Classical Music Festivals
Welcome to Zeitgeist Radio. I'm your host, Morgan Roe, founder of the Zeitgeist Academy. Zeitgeist means spirit of the times, and it is the collection of cultural forces that all contribute to what it feels like to be alive and part of a dynamic culture. Every episode I speak with someone from a unique musical subculture.
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**Morgan:** My guest today is Dave George, a bass player and general manager of the Festival Mosaic Music Festival in San Luis Obispo County, California.
Dave, welcome to Zeitgeist Radio! Thanks for having me. Let's start by just letting people know. So who are you musically and what's, what's your musical background? And then what do you do?
**Dave:** Sure. So musically I'm a double bass player, string bass player. I here in San Luis, I play with the Slo Symphony.
I play with the Master Chorale and really any, any group that asks me to play, I'll play. Nice.
**Morgan:** So we will be sharing some stages here this year. Yeah, probably.
**Dave:** And we probably already have. Probably so, yeah. Yeah. And then I, lately I've also been playing with a band that my wife started which is really fun.
Nice. We've got kind of a folky, acoustic vocal group that adds drums and percussion. Occasionally. And but I came to San Luis Obispo to work with Festival Mosaic, which is mostly what we're here to talk about today. My background in playing bass and before that piano led me down the path of studying music in college.
Throughout that experience, I developed a couple, maybe three or four different kind of performance related muscular injuries. Oh, no. Yes. Which, you know, a lot of musicians deal with. Yeah. And it happens. It happens. And at the time it, when I was experiencing an issue mostly with my shoulder, it kind of took me
**Morgan:** in another direction.
Playing base, upright base with that. Oh man. Yeah.
**Dave:** So I was, I was out of playing for several months. My senior year of college and started doing like a little bit of intern internships with the development office at my school. And then I did a summer program as an intern with a chorus in Washington, DC, where I was a development intern for a while.
I worked in development and then I I started to get more interested in logistics and production. Which took me through grad school where I was the production assistant for a summer student music festival. And from there I got a job working for the Baltimore Symphony. I was one of the personnel managers, basically was hiring musicians for cool rehearsals and concerts on a weekly basis.
We had so many concerts, it's nuts, . And I worked there for a year and a half before I moved out here to California. to work at Festival Mosaic.
**Morgan:** Nice. Nice. is that just a non profit y word for sales? No. It's a non profit y word for fundraising. For fundraising. Which is a non profit y word for sales.
**Dave:** Well, yeah. I guess, at least
at the festival, we have two ways we make money. One is people buy a ticket, and the other is people buy a ticket. Make a donation, make a donation. Hopefully they, hopefully they do
**Morgan:** both. Yeah. Yeah. So before we get into that, just one more question about so with the, the Baltimore symphony, that's, that's so interesting.
So would you hire for an, for an organization like that? I suppose I should have a symphony person on here. I just don't know. Would you hire a completely new slate every single time?
**Dave:** No, at that orchestra it's you have a core group of musicians. And actually at an orchestra like the Baltimore Symphony, ideally you're only hiring musicians to replace somebody who's sick or who's on vacation.
They're a 52 week orchestra. You might hear that term in other interviews you do. That means they have, they have a roster of musicians that are paid. Every week of the every week whether they're playing or not. And there's several like that. The LA Phil is one. The San Francisco Symphony is one box in Cleveland.
Yeah, the big one. And then there's another tier below that, which you call like regional orchestras or 40 week orchestras. Basically, musicians are paid for the year minus the summer. But so at Baltimore, what I was doing was I was hiring if we needed extra trumpet players for a really big piece, or if we needed to replace a cello player that was on a trip or unexpectedly someone gets injured, you know, like, like I did so, and we had concerts every week.
So we usually had like a run that would be the Thursday, Friday, Saturday concert or Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Concerts with rehearsal. So I was, I was working nine to five plus every day of the week. And we had two performance venues that were separated by about 60 miles. So we were constantly moving around and it was actually a lot of fun.
