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Love Stories 

The Sunriver Music Festival enters its 42nd year, with a focus on the power of love

Since 1978, the Sunriver Music Festival has been bringing an eclectic mix of music to Central Oregon, supplying many talented musicians with a platform to perform. It might seem silly, but the festival was all sparked by Ray Fabrizio—former principal flute player at the festival—telling his wife and friends that there were "pretty good acoustics in here" as they walked through Sunriver's Great Hall.

Love is in the air this summer during the Sunriver Music Festival. - COURTESY SUNRIVER MUSIC FESTIVAL
  • Courtesy Sunriver Music Festival
  • Love is in the air this summer during the Sunriver Music Festival.

While the festival has seen much growth and change over the years, the mission has stayed the same: being a two-week-long dedication to music.

"One thing we stay true to is, well, we first started in the Great Hall," says Executive Director Pam Beezley. "We started in 1978 and we're still there. It's a beautiful, intimate setting. And the quality of music has maintained over all these years."

Beezley says she's worked with Sunriver Music Festival for 17 years, seeing it grow in not just size, but purpose, focusing more now on what it can do for the community. She describes the program as having "a lot of good energy," and is thrilled how the organization has expanded to having events year-round. This year's theme is "Love Stories – Around the World with Music," created by conductor and artistic director George Hanson. Beezley says the orchestra will be "weaving the theme of love into every concert" this summer, with the first show inspired by Romeo and Juliet.

The 2019 festival is putting together some pretty special performances. You can see Grammy-award-winning flautist Alexander Lipay (who also holds the Guinness World Record for standing ab wheel rolls), Russian-American pianist Olga Kern, who also performed here in 2004, a Latin-inspired pops concert by Octavio Moreno and more.

Concertgoers can expect a mixed media experience at the Aug. 17 show, when the orchestra will be joined by Westwater Arts, a company dedicated to bringing beautiful visuals to these performances such as these. The setup will include a three-panel screen suspended over the orchestra. As the music plays, the screens will be choreographed to move, along with photos from Mexico the company captured during 18 months of traveling.

As it's grown, the festival has been able to offer scholarships and other opportunities for young musicians. SMF awarded more than $38,000 in scholarship dollars this year, almost 100% of which, as Beezley says, came from donations in the community. Many of those past scholarship recipients played several weeks back at the Festival Faire, the festival's premier fundraising night. Others are set to perform at the festival's Discover the Symphony concert Aug. 20. Beezley says she's proud of the fact that many scholarship students go on to major in music in college, eventually playing big roles in orchestras around the country.

Ben Lulich, the festival's Principal Clarinet since 2008, was one of those recipients. Lulich grew up in Bend and went on to attend the Cleveland Institute of Music and Yale, performed with the Kansas City Symphony and is now Principal Clarinet at the Seattle Symphony. Lulich will be out of town this year, so acting in his place is Angelique Poteat from Seattle.

As an organization dedicated to both showcasing and nurturing the arts, SMF has proved itself piece of long-lasting culture in Central Oregon. The performances that follow? They're just the icing on the cake, Beezley said.

"Music is the reward. There are so many moving parts," says Beezley as she goes through the process of preparing for the summer festival. "When it's all pulled together, and you sit down and finally hear the music– it's like, 'This is why we do this.'"

Sunriver Music Festival
Aug. 10-22
Multiple locations
More info online at

About The Author

Isaac Biehl

Isaac is living proof that "Iowa Nice" is actually a thing. A journalism graduate from Iowa State University, he regularly writes about music, the outdoors and the arts/culture scene. Isaac loves the Trail Blazers, backpacking and a good IPA. He plans to one day win Survivor. Your move, Jeff Probst...
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