READY TO HANG – Instructor Franco Zacha, a Brooklyn based artist/illustrator, looks over the work of Sitka Fine Arts Camp students putting the final touches on their gauche paintings this morning. Students will show their work at an opening in Yaw Art Center on the SJ campus Saturday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Students pictured in foreground are Kai Thomas, 17, from Anchorage and Audrey Mack, 17, of Seattle, far right. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson) 

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Musicians, Listeners Gather For Sitka Festival


Sentinel Staff Writer

Performances by cellist Zuill Bailey, musicians from the New World Symphony, and a lecture series by festival favorite Martin Sher are among the highlights of the 52nd season of the Sitka Music Festival which kicks off next week.

Alex Gonzalez and Stephanie Block perform during a Sitka Music Festival evening concert June 19, 2021. Gonzalez will join other musicians for the festival’s 52nd season beginning May 31. (Sentinel Photo by Reber Stein)

Musicians start arriving this weekend in time for the first Cafe Concert at the Mean Queen on Wednesday, and the first evening programs at Harrigan Centennial Hall next Friday and Saturday.

Festival executive director Alex Serio said most of the popular programs will be back, along with something new: a free lecture series “A Sher Thing” 6 p.m. every Thursday at the Miner Music Center at Stevenson Hall.

“We liked that name because audience members are ‘sher’ to leave the presentation with more knowledge of the music that is going to be played that weekend,” Serio said. “It’s a more intimate event for those who want to have more information.”

Sher is a violist who has played the festival for several years. He has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic and is currently the senior vice president of the New World Symphony in Miami.

Serio said the lecture series is still taking shape but he expects Sher will invite fellow musicians to his talks to play sections of the upcoming music to familiarize audiences with it.

For more than three decades music educator and pianist Susan Wingrove-Reed gave informative lectures before the concerts. During COVID, she and other musicians offered lectures by video, but the feature was not presented last year. Serio said they were missed, “so we’re trying to re-institute them.” 

Serio said the Festival board “extends their deepest thanks” to Wingrove-Reed for her many years of service.

Also new this year are digital program notes that will be emailed to ticket buyers.

“The night before the concert, you’ll get an email with a link to that program. “You can download it and read the program notes about the music on your computer or iPad before the concert,” he said. 

The printed program for each concert will include a QR code for the same notes.

“It’s environmentally friendly and budget friendly for us as well,” Serio said.

Zuill Bailey, the Festival artistic director and a Grammy award-winning cellist, will be coming to Sitka following a concert tour in Greece, arriving in time for the Wednesday cafe concert.

Serio said the first full evening programs next weekend will be special.

The Mahler Piano Quartet is on the program for the Friday, June 2, concert at Centennial Hall, and will feature members of the New World Symphony and pianist Alfredo Oyaguez.

“It’s a special piece of music because it’s Mahler’s only piece of existing chamber music,” Serio said. “He’s more known for symphonic works, and he wrote it when he was 15 or 16 years old.” 

Robert Schumann’s piano quintet in E flat major also is on the program. Serios said it’s a staple of the chamber repertoire – “a major romantic 19th Century chamber work.”

The program is rounded out by a piece by Piazzolla, “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”

“They were originally four tango compositions which are now played as a suite,” Serio said. “There’s a nice Argentinian flair. He gave the seasons a different order than Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons.”

The Saturday, June 3, concert will be a celebration of Rachmaninoff’s 150th birth year, which will feature Bailey and pianist Natasha Paremski.

Serio is pleased with violinist Alex Gonzales’ return to Sitka. He was here previously as a younger musician of the New World Symphony. “He’s now out playing professionally everywhere and it’s exciting to have him back.”

Festival fans can also expect the regular schedule of concerts Fridays and Saturdays through June 17, with a final concert Friday, June 23, wrapping up the series in time for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp’s Jazz on the Waterfront the following day.

Other special events include the Sea Mart Family Concert June 4, Allen Marine cruise concert June 11,  Father’s Day Crab feed June 18 and the brunch concert June 25.

Serio said this year is also special because the Festival Foundation has received an offer to match every dollar donated up to $50,000, thanks to a gift of that size from an anonymous party.

That would be added to the $1.2 million in the foundation currently.

“It’s a ‘sound’ investment in our future,” Serio said. 

Tickets for the evening concerts are less expensive if bought in advance for the evening concerts. They are $25 for seniors, youth and military, and $30 for others at the door; and $22.50  and $27.50 if purchased in advance. They can be purchased at and at Old Harbor Books.




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July 2004 

Homes for sale: Stunning view, 4 bdrms., 3 baths, master suite,hardwood-laminate floors, new appliances $369,000; Three-level family home, apt. 3 bdrms., 2 kitchens, 13/4 baths, $232,000.


July 1974

    Lee Salisbury, speech and theater arts professor at the University of Alaska, will be drama instructor for grades 7-12 at the Regional Fine Arts Camp. The camp is sponsored by the Southeast Alaska Regional Arts Council and is held on the Sheldon Jackson College campus. Jim Hope is camp director.


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