Yeah. I really enjoyed it. It's not a job I'd want to do now that I have a family at home. Yeah. But it was, I mean, Well, and pretty
**Morgan:** cool to have a, a music job right out of school, like that's pretty rare.
**Dave:** I was very lucky. Yeah. I was, it was, I was finishing up grad school when that, when that came up.
Nice. And your shoulder's all cool. You can play now. Yeah, it's all
**Dave:** right. It's okay. I've had another thing since then, but I don't, I still play, but I don't play four to eight hours a day. Like you do when you're studying an instrument in a conservatory. And you know, honestly, that didn't really appeal to me anyways.
As I kept doing it, it's like, this is lonely to practice all the time. To go to those like cattle call auditions, say a job and a bass player job in the Baltimore symphony is open. There's one spot out of eight spots, you know, on the roster, a hundred people apply for it. Maybe you have to record yourself playing your instrument and send it in first to prove that you're good enough to audition.
Right. And then you get there and there's 50 other people there. Right. Vying for the one spot. And it's just awful. I did that twice. I took two auditions like that. Awesome. Yeah. It's kind of soul crushing.
**Morgan:** Yeah. That sounds really difficult. And
**Dave:** it's, that's not, it was not the life for me. It's, many people excel at it and I have friends that have been very successful and developed strategies for winning auditions.
You practice to win the audition. You're not practicing to necessarily. Play the best musical
**Morgan:** performance, but it's like teaching to the test sort of exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. One thing I've really loved about this podcast is it's really made just like insanely clear how many spaces. There are in music, and if one thing isn't for you, that's fine.
There's something else that is, there's so many moving pieces that make a, whether it's a performance or even just a hobby or a little space somewhere, like there's so many different spaces, music exists, and there's so many different roles that go into making it happen.
**Dave:** So, I mean, and once you start talking about arts administration, which is not what I do, there's even within that subset, there's so many, so many different ways you can go.
**Morgan:** So, so let's, let's start there. Tell me, what do you do? What do you do with festival mosaic?
**Dave:** So with the festival I was actually hired for a position called operations and personnel manager, and then was later grew into become general manager. And it's hard to describe exactly what my duties are because they're so all encompassing everything.
We're, we're an organization that presents a two week music festival in the summer. It's primarily classical music. We do some. What we call now presenting as well, which is where we bring in a group, could be a Celtic violinist, or it could be a flamenco dancer, or it could be a comedian, you know, something kind of not classical music necessarily, but, but, but, you know, something cool that we want to present.
So we do all these different kinds of events. Throughout the summer, we do one or two or three weekends of concerts. Throughout the year. We just finished one a few weeks ago. And basically, my job is to coordinate all the logistics involved in that whether that's booking the venues, booking our musicians and assisting with their travel.
Feeding the musicians, that comes up a lot. Yeah,
**Morgan:** that hasn't changed since college. No,
**Dave:** and because we, we do events at so many different kinds of venues and all over the area. There's a lot of schlepping of stuff. My, my, my car gets, gets filled to the brim and I drive all over the area. And when I first got the job my boss at the time warned me, she described it as a traveling circus.
And she's not wrong. That's, that's a lot of what it is. But then on top of the logistics and the artistic part of it, I also manage our website and I do some graphic design. And what else do I do? I do IT sometimes. So we're, we're a staff of four.
**Morgan:** That seems pretty big to me. I don't know.
**Dave:** we're like two full time administrators one part time administrator, and then our music director is full time. And so really it's like two and a half people, you know, doing all the planning throughout the year. And then we, we hire seasonal and, and production staff during the event period too.
**Morgan:** Yeah, that's, that's awesome. So let's take a step and just kind of look broadly. I think this is, so I haven't heard of anything else. I'm sure in your world you are aware, but I had not encountered any, anything, A, that calls itself a music festival, and then B, that is in this particular format where it's like, like.
I mean, there's like the Bach Festival that I'm aware of, that's like a weekend, right? But Festival Mosaic is kind of, like you said, throughout the year at different places and locations, and I, I definitely want to talk more about that later. But can you kind of give me, how much do you know about, like, the history of all that?
How it all came together and, and why it's in the format that it's in?
**Dave:** Sure. I mean, when you hear the word music festival, it could mean so many different things. Yeah. It could mean, you know, two days with 10 stages like Coachella, you know, something like that. Or it could be there's orchestras throughout the country that have a summer, summer home, so to speak.
