Each summer, over one hundred world-class musicians from around the globe flock to the shores of Caroga Lake for one purpose: to share music with the community.
They come from places like Brazil, Korea, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, Finland, Portugal, and Canada, as well as from 22 states. They play with such well-known organizations as the Seattle Symphony, the Baltimore Symphony, the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble. Over the course of a summer, they’ll present 40 performances, drawing over 6,500 audience members to enjoy an eclectic mix of genres including classical, bluegrass, jazz, and pop.
The Caroga Lake Music Festival had simple beginnings. Kyle Barrett Price, who grew up visiting his grandmother’s home on the lake, made a casual invitation to eight of his musician friends. He asked them to travel to Caroga Lake to play free concerts for a week. Encouraged by the community’s responsiveness, Price, a professional cellist who founded the KASA Quartet and tours around the world, grew these initial efforts into the summer-long festival and founded the nonprofit organization, the Caroga Arts Collective (CAC).
“It’s our way of reaching out to the community and coming to them.”
While the CAC’s hub is Caroga Lake, performances take place throughout New York’s Capital District and Mohawk Valley Region. Musicians literally take music out into the community to a diverse mix of venues, including unconventional spaces such as a floating pontoon behind a store on the lake. “People sit on the beach or pull up their boats and listen to us play,” said Price, who serves as the CAC’s executive and artistic director,
“We go to anything from concert halls to churches to bars to barges. It’s a huge mix, and it’s our way of reaching out to the community and coming to them,”
said Price, noting that the concerts have connected people from different cities and towns, creating a larger sense of community overall.
Most of the concerts are free, and when the festival brings in a big name, such as Sawyer Fredericks, 2015 winner of NBC’s “The Voice,” organizers keep ticket prices as low as possible. In addition to the concerts, the CAC hosts the MyHil Film Series, gallery openings, and collaborative events with dance companies.
The CAC is also the home of the National Summer Cello Institute, where professors from The Julliard School, Eastman School of Music and University of Wisconsin at Madison instruct 25 top cellists from around the country. Expanding beyond music, the CAC hosts the InterArts Symposium where 10 artists, some from as far as California, come together to collaborate with other visiting artists and community members. They share their film, visual art, poetry, and music through special events.
“We really thrive on the support of the community through donations and for getting their interest of what they like and essentially just creating a really accessible experience that goes along with the intimate backdrop of the Adirondacks,” Price said.
“We’re breathing new life into a gem of the area.”
There is only growth on the horizon for the CAC, with the donation of two historic properties to the organization. The most recent is the former Sherman’s Amusement Park that opened in 1921 and became an icon of the lake’s western shore, with its Ferris wheel, carousel, and concerts in the pavilion.
The CAC is bringing Sherman’s back to its roots as it turns the park into a first-rate performance venue for music, using the old bumper-car arcade on the water’s edge. An adjacent building will be converted into a space for presentations, classrooms, and community use. The organization plans to have the carousel, with its camels, zebras, roosters, and other animals, up and running again soon. It is still housed in its original 12-sided structure. Stained-glass windows, crafted by Don Dwyer of Adirondack Stained Glass in Gloversville, were installed in the 1980’s, adding to its vintage charm.
Price sees the CAC’s potential as an economic and cultural catalyst for the area. “I think Sherman’s is a central factor to that,” Price said. “By creating world-class attractions and events there, we were able to put it back on the map and to attract that culture, for resident artists, rehearsal spaces, and a small performance venue. Currently, local residents house guest artists.
“We’re breathing new life into a gem of the area,” said CAC’s general manager, Torrance Fish. “I’m excited to be able to be a part of not only helping something that’s historically significant, but adding to the culture of the area,” he said.