Culture Club – Peninsula Arts and Humanities Alliance

Each year, the number one question I am asked is, “What do you do when the Peninsula Music Festival is over?” The perception is that I work three weeks a year when the concerts take place and the rest of the year I am off.

I used to be insulted by this concept and then I began to take it as a compliment. Think of it – I work one day before and one day after in addition to the three week festival. I am thrilled by the fact that people think I can pull it off in such a short period of time.

In reality, I don’t pull it off in three weeks. I work full-time, year around. I love the idea of the magic, but it just isn’t true. If it weren’t for the full-time work of the staff, the work of the board and the volunteers, the Peninsula Music Festival would not happen. No magic, just hard work.

One of the hardest tasks that I must do each year is apply for a VISA for our concertmaster, Valentin Zhuk. Each time he comes to Door County to perform with the festival, I apply for an I-129, which is a petition for a nonimmigrant worker. Though Mr. Zhuk is a citizen of Holland, he cannot travel to America and work without an O-1B classification VISA from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.

As the employer, I must fill out the five-page form on his behalf. The attachments that must be included bring the total to 28 pages. The attachments include a copy of his contract outlining his duties as concertmaster of the Peninsula Music Festival as well as his remuneration. Additionally I have to include a letter from the American Federation of Musicians in New York. This letter states that Mr. Zhuk has their permission to come to American and perform for payment with our orchestra. I also have to include an outline of all the times that I have applied for this VISA, the dates that the VISA was granted and, if it was ever denied for any reason, I have to state why. A list of Mr. Zhuk’s repertoire, his photo and biography are the final items.

I have often wondered about the immigration officer who reads through this packet. Are they familiar with Mr. Zhuk’s long list of repertoire? Do they understand his duties as concertmaster? Are they impressed with his biography listing his many accomplishments as a professional violinist? Do they care and how are they qualified to decide whether he is a musician of extraordinary ability who is worthy of a VISA that will allow Mr. Zhuk to do his job?

When the approval is granted, and I stress the word when, it is sent to the festival office. I then must forward it to Mr. Zhuk who can then secure an appointment at the Amsterdam Consulate to pick up his travel papers. It can takes weeks to get an appointment. Even with an appointment, he will probably wait at least an hour at the consulate before he is seen by anyone. I have been told that, years ago, the employees at the consulate would have the musicians play for them before they would give them their VISA!

Two years ago, the VISA did not get approved prior to the start of the festival. Mr. Zhuk arrived during week two. When he went to the Consulate to get the VISA, the man he met with asked him, “Which recording of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concert is your favorite?” To which Mr. Zhuk responded, “Mine!” He left with his approved VISA in hand.

For the 2008 festival, the approval for the VISA arrived at my office only one week after applying for it. This year, with the first rehearsal for the festival two weeks away, I do not have an approval yet. It has been three months since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services received the application. Even the help of a United States Congressman has not moved this process along.

I long to see the Federal Express man arriving at my office with the approval, but I have a feeling that our concertmaster will once again be making an appearance half way through the festival. I have a Plan B. I always have a Plan B. I live by Plan B.

The VISA application process is just one of the many “off season” adventures that I look forward to each year as I prepare for the next Peninsula Music Festival.

Sharon Grutzmacher is in her eighteenth season as Executive Director of the Peninsula Music Festival.

The 57th season of the Peninsula Music Festival opens on Tuesday, August 4 and runs through Saturday, August 22 with concerts every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 8 pm. Concerts are held in the Door Community Auditorium in Fish Creek. Seating is reserved. Tickets are available for all concerts and can be purchased for as little as $30. Order online at or call 920.854.4060.