The one that comes to mind is in Boston, the Boston symphony literally packs everybody up. for two months and moved to Tanglewood which is two hours outside of Boston in the woods. It's a huge outdoor performance shed with a huge lawn and they have a whole other season there. Wow. And, and as part of that, they have a student program as well.
So, you know, that's a, that's a festival in the sense that they've got a whole separate season with lots of different things going on. When you talk about our festival and there are some festivals similar to us, not in this area, but in other parts of the country where we have a week or two weeks jam packed with concerts as well as lectures, classes, movies wine tastings, all kinds of stuff that we try to just pack into a short period of time.
And that is mostly what I think identifies us as a festival. The, the, the organization itself has actually been around for 53 years maybe going on. I think we might be into 54 now was founded in 1971. And back then they called it the slow Mozart festival. And it was founded by three professors from Cal Poly University who thought, Hey, we, this is kind of fun.
We should, we should have a concert in the summer. And I, you know, I, one of the founders is still around, Cliff Johnson, so he plays the bass also, which is super cool. I get to hang out with him a lot. But it kind of grew, that first festival was only three days long. And the ticket, I, there's a flyer up in the office near my desk.
I think the ticket for the whole run of concerts for that was 1. 50. Which is insane. And it just, from that three days, it started growing and growing and growing. And it has become what it is now. And they, let's, let's, let me think. The name Mosaic came about, I think maybe 15 years ago or so. Because though it was called Mozart Yeah.
The Mozart Festival.
**Morgan:** It's kind of limiting after
**Dave:** a while. Yeah, I mean, the name is limiting, but that's, that was not how they were programming. And if you even look at the first program that from 1971, they did a piece by Mozart. Yeah. But they also did Stravinsky and they also did Gunther Schuller at the mission.
So, you know, it's like Mozart was not the only thing they were doing, but it was a focus for sure. And it still is for us. And that's where the Z. Pumps from in mosaic.
**Morgan:** Okay, okay.
**Dave:** So some people say Mote saic. Mote saic? Mosaic, but
we still we still do a concert at at Mission San Luis Obispo every summer and there's always Mozart on it.
But we were just, we're doing a whole mosaic of other different things. Yeah,
**Morgan:** I like the name. Yeah, no, that's, and that's, that's cute. I kept I kept misspelling it when I was doing research for this episode. And then I was like, Oh, there's a Z. You're not the only one. I'm sure. So let's talk about some of the things, one thing I was really interested.
Your website lays out very clearly your mission and values. So one of the things that I, that caught my ear, again, the mission of this podcast is to expose people to all the different kinds of spaces that music can exist. And, and that people can interact with music and one of the values that are the vision talks about enriching and transforming the way that people hear and interact with classical music.
So I think this is really important, moving into, I mean, the, the education system is all up in like, it's crazy right now. And I think that. It is, there is definitely a shift that is, it's already happening and I think it's needed. So I think it's important work, but it's also, I think, very difficult. So how do you put that into action?
How do you do that?
**Dave:** That's definitely something that Festival Mosaic takes a lot of pride in. And it's, it's not necessarily something that was, I don't, I don't think sort of in the, In the vision for the festival when they started doing it but one thing that, that our music director, Scott, you, who he's a conductor and a violinist, but he's also a really good teacher and speaker about music when he came in almost 20 years ago to the festival, he started doing this series called notable encounters and at these events, and we do them in various ways, but the gist of it is that you are.
Attending an informal event, there's musicians up on stage, sometimes they're not on a stage, sometimes they're sitting right in front of you. And the way Scott describes them is it's a museum docent's guide to a piece of music. So say he's talking about, recently he did one of these presentations about a flute quartet by Mozart.
And he breaks the piece down, he talks about what was going on with Mozart at this time. You know, why did he write the flute quartet when all the letters that he's written say he hated the flute? Why did he who was the flute player, you know, that he was writing this piece for and you heard it.
So, you know, that it's a very difficult piece for the flute player back in, you know, 17, 80, whatever, when it was written where did he take influences from and then, so he'll, there'll be sort of like. Musical performance. He'll perform some excerpts or the group will perform some excerpts. He'll stop.
