The Eastern Music Festival (EMF), held in Greensboro, North Carolina, provides outstanding training for young musicians and conductors who take part in fellowships and programs designed to hone their musical skills and prepare them for careers in classical music. These young people receive wonderful opportunities to study with top-notch faculty and professional musicians. Dazzling concerts presented as part of the festival highlight the skills and accomplishments of the students and their teachers.
How the Festival Works
One of the best-known classical music festivals in the United States, the EMF takes place in the summer and lasts for five weeks, which are packed with concerts and rigorous music study. The concerts are open and available to the public, promoting appreciation of classical music. Each year, the EMF brings 60,000 people to the area from all over the country and around the world.
History of the Festival
The festival got its start in 1961 when Sheldon Morgenstern, musician and conductor, founded the Guilford Musical Arts Center at Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. His goal was to create a summer camp that strongly focused on developing the musical skills of its students. In 1962, the festival's first summer, participants included fourteen faculty members and 72 students. The festival now boasts 80 faculty members and 200 students.
The aim of the EMF is to help young classical musicians develop their skills in playing, performance, or conducting and to hone their knowledge of music theory as a foundation for their skills. Participants in the EMF are held to high standards of performance in the festival, whether they're performing as solo artists or with faculty or visiting musicians. The EMF serves as a strong credential for a career in classical music. Well-known alumni of the festival include Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Wynton Marsalis, percussionist Rolando Morales-Matos, and pianist Gustavo Romero.
The EMF offers concerts throughout five weeks in the summer, starting in late June and lasting through the end of July or early August, depending on the year. Specific concerts are listed in detail on the EMF calendar. Some concerts occur with regularity during the five weeks of the festival, such as the Faculty Chamber Series concerts that take place every Tuesday, and the Young Artists Orchestra concerts that take place every Thursday and Friday. Other concerts are one-time only events, such as the Guitar Summit and Viva Vivaldi.
Concerts presented by the EMF are held on the campus of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina. The majority of the concerts take place at Dana Auditorium, but chamber music concerts held on Mondays are located in the Recital Hall for the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance. Several other concerts are held at Sternberger Auditorium, also on Guilford College's campus. Check the EMF calendar to find locations for particular concerts.
Parking is complimentary on the campus of Guilford College for music events. The main parking area for Dana Auditorium is located behind the building, but you can also park in front, near where the athletic fields are located, or at the Frank Family Science Center. If needed, you can access overflow parking at New Garden Friends Meeting, which is located across Guilford College Road.
Tickets to EMF concerts go on sale April 1 for the coming season of each year. You can purchase tickets online by clicking on specific concerts on the EMF calendar, then clicking on "TIX." If you like, you can order tickets via phone by calling (336) 272-0160, or you can go to the Triad Stage Box Office and get them in person. You can also buy tickets at Triad Stage on concert nights, one hour before the starting time of any given event.
Regularly Occurring Concerts
If you're interested in concerts that occur with regularity throughout the five weeks of the festival, you'll be glad to know tickets are available either individually for any single concert or as season packages for all concerts of a particular type. Tickets for seniors are available at a discounted price. All tickets for regularly occurring concerts are reserved seating.
- Young Artists - The Young Artists concerts take place on Thursday and Friday evenings at Dana Auditorium. Tickets to individual concerts are available from $25 to $30 for adults and from $20 to $25 for seniors. If you're interested in season packages, they cost from $120 to $152 for adults and from $104 to $136 for seniors.
- Festival Orchestra - Adult ticket prices for individual Festival Orchestra concerts run from $40 to $45 per concert, while senior ticket prices cost $35 to $40. For Festival Orchestra season packages, the cost for adults is $175 to $205, while the cost for seniors is $150 to $190. These concerts are held at Dana Auditorium on Saturday evenings for the five weeks of the festival.
- Guilford Chamber - The Guilford Chamber concerts are held Tuesday evenings at Dana Auditorium. Adult tickets to individual concerts cost $30, and seniors pay $25. Adult season packages cost $125 and for seniors, they're $115.
- UNGC Chamber - Adult ticket prices to UNGC Chamber concerts cost $30, and seniors pay $25. If you're interested in the season packages, they cost $125 for adults and $115 for seniors. The UNGC Chamber concerts are held in the Recital Hall for the School of Music, Theatre, and Dance.
