Bellingham Festival of Music welcomes new Artistic Director

Marcello Lehninger, Artistic Director of the Bellingham Festival of Music CREDIT: Andy Terzes/marcelolehninger.com

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Since 1993, musicians from around the country have gathered in Northwest Washington for the Bellingham Festival of Music. Co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Palmer stepped down from conducting duties in 2002, opening the door for a new leader of the orchestra. Enter Brazilian-born Marcelo Lehninger. 

“I was invited to be part of the search, and to conduct a program, and that finally happened last summer.  And it was just—you know when there’s chemistry, really positive chemistry with the orchestra? The orchestra is amazing. And with everybody I met—I  mean, people are so dedicated to the festival. The place is gorgeous. Definitely a place I’m looking forward to spending my summers. And that’s what you expect, conducting in a summer festival. You need to make music in a very committed way, commitment to artistic excellence, but at the same time, it’s summer. So you want to have fun, you want to have fun making music.” 

Marcelo is bringing along a star-studded guest artist list too, including the likes of Sarah Chang, Pablo Sáinz-Villegas, Natasha Paremski, and Stewart Goodyear, some of whom are returning to the festival. 

“They’re all my friends that I played with many times, so I just called directly and said, ‘I’ll, I’ll speak to your manager, don’t worry, but just let me know. Are you available on this day?’ 

“It’s also really special because as the first season, as the first summer, just to make music with dear friends, of course, it’s going to be really, really special.” 

Sarah Chang will headline the opening concert June 30th, soloing in Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. I asked Marcelo if he had a certain concert in particular that he was looking forward to most. His answer: All of them of course. But for the season finale concert on July 21st, he’ll have someone else take the podium for a bit. 

“We’re performing two tangos by Piazzolla, but each tango will be conducted by a young conductor that is part of a new idea that we’re launching this year, which is the Conducting Institute. The dream here is that the education portion of the festival will grow. We’re starting this year with two fellow conductors. They will be present for all rehearsals and concerts. They’re staying with host families. They will have lessons with me and musicians of the orchestra. They will have the chance to start building their own network. I think it’s wonderful to have the mission of the festival not only, of course, presenting great concerts and entertaining an audience in such a beautiful setting during the summer, but also our commitment to education, the next generation of musicians, and young conductors. So, I’m really excited about that. 

“Maestro Palmer, he founded this festival. He is the one behind this whole thing. And so it’s a huge responsibility to be building upon his legacy. And I’m just honored to be a part of it right now.”

The Bellingham Festival of Music runs June 30th through July 21st.  

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Bellingham Festival of Music welcomes new Artistic Director

Since 1993, musicians from around the country have gathered in Northwest Washington for the Bellingham Festival of Music. Co-founder and Artistic Director Michael Palmer stepped down from conducting duties in 2002, opening the door for a new leader of the orchestra. Enter Brazilian-born Marcelo Lehninger.

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