When I asked Kyle Price, artistic director of the Caroga Music Festival how his group came to be the opener for world-famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma at Saratoga Performing Arts Center, I quipped, “You don’t just cold-call SPAC to see if you can be the opening act.”
Price’s response was, well, priceless, “Actually, that’s exactly what I did.”
It probably helped that he and his cohorts’ backgrounds at Cleveland Institute of Music, Juilliard and Harvard schools of music didn’t hurt as an introduction. Making the acquaintance of world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma early in his career was a big plus, Price said.
Price was calling from Chicago, where he was performing with the Chicago Philharmonic Orchestra.
This is the eighth season for CMF to be the main attraction in Caroga Lake, and it started off “with a bang,” with a concert and fireworks at Sherman’s Amusement Park dubbed “Red, White, Blues and Bluegrass” the evening of July 5th with grammy-award winners Kate Lee and Forrest O’Connor. The venue also included local artists Geoff Saunders, Dealt the Blues, Insolent Willies and Durrey Creek Bluegrass Band.
One of the innovations Price has brought to the area concerts is the blending of world-class musicians from around the world with local talent. And the cost for attending such an event? Free. Free?!
I had to ask, “So how are the artists compensated?” Price said that at first there were just “pass the hat” donations at concerts for travel expenses and local residents put artists up in their homes and camps. Compensation fees, grants and sponsorships followed along with receiving a 501c3 not-for-profit designation. Still, with artists coming from as far away as Singapore, how does the group continue to thrive and grow every year?
“There are multiple layers of funding,” Price admits. “Sometimes the finances barely cover travel expense. But the musicians believe in what’s going on here.”
Since growing up summers in Caroga Lake at his grandparents’ home, Price admits to an emotional attachment to the area. He and his sister Stephanie, also a musician, had participated in a variety of other music festivals before starting one here.
“This type of community is very different from other music festivals. The proximity to the lake at Sherman’s, the barge concerts at Canada Lake Store and Marina all add a special flavor to the concerts.”
With time, the music venue which started with simple chamber music at Caroga Chapel has branched out to include jazz, pop, blues and bluegrass so more music tastes could be accommodated.
And the idea of floating barge concerts at Canada Lake?
“In 2015 we had a concert cancelled due to a venue closure from a health related problem,” Price said. Bret Fielding of Canada Lake Store and Marine said, how about a concert on the beach here using pontoon boats and a barge? When we showed up, they had gone all-out in setting up the floating stages and decorating the boats. It was great!”
Price’s dreams for the area aren’t “just about the music,” as he puts it.
“It’s about the uniqueness of the area. I want to bring people here to experience what I see here.”
With many summer music festivals being sponsored by municipalities to bring people to their communities for only a weekend, instead, the Caroga Music Festival is spread out over the summer and includes other areas nearby as well as Caroga Lake.
“Now venues are starting to call us,” Price admits. Proctors Theater in Schenectady, Sacandaga Valley Arts Network, Arkell Hall at Canajoharie, the Paul Nigra Center, Fulton-Montgomery Community College and local churches and restaurants have all served as venues for our music concerts, symposiums and workshops.”
With an Aug. 20 town-wide referendum vote on the agenda as to whether or not to sell Sherman’s Park to the Caroga Arts Council, the not-for-profit oversight of the CMF, (the only option agreed to by donor of the park, George Abdella), I wondered what Price would do if the referendum was voted down,
“We only want the best for the area,” he said. “No matter what the vote.”
You might say the past seven years of talent and effort and lots of “cold calling” has proved his investment is sincere.
For more information about this summer’s venue, go to http://carogaarts.org/events/
Richard H. Nilsen is the historian for Town of Caroga, a photographer and author whose books can be found at local book stores and online at Amazon.com and lulu.com. Contact him at [email protected] or through his website at richard-h-nilsen.com