A MUSICIAN’S PERSPECTIVE: Percussionist Rhett Del Campo

With this weekend’s WinterMezzo concert series swiftly approaching, it might seem strange to talk about the summer festival.  But this post by guest blogger and Festival percussionist Rhett Del Campo reminds us of the grand scope of Festival Mozaic, from the incredible programming to the connections we make with one another at concerts to the beautiful setting of the Central Coast.  Thank you, Rhett, for sharing your perspective as a Festival musician!

Striking the Perfect Tone at Festival Mozaic

Rhett del Campo

Since 1998, my summers have involved packing some percussion equipment, my golf clubs and hiking shoes and heading to Colorado to make music, meet new friends and generally enjoy myself at a summer festival. As far as I’m concerned, these festivals can be one of the greatest perks that come with being a classical musician. This country’s most beautiful destinations, such as Aspen or Sun Valley, boast weeks of world-class concerts that serve as a breath of fresh air for musician and concertgoer alike.

Up until 2007, my festival experience was limited to Colorado. I’ve participated in the Aspen Music Festival for several years, played with the National Repertory Orchestra for one and then spent three years with the Breckenridge Music Festival. Admittedly, I didn’t know what to expect when bypassing the Rocky Mountains altogether and heading straight for the West Coast.

Coming to San Luis Obispo for Festival Mozaic was certainly a departure from playing in the mountains. For one thing, it was nice not to have to take a few days to get used to the altitude.  And driving north from Los Angeles along the breathtaking California coast is a pretty invigorating way to kick off two weeks of intense music-making.

... And I forgot to mention the wonderful hosts families - a view from our host Susan Minker's home in Los Osos.

Once I arrived at the festival, I noticed differences not only in the repertoire, from baroque to 20th century, ranging from small solo and chamber music recitals to large orchestra concerts, but also in the performance venues. While a lot of events are held at Cuesta College, the concerts in donors’ homes on top of hills, at the Mission downtown and on Chapel Hill in Shandon really set the experience apart from the rest.

Festival Mozaic is a microcosmic representation of what the classical music world might consider doing more of – exploring out-of-the-ordinary concert experiences. A baroque concert on a hill in wine country, in harmony with nature, can be much more effective than it is in a modern symphony center in the heart of a bustling city. Similarly, chamber music in front of close friends in an intimate setting has a more fitting, dynamic feel than in a large, cavernous concert hall and it facilitates much needed interaction between musician and donor. And playing a Mozart symphony at the Mission, in a smaller, cozier environment, encapsulates the energy of the music in a more meaningful way than it does in a traditional hall. Throughout all three experiences, I felt more engaged as both a listener and performer.

Another great view from our host's home.

In addition to the unique repertoire selections and concert settings, the festival is also a great attraction for tourists who love the arts. Why not take a vacation near San Luis Obispo in July? Stay at a nearby resort like Dolphin Bay, take in some wine country and the beautiful coast, and attend a wide variety of performances in and around San Luis Obispo. Just a thought.

Festival Mozaic is a place for only the most dedicated musician. If you have the opportunity to play there, you will work incredibly hard, put quite a few miles on your rental car each day getting to different rehearsals, but you’ll collaborate with some of the best artists around and meet great people.  At the day’s end, you will be able to sit down at a restaurant, enjoy a glass of local wine and a late dinner with your colleagues and unwind while feeling exactly the way a musician should feel – exhausted but fulfilled from a day attached to your instrument playing the classics. A breath – or two – of fresh air, indeed.

 For more insights into a classical musician’s life, be sure to visit Rhett’s blog at www.RhettsImperfectPitch.com.

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