This year marks the 15th anniversary of the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival, and the festival’s artistic director plans to mark the occasion with increased outreach, especially to younger audiences, and with his eyes set on a potentially audacious long-term goal.

We’ll get to that in a bit.

This year’s festival features an expanded lineup of children’s concerts, including one in Salem for the first time. And founder Erik Peterson also has a scheduled a concert in Salem for adults. (See the related story for a list of festival concerts.)

It’s all part of one of the festival’s founding goals: “Our mission has always been to get more music to more people,” Peterson said.

For mid-valley chamber music fans, the essentials of the festival remain the same: Five concerts in Corvallis, starting on Friday, June 19, at the First Congregational Church and wrapping up on Wednesday, July 1, at the Whiteside Theatre. As always, many of the performing musicians grew up in the mid-valley or have some tie here.

One of the concerts features a work commissioned by the festival: “Bandoneon,” by Paul Robb, perhaps better-known as one of the founders of the group Information Society. (See the related story for more on that work.)

But the festival’s expansion on June 25 to Salem, where it will perform a children’s concert at the Salem Public Library and follow up with an evening concert at the same location, represents a big step forward for Chintimini, and the festival also plans two additional children’s concerts, bringing the total to five.

Not only that: Two of the five evening concerts in Corvallis will begin with 15-minute concerts featuring student musicians from the area. The so-called “prelude” concert on June 28 will feature The Leapin’ Lizards String Quartet at 7 p.m., with the regular concert following at 7:30 p.m. Similarly, the Friday, June 26 concert will feature The Professional (Smashing Nutcrackers) Quartet and The Dynamic Duo performing at 7 p.m.

The prelude concerts give the student musicians — who may be considering musical careers of their own — a chance to perform in front of larger audiences than usual.

“Why expand this year?” asked Peterson, who grew up in Corvallis but now plays with the Colorado Symphony. “I think it’s just because we have the means to do so. You know, we have a board that supports it and we have the financial cushion to make this step and see if we can sustain it. I certainly hope that what we are building upon from previous years we will be able to continue in future years.”

This year’s festival also gives Peterson and board member Joan Caldwell, who’s been a festival fixture from the start, a chance to reflect on and pay tribute to its past.

One tribute of note: The festival’s opening concert, on Friday, is dedicated to the memory of Craig B. Leman, the Corvallis doctor who wrote program notes for mid-valley classical music events for years. Leman died recently, but his program notes are being used this year whenever possible. (And when Leman's notes were unavailable, Tom Strini, a writer who’s covered classical music for years, stepped in on short notice to fill the gaps: Strini and his wife, Lee Ann Garrison of Oregon State University’s School of Arts and Communication, moved to Corvallis from Wisconsin last year.)

Financially, Peterson and Caldwell said the festival is healthy, with an annual budget of about $62,000. The festival always has made a point of paying its musicians.

Peterson, 48, gives credit for that financial stability to the festival’s board: “What has surprised me is the longevity of the festival,” he said, “thanks to the longevity of many of our board members and the longevity of many of our musicians and of our audience.”

Not bad for a festival that started with Peterson and a group of other mid-valley musical refugees sitting on a deck in Bellingham, Washington during a break from a music festival there and asking themselves this question: If Bellingham can have a music festival, “Why aren’t we playing in Corvallis?”

Flash forward 15 years to today: What would Peterson like to see during the next 15 years for Chintimini?

He’s dreaming big: “I hope that we can build our very own concert venue,” he said, with sufficient room for administrative offices and 500 or so audience members: “I would want it small enough that we could sell it out sometimes.”

Such a facility, he said, would allow the festival to expand its outreach efforts and its attempts to preserve (and build upon, through its commissions) the chamber music that’s at the core of its mission.

Because in the end, Peterson said, it’s the music that matters.

“One thing that this organization remembers is that we try to raise money so we can put on great performances,” he said. “We don’t put on great performances to try to raise money.”

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