Summerfest, a professional chamber music ensemble, enriches the cultural life of Kansas City through the performance of a variety of music in a setting that fosters interaction between musicians and audience.
Summerfest was founded in 1991 to provide Kansas City with fine performances of chamber music in the summer and to give Kansas City Symphony musicians an opportunity to play chamber music. The ensemble has grown to include 12 instrumentalists, all with Kansas City connections and diverse backgrounds. Click here to read our musician bios. The summer series – one of very few sources of chamber music in the summer in Kansas City – has been Summerfest’s main contribution to the cultural life of the region. It has also provided the flexibility necessary to maintain and develop a group whose talents are increasingly in demand outside the local area.
Summerfest programming offers variety in instrumentation and musical styles and emphasizes the performance of lesser-known pieces from all eras. One of the goals of the group is to make a comprehensive exploration of existing and new music for their instruments. The resulting variety of works on any given program often sheds new light on old favorites and brings to light new discoveries. Both performers and listeners find their horizons broadened and their enjoyment heightened by this distinctive programming.
Another of Summerfest’s distinguishing characteristics is the featuring of the works, input, and appearances of living composers. Since 1993, the group has worked with Dan Locklair, Lee Gannon, David Gommper, Clive Muncaster, Jean Belmont, Michael Kimber, Paul Elwood, Ian Coleman, Kristin Kuster, and Robert Cronin. Many of these composers have been in residence for a portion of the summer season and/or have written a work for members of the ensemble.
Artistic decision-making for Summerfest rests in the hands of three Artistic Advisors. The Artistic Advisors are responsible for personnel and programming decisions and are members of the Board of Directors of the organization. Selection of programming is a collaborative process that begins with the Artistic Advisors soliciting suggestions from their fellow Summerfest musicians. From this starting point, they seek to include in each concert a variety of musical styles and to represent a broad spectrum from well- to lesser-known and from easily accessible to more challenging works.
Over the past 20 seasons, Summerfest has earned a reputation in the community for creative programming. Coupled with a consistently high standard of performance, the programming of new and lesser-known works has drawn a broad audience and much critical acclaim.
Thanks to the generous and ongoing support of Summerfest donors, Summerfest was able to fulfill a long-time goal of commissioning a work from a nationally known composer – Kristin Kuster – for its 2008 season. The piece, titled “Ribboned Earth”, was inspired by a Brent Collins’ sculpture which is on display in the gallery at the H and R Block World Headquarters in downtown Kansas City. Kristin Kuster was in residence for the week of rehearsals with the musicians and the two world premiere performances of her piece, written for string quartet, clarinet, and bassoon.