Big Top Door County

One of the Great Musical Chairs, designed by Bonnie Hartmann.

In most musical performing ensembles, there are two main groups of personnel: one group performs and the other makes the performances happen.

As a part of that first group at Midsummer’s Music Festival, I have had the pleasure of playing for 10 years with world-class chamber performers. My job as violist in the ensemble is to prepare my part in advance, study the score, listen to recordings, and prepare myself for the first rehearsal. After several rehearsals, the group is ready for a series of concerts at beautiful Door County homes, churches, galleries and other venues. I always enjoy the receptions at the home concerts and the dinners at local restaurants post-concert (that’s not part of my job, but it is an enjoyable perk!)

Those who make the concerts possible – the board, staff and volunteers – are always on my radar. They are a great group of businesspeople and retirees who are enthusiasts for all kinds of art. Their job is similar to that of the performer: prepare with details, study, and then, collaborate. I know this because I have a new musical chair. This year I begin my position as Assistant Artistic Director. It’s an honor for me to work on both sides of such a great organization, especially during the Midsummer’s Music 25th anniversary.

My new role (in addition to viola performance) is to assist Artist Director and Midsummer’s Music co-founder Jim Berkenstock with programming, research, marketing, concert talks and much more. I am enjoying working alongside Jim and collaborating in areas outside of performance. Because Jim also performs as a bassoonist with Midsummer’s Music, he is my ideal mentor, exemplifying the ability to unite both the artistic and administrative sides of a musical organization.

Learning about what goes on behind the scenes has been eye opening. Much detail goes into preparing for a conference call and working with subcommittees. Many decisions need to happen quickly when you have a group of busy individuals. I enjoy that each member has a say and then there is a vote. This is very similar to chamber music. As performers, we only have so much time for rehearsal and it is important that everyone’s voice is heard. We may contribute at different times as individuals, as a subcommittee member, or as part of the whole. It is interesting to see the parallel between the two sides of the operation.

When I am not in Wisconsin, my musical chair is elsewhere. In Georgia, I play with the Atlanta Ballet and Opera, direct university chamber music, and teach studio viola. This has been my seat for the past 10 years. Recently, my family moved to Colorado and I now have plans for a new musical chair near the Rocky Mountains.

Speaking of chairs, eight local artists – Donna Brown, Bonnie Hartmann, Sue Hegenbarth, Bethany Kirwen, Gretchen Klug, Margaret Lockwood, Sandra Martinez and Liz Maltman – are transforming ordinary wooden chairs into works of art for Midsummer’s Music Festival.

These “Musical Chairs” will be on display at Sister Bay Trading Company starting with a public reception at 5 pm on Wednesday, June 24. People may bid on the chairs at Sister Bay Trading Company or during an exciting event on July 12, where the musicians will perform seated on these pieces of art.

Midsummer’s has more than 30 concerts this season. While all of the concerts are special, there is one particularly extraordinary event this year – “Big Top Door County” on Sunday, July 12 – at Jim and Jean Berkenstock’s Berkenfeld Estate in Baileys Harbor. This event will have unique programming featuring such well-known Door County guest performers as Cyndy Stiehl, Doc Heide, Holly Feldman and Alan Kopischke. Guests will be treated to beverages and hors d’oeuvres at 2 pm, the concert at 3 pm, and then the live “Musical Chairs” auction and a catered buffet.

The collaboration of visual art, music and beautiful Door County will be spectacular!

My new musical chair is one of excitement and challenge. And to me it is just as beautiful as the great “Musical Chairs” of Door County!

Allyson Fleck is the Assistant Artistic Director at Midsummer’s Music Festival.