. A site overlooking Lake Milner has been selected for the new hall, which is expected to be ready for use in 2020.

Vennare has been with Brevard Music Center for nearly four years after an extensive career in marketing and public relations. She began her career with the Pittsburgh Opera and then transitioned to other areas of service.

“I was missing being in the arts,” she said.

Vennare also enjoys life in Brevard.

“It’s really very gratifying, a wonderful area of the country,” she said of her work and present home.

For more information on the Brevard Music Center Summer Institute and Festival and a detailed schedule of performances, visit the website

By Sandra Barnes