He'll talk. He'll play a piece by the Beach Boys and he'll say, you hear this. This chord progression that the Beach Boys use is the same one that Foray used in his piano trio. And then he'll, and he'll arrange music by the Beach Boys for the string quartet to
**Morgan:** play. Oh my gosh,
**Dave:** this is that you come to this notable encounter. Usually they're quite low cost events. We try to, to keep them under 25 to come to this, one of these notable encounters. You come to the encounter on Friday afternoon, and then on Saturday night, you come and you hear the whole piece performed in a traditional setting, and you're, while you're listening to the concert, you're going, Oh, I remember he was talking about that little thing that the flute just did, or, Oh, I remember in this movement, I'm supposed to listen for the cello playing this low note or whatever, and it, it deepens your, the audience's overall experience.
So when we do these weekends, Like the one we just did, what we hope is that people come to every event. So on Friday, they come and learn about Mozart. On Saturday, they come and learn about foray. And on Sunday, they hear the concert. And this is, this is the way, mostly, I, I think that the festival is trying to, you know, address this part of the vision statement.
And we really try to like, we're trying to break down what they call the fourth wall. I don't know if you've heard other. People talk about this and that's the invisible wall between the stage and the audience. Yeah. So if, when you're at these events, you can raise your hand, you can ask them a question.
Cool. Or, you know, even at our concerts, if you come out to the lobby after the concert, Scott and the other performers are usually out there talking to people. So and these are the same musicians that you would see at Disney Hall or that you would see at the Lincoln Center in New York City, so you can't go out to the lobby and talk to the conductor.
**Morgan:** cannot. New York Philharmonic. What do they think about this? Are they on board with that or do they have fun with it or are they like, Oh my God, I have to talk to people.
**Dave:** I mean, it, you know, it really depends on the, on the individual, but most of our musicians that come back year after year, they love it and they develop friendships with our audience.
They develop friendships with our volunteers and our hosts, you know, they'll stay with host families when they're here. And so it's really, we, we try to create this camaraderie. As a group audiences, performers, staff, you know, everybody that's involved and really get people to people, get people to interact with the, with the performers and at the event too.
**Morgan:** That's awesome. And I can speak even just the, so I, I went to an event at, at the festival and I have a good friend who plays cello, who is actually on this podcast, Milo. And I sent him a, just a quick photo of like, Hey, this is the. The program like have you played any of this and he's like, oh my gosh.
Yes this one piece like Watch the cello player because there's a, they have to like tune in the middle of the piece while they're playing. They tune one of their strings down a step. So you better bet that that whole movement, I was watching. I was like, okay, I want to catch her. And I was just, I was engaged.
That was something I would never have known. And she was very, very careful, like she, like you wouldn't have known if I had, if I hadn't been looking, she was really subtle about it, but I caught it. And that's something I wouldn't have known, like what a weird thing to have in a piece, like in the middle of a piece.
Oh, by the way, just tune your string down.
**Dave:** That is really bizarre. And actually I learned about that at the notable encounter. Friday night. That's part of that weekend. And it was a piece by Schumann. So it's like, it's nothing, it's not like we're talking about a composer that's living right now. I guess Schumann's like, go ahead and tune that string down during the piece and hope that it's in tune.
**Morgan:** Right. Right. She was just like. Like I listened to her do do do do do do like, obviously I couldn't hear the tuning, but I mean, when,
**Dave:** usually when that happens you find that a composer will ask you to do that in between movements. Right. Frequently in the, in like Mahler did it for violin. The violin solo in one of the symphonies where he had the violinist tuned down a half step in between movements, because when you tune one string, it's going to affect all the other strings.
And yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I wouldn't want to be, I wouldn't want, I don't play cello, so I wouldn't, I'll never have to do that, but.
**Morgan:** Right. Yeah. Yeah. Oh, that's so cool. So I would, I was, the other thing that I was interested in on your website, there was lots of excellent points made on your Your values.
Let's take a look at these values. So first of all, embrace artistic excellence and elevate the experience. Let's talk about this because it's not like you're bringing on, like, Joe Schmo down the street. Or, you know, or recent grads in the school. Like, these, when you talk about artistic excellence, these are world class players, like you said.
