The Geneva Music Festival was founded in 2011 by Geneva native and violinist Geoffrey Herd with fellow Genevans violinist Eliot Heaton and cellist Hannah Collins as a weekend of chamber music for their hometown. Exceptional musical quality, enthusiastic community response, and artistic vision stimulated the Festival’s evolution into a four-week event featuring world-class musicians. Now in its 12th season, the GMF has become Geneva’s and the Finger Lakes’ premiere summer kick-off event, attracting audiences to four weeks of concerts in May and June to hear outstanding musicians from the world’s stages. While rooted in the chamber music repertoire, performances now include jazz, contemporary, and bluegrass music, and festival musicians represent leading classical soloists, multiple Grammy Award-winning artists, members of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society, and faculty from Yale, Juilliard, the Colburn School, and the Cleveland Institute of Music.
Explore here the Geneva Music Festival’s history of growth, community service and artistic excellence!
The 2019 Season of the Geneva Music Festival (GMF) took place from May 24 through June 16. This season celebrated “Women in Music: Key Players,” with much of this year’s programming representing women’s contributions to music through featured composers or performers. Nearly 1,200 attended the 13 concerts held over the course of 24 days. Thirty-two artists took part in the festival thanks in large part to the efforts of more than 40 volunteers.
In 2018, attendance reached a record of more than 1,280 people in Geneva, Canandaigua, Auburn and Skaneateles, with several full-capacity crowds in the Gearan Center for the Performing Arts’ Froelich Hall. Over the course of three weeks, we presented 14 concerts from a variety of musical genres including Classical, Blues and Jazz, and music and poetry shared the stage at several events. We also continued our theme-week format with “Music, Poetry, and Perspectives: A Celebration of African American Culture,” which enabled us to introduce poet Mwatabu Okantah, exceptional pianist Michelle Cann, Broadway and television star Syndee Winters, and percussionist T.S. Monk.
The 2017 Season of the Geneva Music Festival had a record 1,150 people in attendance at a total of 14 concerts. From stages and concert halls around the world, The Cavani Quartet, Jinjoo Cho, Ani Kavafian, Clive Greensmth, Hannah Collins, Michael Compitello and Eliot Heaton led performances from a wide range of musical genres, including chamber, classical and bluegrass. Raymond Nagem, associate music director at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC, showcased the majestic organs of Presbyterian Church in Geneva, United Church of Canandaigua, and Auburn’s Westminster Presbyterian Church.
One of the highlights of this season was a two-concert celebration of jazz, with La Voz De Tres and The Thomas Bergeron Quartet. Multi-instrumentalist Paul McCandless was a special guest for both concerts.
The 2017 season was made possible by private and corporate funds, as well as public funds from NYSCA’s Decentralization Program, administered locally by Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants (FLCAG) and CNY Arts, Rochester Community Foundation, Wyckoff Family Foundation, Geneva Rotary, the City of Geneva, Williams Family Foundation, Sands Foundation, Delavan Foundation and the Spring Hill Fund. As the season came to a close, GMF announced the receipt of an Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA).
Our 2016 season was spectacular, with unprecedented variety and excellence. Thirteen diverse and exciting concerts were performed by many returning festival favorites and several new faces as well. Our new artists included violinist and Juilliard Professor Laurie Smukler as well as internationally acclaimed and award winning baritone, Dashon Burton.
A central element to the GMF 2016 was our Latino Cultural Celebration which featured both Hispanic music and dance elements. In addition to traditional chamber music which highlighted some Hispanic composers, audience-favorite bandoneonist JP Jofre returned once more for a concert of Tangos and Latin fusion. Amaya Dance company was in residence, offering a Latin dance workshop as well as performances.
The 2015 season was our 5th Anniversary and was truly an exceptional celebration of the Arts and music in the Finger Lakes. It was another year of growth in many realms. Skaneateles was added to the list of concert venues in addition to Geneva, Canandaigua and Auburn giving audiences across the Finger Lakes Region easy access to world class performances.
Music lovers of all varieties were treated to outstanding Chamber Music, adventurous New Music, and two new genre of music, Jazz and Bluegrass. Violinist Ani Kavafian, cellist Clive Greensmith and jazz trumpeter Thomas Bergeron were among the many talented artists on the 2015 roster.
Thanks to a generous donation of time and effort by the Nixon Peabody Law firm, the GMF became designated as a 501c 3 non-profit organization which allowed the Festival to apply for new sources of funding. A generous grant from the Wyckoff Family Foundation enabled an expansion of outreach to children and the public schools. Free concerts were given for students at Geneva High School, North Street Elementary, Auburn Senior High School, the St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy and the Geneva Community Center.
In 2014, the Festival became well established as a regional Festival with eight concerts across Geneva, Canandaigua and Auburn. In addition to performing at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, GMF offered concerts in churches and wineries. Musical diversity was key with the addition of Argentinean bandoneonist JP Jofre who delighted audience members with a Tango Nuevo concert at Ravines winery. New Music Ensemble Vicennium Void gave Festival patrons their first taste of contemporary music while they sipped fine wine at Billsboro winery. Clive Greensmith entertained concert goers in Auburn with a cello recital and Zahari Metchkov offered a majestic organ recital.
The Geneva Community Projects acted as GMF’s fiscal sponsor which allowed the Festival to receive funding from Finger Lakes Community Arts Grants and accept tax deductible donations from businesses and individuals. These activities along with collaboration and support from other Arts organizations including the Smith Center for the Performing Arts helped to strengthen GMF’s community presence, allowing it to quickly become an important and well supported community organization.
2013 was a break out year for the Festival as it expanded its reach both to the west in Canandaigua and to the east in Auburn, NY. The beautiful Willard Memorial Chapel, with it’s stunning Tiffany windows and fine acoustics became the Festival’s second home. In addition, GMF continued to expand its roster of world class artists and included violinist Ani Kavafian a senior artist with of the Lincoln Center Chamber Music Society.
With the help of Geneva Community Projects as our fiscal sponsor, the Festival was able to begin to explore grant opportunities and other avenues for support. The Arts and Cultural Council of Rochester helped Festival organizers learn about promotional activities and arranged legal counsel for the Festival to become a non-profit organization.
With exceptional artistic excellence and ever increasing efforts to reach a broad range of audiences along with collaboration with other Arts organizations, the Festival cemented itself as an important region-wide organization.
In 2012 GMF expanded to three concerts over two weekends, included many talented new artists from the national and international stage, and grew from a local to a regional Festival offering concerts both in Geneva and Canandaigua. Among the new artists performing were violists Eric Wong and Colin Brookes, cellist Andrew Hayhurst and bassist Gregory Robbins. Musical highlights of the season included the Brahms and Shostakovich Piano Quintets. Generous support was provided by Nozomi Williams, who played an integral role in helping the Festival become established in the cultural community of the Finger Lakes.
The Geneva Music Festival was founded in 2011 by violinist and Geneva native Geoffrey Herd in effort to give back to his hometown. Herd gathered a group of talented musicians which included Geneva natives violinist Eliot Heaton and Cellist Hannah Collins to perform a weekend long festival which included concerts at HWS colleges as well as an education program in the Geneva City School District.