As summer approaches, I look forward to attending some of the many music festivals held throughout Iowa. One I discovered just last year, the Oskaloosa Music Festival is now in its ninth year in this city located just an hour's drive southeast of Des Moines.
Benjamin Davis, a native of Oskaloosa now working as a professional musician, started the festival in 2010 with the twin goals of bringing world-class chamber music concerts to his hometown and providing educational opportunities to local students. The festival accomplishes these goals over a two-week period. The first week features four days of concerts (the Mahaska Masterworks) at various locations in town put on by the festival's Chamber Players who are all professional musicians, many from the Twin Cities area. The second week consists of a String Chamber Music Camp for middle and high-school-aged students from the Oskaloosa, Pella, and Ottumwa school districts. The student musicians are coached by members of the Minneapolis-based Lux String Quartet and present a recital concert at the end of the camp week.
This year's Masterworks concerts are on the following dates. All are free and open to the public, and free street or lot parking is readily available:
Wednesday, May 30th - 7:30 pm-10:00 pm - Smokey Row Jam. The Chamber Players perform their favorites in a fun, energetic, social event at this coffee shop/cafe on the Square.
Thursday, May 31st - time to be decided - Children's Concert.
Thursday, May 31st - time to be decided - Crystal Heights Concert. The Chamber Players perform for the residents of Crystal Heights Care Center in an afternoon concert.
Friday, June 1st - 12:00 pm-1:00 pm - Picnic Concert on the Square. Enjoy this outdoor lunchtime concert by the Chamber Players. (Limited benches are available but you may want to bring your own lawn chairs).
Saturday, June 2nd - 7:30 pm - Masterworks Recital. This evening grand finale concert is hosted by the First Presbyterian Church, 405 High Ave E, Oskaloosa.
(Rain-out location for all events on the Square is Smokey Row.)
Last year I attended the festival's final concert, the Masterworks Recital, which spotlighted the talents of the Chamber Players as they performed some of the world's most famous chamber music compositions. About 10 community string players joined the professionals on the last piece. (You can read my description of this 2017 concert here.)
Thanks to Mr. Davis and all the businesses and individuals which support this festival every year, we can experience these professional concerts in a relaxed, uncrowded small-town Iowa setting!
(Photo credit: Author, 2017 festival)