One-Time Only Concerts
The festival also features special concerts that are held only once throughout the five weeks of the festival. Dates of these concerts will vary depending on the year, so check the calendar on the EMF website. Tickets to one-time events are available on a per-concert basis.
- Opening Night Gala - Tickets for adults run from $35 to $40, and tickets for seniors run from $30 to $35. Opening Night Gala is reserved seating only and takes place at Dana Auditorium.
- Piano Gala - Tickets for adults cost $25 to $30, and tickets for seniors cost $20 to $25. Piano Gala takes place at Dana Auditorium, and seating is reserved.
- Viva Vivaldi - The Viva Vivaldi concert is held at First Presbyterian Church in Greensboro, North Carolina, and seating is general admission. Tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for seniors.
- Opera Collaboration - Tickets cost $45 for adults, $40 for seniors, and seating is general admission. The Opera Collaboration, which takes place at Temple Emanuel Synagogue in Greensboro, is a joint effort of the EMF and the Greensboro Opera.
- Guitar Summit - Held at Temple Emanuel Synagogue, the Guitar Summit offers general admission seating, and tickets cost $30 for adults and $25 for seniors.
Fringe Series Concert
Each year on a Sunday evening in July, the EMF holds a free Fringe Series concert that features a combination of classical music and Americana. The concert is presented at Guilford College on Founders Lawn. You're invited to bring a picnic basket and a blanket and make yourself comfortable on the lawn as you enjoy an evening of excellent music. Artists who have played for the Fringe series in the pact include Doc Watson, Los Straitjackets, and Aimee Mann.
Food and Lodging
Most of the concerts take place on the campus of Guilford College, in Greensboro. Whether you're interesting in overnight accommodations, dining facilities, or both, Greensboro boasts a number of excellent options from which to choose. You can also check out the Hotel Planner to find lodging near Guilford College.
EMF Hotel Package
The festival offers a special concert package in conjunction with O. Henry Hotel. It includes attendance at the concert of your choice with an overnight stay at O. Henry, dinner at Green Valley Grill before the concert, and a Southern-style breakfast buffet the next morning at the hotel.
EMF Dining Recommendations
Since Greensboro has 500 dining establishments, you're sure to find something to please your palate. If you'd like specific recommendations, though, the EMF has a few suggestions you might like to check out.
- Green Valley Grill - Located next to the O. Henry Hotel, the Green Valley Grill offers a menu filled with delicious fare of all varieties, of which baked pecan crusted trout, oak-fired filet mignon, and smoked paprika and sumac dusted lamb loin are only a few examples.
- Print Works Bistro - Specializing in what they call "creative comfort foods," the Print Works Bistro serves scrumptious entrées like bistro meatloaf, crispy chicken schnitzel, and rosemary pork shank.
- Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen - At Lucky 32 Southern Kitchen, you'll find, in their own words, "earnest food" in an upscale environment. They serve tasty, down home eats such as local pulled pork on Johnny cakes, flash fried oysters, and cornmeal crusted Carolina catfish.
Current Music Director
Gerard Schwarz got his start with the EMF in 2005 when he became music advisor. He quickly was made principal conductor in 2006 and has served as music director since 2008. He continues to bring to the EMF his talent and expertise accumulated over the course of five decades as a conductor and classical musician. He has received numerous awards, including ASCAP awards, Emmy Awards, and fourteen Grammy nominations. Schwarz is also active as music director of the All-Star Orchestra, which is the basis of a critically acclaimed television series that promotes appreciation of classical music.
At the EMF, 80 accomplished faculty musicians work with over 200 young musicians who participate in the event to study and perform classical music. Concerts presented by the EMF highlight the talent, skill, and achievements of everyone concerned. Areas of study and performance in the festival include orchestra, piano, classical guitar, strings, and percussion.
A Sampling of Teachers and Performers
The faculty of the EMF is composed of highly acclaimed, professional musicians in the areas of conducting, strings, woodwinds, percussion, harp, piano, and guitar. Throughout the five weeks of the festival, faculty members work with students to help them develop their skills to the highest levels, then delight audiences with their virtuosity.
