Sun Valley's Most Influential Leaders
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This Mountain Valley Is Alive with the Sounds of Music
Symphony Celebrates 30 Years
BY DANA DUGAN
Alasdair Neale’s conducting has been called inspired and his leadership is unrivaled. The Miami Herald once wrote that for “sheer musical insight and artistic command, this gifted conductor sets a standard that is hard to surpass.”
It’s been 20 years now since the then-30-year-old conductor replaced the Sun Valley Summer Symphony’s beloved founder, Dr. Carl Eberl. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, to musical parents, Neale was always smitten with music—not just playing it, but dissecting it.
“Music was always part of the furniture for me,” he said. “I started very early. I played in a youth orchestra, and fell into conducting through studying scores and music, mostly from an anatomical perspective, wanting to understand how a piece is put together.”
At 14, he joined the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain as a flutist. As he explained, “I had never been part of something that was so good. I realized this had to be for the rest of my life. It was like scales falling from my eyes.”
After graduating from Cambridge University, he attended graduate school at Yale University. Neale eventually became the Yale Symphony Orchestra’s conductor before spending a dozen years with the San Francisco Symphony.
Neale’s enthusiasm and love for music is infectious. One can understand why he’s had such success with musicians and music lovers, and has such a passion for Sun Valley.
“When I tell people what we do here, they’re blown away,” he said. “You have this national all-star team, a-list soloists, a multi-million-dollar pavilion, and you know what else? It’s free. They fall over.”
Neale is also the conductor of the Marin Symphony and is the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s principal guest conductor, but there’s something downright magical about the Sun Valley Summer Symphony. As he explained, “This orchestra has in spades visceral energy and palpable joy in performing. I think it's one of our greatest assets.”
SUN VALLEY SUMMER SYMPHONY
“We’re all grown up now,” said Jennifer Teisinger, the executive director for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony (SVSS), about the free symphony’s 30th anniversary. The symphony is unique in that it culls musicians from many other symphonies for its annual summer run at the Sun Valley Pavilion.
Musicians join the 115-member SVSS by invitation only. If there is an opening, symphony conductor Alasdair Neale asks the principal of the section for a recommendation. Returning musicians have a reunion of sorts, which some refer to as “extreme music camp.”
“They love to play with people they see every summer,” Teisinger said. “The other thing that makes us special is this community. The audience is so warm and appreciative and they love the musicians.”
Headliners for this season include soprano Renee Fleming and violinist Joshua Bell. There will be a visiting electronica composer, rising star Mason Bates, and world-renowned pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, who picked out a brand new Steinway piano for SVSS in Hamburg. A donor/board member helped buy it as a 30th anniversary birthday present.
“We want to be hip, relevant and accessible to anyone who wants a live classical experience, and we want people to feel connected,” Teisinger said. “It’s really special. We’re making the community a better place year-round.”
Dick Brown founded the Caritas Chorale in 1999, to “bring the best in chorale/orchestral literature to the Wood River Valley,” he said. Caritas Chorale performs several times a year at the Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood, St. Thomas Episcopal Church in Ketchum and the Community Campus in Hailey. They also perform an annual pops concert outdoors and a pops concert at the Gail Severn Gallery in Ketchum, as well as a benefit for The Hunger Coalition in December. The chorale consists of between 60 to 100 singers from the Wood River Valley, Idaho Falls and Twin Falls.
REGGAE IN THE MOUNTAINS
Dubbed the “Greatest Show on Snow” by its founder and organizer, Danny Walton, Reggae in the Mountains celebrates Sun Valley’s ski culture while attracting a younger demographic to our community.
“This is the only on-snow reggae event that happens in the country,” Walton said. “The original idea started six years ago to celebrate Bob Marley’s birthday, and we continue the tradition.” A tradition that now includes bringing top-notch reggae musicians from around the globe to Sun Valley for a concert every summer and winter.
NORTHERN ROCKIES MUSIC FESTIVAL
Founded in 1977, the Northern Rockies Music Festival is the popular, annual two-day show held at Hop Porter Park in Hailey. The very family-friendly festival is jam-packed with talent culled from regional and national musicians and features about 10 bands. There are also lots of food and art vendors, or you can bring your own beverages and snacks or picnic.
The festival also supports young musicians by helping fund Wood River High School music students with travel expenses for competitions, as well as inviting young musicians on stage to debut their music.
The line-up for this August’s show includes local favorites Sheep Bridge Jumpers, 12-year-old troubadour sensation Sammy Brue, Portland’s popular Jimmy Robb Band, Smoke ‘n’ Blues from New Orleans and headliner and Mississippi-native bluesy rocker Paul Thorn.
Ketchum has always had a party reputation and Ketch‘em Alive, a weekly, free, outdoor concert series, keeps up the tradition. Run by Will Caldwell Productions and sponsored by community businesses, residents and the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber Visitors Bureau, the free shows are now 15 years old. Held Tuesday evenings at the Forest Service Park in Ketchum from June through August, the musical line-up offers reggae, world beat, Americana, folk and rock. "Once bands come to Ketchum, they love it, and they want to come back," Caldwell said.
Caldwell also produces the Ketchum Town Square Series on Thursdays throughout the summer, and Jazz in the Park on Sundays in Ketchum’s Rotary Park.
SUN VALLEY JAZZ JAMBOREE
Jazz, like folk music, can take on a variety of personas. Sometimes it's syncopated, sometimes it bops. Often it swings, and quite frequently it induces dancing. The Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree turns 25 this year and “dancing” might as well be its middle name.
For five days each October, 40 bands play at 10 venues around Ketchum/Sun Valley. Founded by Boise residents and jazz lovers Tom and Barbara Hazzard, the event has evolved over the years. “We now include other styles of American music such as zydeco, Western swing, big band swing, rhythm & blues, cabaret and gypsy jazz,” said Carol Hazzard Loehr, co-director of the Sun Valley Jazz Jamboree with her husband Jeff. “There is music for every musical taste bud.”
THE SUN VALLEY ARTIST SERIES
The Sun Valley Artist Series is dedicated to the promotion and encouragement of classical music. The annual winter and spring series offers performances by visiting artists at the beautiful Presbyterian Church of the Big Wood in Ketchum. The series also includes pre-concert lectures held at Ketchum’s Community Library, master classes, recitals, seminars and presentations in local schools by an impressive line-up of participating local and national artists, which have included pianist Misha Dichter, guitarist Sharon Isben, The Italian Saxophone Quartet, The Claremont Trio, pianist Peter Henderson and cellist Ben Hong.
SUN VALLEY OPERA
Sun Valley Opera (SVO) takes things to another level, a higher octave and all with a more passionate style! Founded in 2001, SVO seeks to bring quality opera to the Wood River Valley through an annual four-day Winter Festival and Summer Benefit Concert at the Sun Valley Pavilion.
SVO also hosts an international vocal competition in Seattle each year, library lectures, salon concerts and “Season of the MET HD” live broadcasts. This summer’s performances include “The Fab Four” Beatles tribute and a “Diva Party” featuring highly–acclaimed soprano Jennie Litster.