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Bravo! music festival no longer a minor

Laura A. Ball

VAIL ” If mountains could sing, some might suppose they would sound something like Beethoven’s 5th or maybe Dvorak’s 9th.

With the inauguration of the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival In 1987, the classical soundtrack, once merely a figment of the imagination, became an audible reality.

Eighteen years ago, Vail’s summer music scene was virtually nonexistent, as the resort town focused primarily on winter activities.



At the time, John Giovando, an attorney with a love of classical music, and Ida Kavafian, an acclaimed violinist, both instrumental players in the successful classical music festival Angel Fire in New Mexico, had dreams of starting a new concert series and began searching for a venue. As fate would have it a lawyer friend of Giovando’s living in Denver mentioned to him that Vail might have a need for such a festival, and the rest, as they say, was history.

Originally dubbed Bravo! at Beaver Creek, the program originated as a chamber music festival. A dozen people showed up to the first concert, and that first year hosted no more than 300 attendees.

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By the following year, Giovando incorporated the festival to a nonprofit, now called Bravo! Colorado, and hosted its first orchestral performance at the Ford Amphitheater with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. As the festival’s success perpetuated the attendance grew to 60,000, and it morphed, once again, into the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival.

“It wasn’t easy I tell you, but there was an incredible amount of passion from myself and Kavafian and we put all of it together from scratch,” said Giovando, Bravo’s! executive director. “We had a business plan and dreams of creating a world-class festival here, and I suspect in retrospect there couldn’t have been a better place to do it than the Vail Valley.”

Through the years the festival has played host to the Colorado Springs Symphony Orchestra. the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the National Repertory Orchestra and currently the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Dallas Symphony and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Bravo! Is the only festival in the country that holds resident orchestras.



When Kavafian left as artistic director in 1988, Eugenia Zukerman stepped in.

Zukerman, a world-renowned flutist for 25 years and an author and television commentator, was hesitant to take an executive position with so much on her plate but accepted the challenge anyway.

“I got involved very reluctantly but to make along story short I’ve come to see it as a real gift. I’ve been completely turned around,” Zukerman said. “It’s been a wonderful challenge.”

When she got on board, Zukerman was asked to raise the artistic level of the festival, which she said was already very high. One of the first things she did was bring in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra. It wasn’t easy to negotiate, and participants of the festival were very weary of the change.

“I don’t think people have any idea how hard we work to put this festival together.” she said, as she sometimes programs musicians years in advance. “It’s like putting together a giant rubix cube.”

Zukerman was also responsible for getting the famed New York Philharmonic Orchestra on board, who has signed on until 2008.

“It is an astonishing thing that the New York Philharmonic wanted to come and they actually did it. They are in seventh heaven to come here. They are the only orchestra who we haven’t heard one complaint from,” Zukerman said. “Also with Lorin Maazel, who is one of the greatest conductors of our time and possibly all time.”

With pianist Olga Kern returning and pianist Lang Lang slated to perform, Zukerman has succeeded in raising the artistic level.

“I think that, by bringing Dallas and New York, certainly the level of performance has raised,” she said. “It’s made everybody perk up a bit it.”

As far as hopes for the future, the festival organizers have plenty.

“I would really like to see our season expand,” he said. “I have dreams of incorporating another major American orchestra here and being able to bring in an international orchestra as well. I also want the festival to take the next step up in the biggest names in music for the concerto music. We have some pretty big names. We don’t have the Yo Yo Mas yet, but that’s next. And I want to continue our education projects. It keeps growing and growing, and every time we have another dream we pursue it “

Chamber music programs such as the Classics Series, the Introduction to Chamber Music programs, the Soiree Series, which are limited attendance performances at private residences, the Free Young Artists in Residence series and Music at Midday held at the Vail Interfaith Chapel have all precipitated from those dreams.

This year, the festival hosts its first ever outreach concert in Gypsum. The free concert, “Stomping with the Classics,” will be held at 7:30 p.m. July 25 in Gypsum Town Hall. The festival hosts outreach performances in Cordillera and Eagle.

“It’s not simply entertainment for the folks,” Zukerman said. “It’s more than that. My personal feeling is all these beautiful settings are so conducive to a communal experience that is actually very emotional and very spiritual. I can remember a Mahler’s 1st Symphony that Andrew Litton conducted, and people were actually weeping. I would like to really thank the Vail Valley and all the people who have come to the festival and experience music with us.

Without the enthusiasm of the people of the Vail Valley this festival wouldn’t exist.”

For tickets or additional program details, visit http://www.vailmusicfestival.org or call (877)812-5700.

Staff Writer Laura A. Ball can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 619, or laball@vaildaily.com.

Vail, Colorado


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