by Tod Bowermaster
I have been Third Horn in the Sun Valley Summer Symphony for the last 21 years, and it's right around these frigid, grey January days in St. Louis that I begin daydreaming of sunny, blue-sky days in the Idaho mountains, days filled with gorgeous music and good times spent with dear friends. The Sun Valley Summer Symphony started small in 1985, with 22 musicians, but has grown into one of the finest orchestral festivals in the country, with over 100 musicians performing a vast repertoire over the last week of July and the first two-and-a-half weeks of August. We perform 3-4 concerts per week, with a unique schedule: one afternoon rehearsal followed by the evening concert at 6:30 PM. Everyone has to be well-prepared and on their toes! Fortunately it's a wonderful assemblage of musicians from the best American orchestras. It's a great ensemble, conducted by Alasdair Neale, who does a fantastic job managing all of this with such limited rehearsal time.
The performances take place in the magnificent Sun Valley Pavilion, which I feel is the best outdoor summer venue around! The concerts are free, thanks to the generosity of the local patrons. We perform much of the best orchestral repertoire, by composers like Mahler, Strauss, Bruckner, and Wagner, as well as an annual pops concert, which last summer drew a crowd of 9,000 people! It's difficult to choose my most memorable performances, but among them have been a very meaningful and appropriate-to-the-setting performance of Strauss's Alpine Symphony, with the built-in mountain vistas; a horn quintet performance on top of 10,000-foot Mount Baldy; and a 16-horn "Hornucopia" concert featuring many of the best horn players in the country. It is a wonderful several weeks of beautiful music, with the support of a very enthusiastic community and lots of after-concert revelry! I feel very fortunate to be a part of it, and highly recommend that anyone who loves music and mountains come out and experience this amazing music festival!
Tod Bowermaster, a native of Ottawa, Illinois, has been Third Horn of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra since 1995.