While celebrated musicians and incredible music are definitely at the heart of the Festival Mozaic experience, the scenic Central Coast and its myriad performance venues play an important part in attracting an audience year after year. But not just any venue will do. Festival Artistic Director Scott Yoo and Executive Director Bettina Swigger are constantly on the lookout for charismatic spaces that are acoustically appropriate, picturesque, accommodating for an audience, and just a little bit unexpected. Here, we sat down to ask them what the difference is between a good venue and a great one.
Favorite venues for Festival-goers have always been Chapel Hill in Shandon, Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, and the See Canyon Fruit Ranch near Avila Beach. But what about the musicians?
Scott: My favorite venue is definitely the Chapel Hill in Shandon. It was the first festival venue I visited, and as Judge Clark loves to recount, I got lost walking up the hill my first time. Halfway up the hill, I could hear some faint music. When I arrived, I saw hundreds of people, sitting in the moonlight, listening to a concert. It was magical.
Bettina: I have to agree with Scott. My first experience at Chapel Hill was truly magical. It’s a place like no other, and hearing such divine music performed by such accomplished musicians in a setting like that ranks among my top ten musical experiences of my life so far. I also love the Mission San Luis Obispo. Hearing music that has survived and is still being performed with such love throughout the centuries is always made more intense when it’s performed in
historic settings. Honestly? I love all of our venues – the new state-of-the-art Cuesta College Cultural and Performing Arts Center has fantastic acoustics, and thanks to some of our loyal donors we have events in some private homes that are truly stunning. But the truth is, the beauty of the Central Coast and San Luis Obispo county provides a fantastic backdrop for transcendental musical experiences.
What makes a venue acoustically desirable for the Festival’s programming?
Scott: A festival venue that transmits as much sound to the audience without being absorbed by the hall, a venue that adds a bit of acoustic color to the sound, and a venue that is not too hot is most desirable for the musicians.
Bettina: There’s a special alchemy that needs to occur. It needs to be live, but not too live. Comfortable, but not too cushy (cush absorbs the sound). And yes, temperature is always important, since our festival musicians are traveling with instruments that can be temperamental.
Unexpected spaces like the SLO Museum of Art bring freshness to the Festival experience. What are some of the other new spaces you’re considering for future performances?
Bettina: For our February WinterMezzo concert series, we will be having a Notable Encounter dinner at Ventana Grill in their downstairs event center, which features 180-degree ocean views right on the unspoiled coast at Shell Beach. It’s truly spectacular, and will be a fabulous place to watch the sunset before we sit down to experience a behind-the-scenes look at the music of Borodin, Beethoven and Schumann with the musicians. Some of the venues we’re exploring for this summer include the historic Mission San Miguel, Studios on the Park (a very cool car-themed art studio space in Paso Robles) and some fabulous private homes. Stay tuned –we’ll be announcing our summer season soon.