Instruction is a key part of Bellingham Festival of Music


During the first three weeks of July, the Bellingham Festival of Music presents concerts with orchestra, guest soloists, and the Bellingham Festival Chorus; several recitals; and the highly popular Cruise Terminal chamber music concerts.

But people may not be familiar with the significant outreach and educational programs sponsored throughout the year by the Bellingham Festival of Music.

Each year the festival organizes continuing outreach programs that focus on bringing classical music to children and adults throughout Whatcom County. This summer will be very special. Gifted Spanish guitarist and festival favorite Pablo Villegas will bring to Bellingham the program for young children that he started in 2007. This is his Music Without Borders Legacy. The goal of the Music Without Borders Legacy is to leverage the inspirational power of classical music to bridge communities across cultural, social and political borders for the benefit of youth.

On Thursday, July 17, Villegas will present his program entirely in Spanish to about 50 children from our local Spanish-speaking community, including children of farmworkers: They will be bused to the venue and treated to lunch.

Pablo Villegas interweaves stories with great pieces for solo Spanish guitar. He creates a journey though imagination with a goal of transmitting values along with sharing how he started in remote Rioja, Spain, and grew up to travel the world playing the guitar.

This event at the Firehouse Performing Arts Center in Fairhaven will be free and open to the public, but remember that space is limited and it will be in Spanish.

Besides Villegas' Music Without Borders Legacy, during the festival this year two of the soloists will present master classes: Christina Smith, flute, and Villegas, guitar. These classes, held at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church on Lakeway Drive, are free to the students and open to the public. Three to four students who demonstrate great promise will play for the guest artists and receive valuable feedback and advice. The classes give a close-up glimpse into the thinking and playing of world-class concert artists.

Also during the July festival, the public can attend free chamber music concerts at Whatcom Museum's Rotunda Room and at Mallard Ice Cream on Railroad Avenue.

In the spring, the festival sponsors a "Welcome Home" concert that features a young musician from our community who is currently studying music performance at a major university or conservatory of music. Giving these young musicians the opportunity to perform enriches our community and helps start a career.

In recent years the festival also has sponsored recitals by major international soloists: Daniil Trifonov, co-sponsored with Western Washington University in 2013, and Hilary Hahn in 2014.

The most ambitious program the Bellingham Festival of Music sponsors is in partnership with the Whatcom Symphony and the Colburn Conservatory of Music. Musicians from Colburn, one of the most prestigious music conservatories in the U.S., come to Bellingham and perform for middle and high school students throughout Whatcom County. This past spring, the Second Street Brass Quintet performed before more than 3,000 children in their schools, giving a recital and engaging the children in discussions about music and being musicians.

One goal of the Bellingham Festival of Music, with the help of many volunteers and community organizations, is to introduce children to the fun and excitement of classical music, through free live musical performances and face-to-face meetings with professional musicians.

For more details about the Bellingham Festival of Music, which runs July 5-20, go to

Robert Lynch is chairman of the board of directors of the Bellingham Festival of Music.

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