A decade has passed since the Chintimini Chamber Music Festival held its first event — it was, Erik Peterson remembers, a recital for donors held in the living room of Corvallis musician and arts supporter Joan Caldwell.
Now, as the festival celebrates its 10th season, Peterson, the festival’s artistic director, still treasures that intimate feeling.
“I don’t want to fill up a big concert hall,” Peterson says.
So the festival’s four main concerts will remain in the relatively snug confines of the First Congregational United Church of Christ, where concertgoers can carefully track the interplay and musical conversations between the musicians Peterson has lured to Corvallis for the festival.
Although he has no desire to pack thousands into bigger halls, that doesn’t mean Peterson doesn’t have big plans for the festival as it moves into its second decade.
“I always have lots of crazy ideas,” he says. “The challenge is convincing my board, and especially my treasurer, that we should go for it.”
But maybe the craziest idea of all was launching a chamber music festival in the summer in Corvallis.
That idea dates back a dozen years or so when Peterson, who grew up in Corvallis and now is a concert violinist with the Colorado Symphony, was playing at a music festival in Bellingham, Wash., with three other musicians who had Corvallis ties: violinist Sarah Knutson, violist Michael Tubb and cellist Adam Esbensen.
The idea went like this: If Bellingham can have a classical-music festival, why not Corvallis? Such a concert also could be a tribute to some of the Corvallis musicians and teachers who had inspired the young players, people like Caldwell and Charles Creighton, the longtime director of the Corvallis Youth Symphony.
Peterson jokes about the early reaction to the idea: “As my father put it, ‘If you get something going, I’ll buy a ticket.’”
For her part, Caldwell said she’d underwrite the costs incurred by musicians who traveled to play that first festival. But as it turned out, Peterson says, she didn’t have to: Enough people followed his father’s lead and bought tickets.
Today, the festival runs on an annual budget of $40,000; about half of that money comes from ticket sales. Donations and advertisements in the festival’s program make up the remainder. Peterson gives major credit for the festival’s success to its board of directors: “Everybody on that board has passion.”
In recent years, the festival has broadened its sights: It has commissioned works from composers to be premiered at the festival. (This year’s commissioned piece, Kenji Bunch’s Concerto for violin and viola, is featured in the concert scheduled for Tuesday, June 22.) It has flirted with crossover events, such as a concert scheduled for Saturday, June 26, at Tyee Winery featuring Bunch’s New York City bluegrass band, Citigrass. It has added children’s concerts.
Peterson has other ideas. He’d like to build the festival so that the musicians can perform the same program at two or three different locations. He’d like to deepen its involvement with area schools and student musicians — why not some kind of chamber-music camp? An endowment would be nice. And the chamber music pub crawl has potential to expand.
The main ideas, however, stay the same: To offer tribute to people who inspired Peterson and his musical colleagues. To unite professional musicians who have some tie to Corvallis — or who wish they had.
And there’s one other important idea: To beat the drums for chamber music. “I want to grow the audience base,” Peterson says, and he has one key audience in mind: “The many people who don’t realize that they like chamber music.”