- Jeffrey Multer is a critically acclaimed violinist who is concertmaster of both the EMF and the Florida Orchestra. A Juilliard graduate, he's known for his expressive playing style and his effective and diplomatic leadership skills.
- Neal Cary, the principal cellist of the EMF, also serves the same role with the Richmond Symphony and the Williamsburg Symphonia. A member of the All-Star Orchestra, Cary has been widely acclaimed for his nuanced playing that's full of heart.
- Shannon Scott plays principal clarinet at the EMF. She holds degrees from Ecole Normale de Musique de Paris, Juilliard, Yale University, Northwestern University, and Conservatoire Regional Marcel Dupre and is Assistant Professor of Clarinet at Washington State University.
- William Wolfram, an acclaimed pianist, teaches and performs with the EMF. He enjoys a strong reputation for versatility in his style and repertoire. A graduate of Juilliard, he performs with orchestras and conductors all over the world, records music extensively, and is known as a champion of new compositions.
- John Shaw serves as principal percussionist with both the EMF and the Florida Orchestra. He leads a steel drum band called the Tampa Bay Steel Orchestra and heads up St. Petersburg College's percussion school.
- Awadagin Pratt teaches and performs piano for the EMF. He holds three degrees from Peabody Conservatory of Music in piano, conducting, and violin. A winner of the prestigious Naumburg International Piano Competition, Pratt is celebrated for his outreach activities to young people, including question and answer sessions, master classes, and demonstrations.
Reviews of Recent Performances
With its program of daily concerts over the course of five weeks, the EMF offers something for everyone who loves classical music, and its concerts receive rave reviews. Whether you enjoy chamber music, orchestral music, or riveting solo performances, you'll get all of it and more at the festival.
- All Mozart Program - On July 1, 2016, three orchestras put on a magnificent concert of Mozart's music. The professional EMF Orchestra played with the festival's two student orchestras, and the Classical Voice of North Carolina reports the results were "bubbly" and "enchanting." The pros gave a masterful performance while the student musicians were remarkably accomplished, creating luminous music for an enthralled audience.
- Viva Vivaldi Concert - On July 6, 2016, the EMF Orchestra gave a concert that consisted entirely of Antonio Vivaldi's music. Gerard Schwarz conducted a mostly string ensemble with pianist Marika Bournaki at the harpsichord. The Classical Voice of North Carolina heaped praise on the performance, pointing to the precision of the musicians and their flair for showing Vivaldi's beautiful melodies to their best advantage. Vivaldi's Concerto in C for Piccolo, in particular, rewarded the audience with "instrumental fireworks."
- Adolphe World Premiere - July 16, 2016 saw the world premiere performance of young composer Julia Adolphe's Viola Concerto. Commissioned by the prestigious New York Philharmonic for their principal violinist, the new work was performed with great aplomb by the orchestra. The evening also included music by Tchaikovsky and Wagner. Perry Tannenbaum delivers warm accolades for the performances, saying that the orchestra interpreted the varying moods and intensity of Adolphe's work with skill and sublimity.
- André Previn Premiere - On July 23, 2016, the Eastern Festival Orchestra presented a world premiere of a work by world-class composer, pianist, and conductor André Previn entitled Can Spring Be Far Behind? Tim Lindeman, writing for the Greensboro News & Record, characterized the new piece as intricate and ever-changing in its rhythms and textures, and he praised conductor Gerard Schwarz and the orchestra musicians for a sensitive and energetic rendering of its complexities.
- Faculty Chamber Series - July 25, 2016 saw a Faculty Chamber Series performance that featured the music of W. A. Mozart, Luigi Boccherini, and Johannes Brahms. Jackson Cooper, writing for the Greensboro News & Record, hailed the musicians for their lyrical and expressive interpretation of the music. Cooper gave particularly high praise to the "thrilling" performance of Brahms' Piano Quintet in F Minor, saying the audience didn't seem to want the music to end.
Passion and Skill
If you're an aficionado of classical music, you will love the EMF with its virtuosic, high-intensity performances and its seamless collaborations between teachers and students, professionals and up-and-coming young musicians. Even if you have yet to explore classical music, this festival just might make you fall in love with it.