Disney hall. How do you find these people and, and what is your qualifications? Like, how do you approach when you're reaching out to people for
**Dave:** booking? A lot of the ways that we find our performers actually is through our conductor, Scott. He is you know, he travels the world conducting other orchestras.
He plays violin also, and he plays at other cheering music festivals. He meets a ton of people. And So it's a good mix in the summer of people that Scott has been playing with for decades, a lot of them actually he went to Harvard with or went to school with, I should say, and formed really close musical bonds with a long time ago.
And then others are young musicians he comes across when he's working with groups in Mexico, he's a conductor in Mexico City or he might have met one of our cellos like and so you never know, but, but typically Scott does our recruiting and then I'll get a list of people and say, you know, give, give Abigail a call and see if she can come.
And usually when I call somebody and say, Hey Scott, you wanted me to invite you to the festival. They're like, I am there, which just, you know speaks. Really highly of, of his reputation in the classical music world. As well as, I mean, who wouldn't want to come to the central coast of California in July for two weeks?
**Morgan:** true. It's really beautiful. It's not too hot, but in slow, it's not so
**Dave:** much hot this year, but still, I mean, they, they come out for a couple of weeks, they. A lot of them get these just amazing homestay setups. They drink some great wine. They eat some really good food. They play great concerts. They go to the beach, they go hiking, you know it's not a hard sell.
I'll say that. And sometimes we do have you know, if we, if we're doing a big orchestra piece and we need, like I was talking about earlier, we need an extra trumpet player or an extra trombone player. We rely on our existing. Roster of musicians to, to you know, reach out to their circles and say, Hey, who wants to come and you're familiar
**Morgan:** with that?
One of the bullet points under this This particular value is highlight the works of eclectic young composers as well as traditional ones. How do you find young composers? Is that also through Scott or do people submit or they're open? Like, how does that work? Yeah, we,
**Dave:** we don't do open submission but yeah, I mean, a lot of it is through Scott.
Actually I was gonna, I was, I wanted to mention that in the Summer Festival last year, 2022, we actually premiered three pieces of music. Which is really cool. And one was by quite a young composer. He wrote a string sextet for us. One was by a more experienced composer. We were part of a consortium of five different organizations to commission this piece.
For clarinet. Hold on, let me get it. Clarinet, piano, violin, cello, and, and viola, I think. So kind of an unusual ensemble. And that was actually a commission left over from 2020 that got kept getting pushed because we couldn't perform it in 2020. And then we did a piece to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the festival.
It was written by one of our musicians. So, I mean, it just depends on, you know, what we're, what the theme is for that year's festival. Who is, you know, going to be available. A lot of that. A lot of the programming that Scott will do depends on who is able to come play this year because if, you know, Zachary can't come this summer, then I'm not going to do that piece because I really want that piece to be for him or Bob wants to do that piece or whatever it is.
So, you know, it ebbs and flows. And a lot of times we're doing contemporary music, not necessarily new music, but contemporary music. Because Scott, I think he takes it very seriously. He's going to present Mozart. He's going to present. Bach and Beethoven and Brahms. He loves Brahms and Dvorak.
But he also, he takes the responsibility seriously of educating our audience on what is going on in classical music today. Yeah. It may not be your favorite piece of music. We did the Berg Violin Concerto a couple years ago. I have to say, personally, I do not care for it.
**Morgan:** Yeah, it's hard. Anything by him is hard.
**Dave:** you know, but I think it's important that we're doing it.
**Morgan:** think so too. And I think that ties in with that, you know, the vision of enriching and transforming the way people hear and interact with classical music. I think a big part of that is helping people realize it's not stagnant. It's still going.
It's not like everything just ended at Beethoven. Absolutely. Yeah.
**Dave:** Yeah. And it's fine if you don't like it, but you know, listen to it and talk about it with other people that are there. That's what's so great about these notable encounters too, is that it really spurs a lot of discussion after the events are over.
**Morgan:** Oh yeah, sure. Especially with these, do the composers, like they come and they're part of these, are they part of these discussions? We have? Yeah, we have done that in the past, yes. Yeah, that would be so cool. Because it's, it's so different to hear it from the person and like, this is what went into this and really get details of whether it's inspirations.
That's, that's really cool.
The mission of the Zeitgeist Academy is simple. I want everyone to live their best musical life. If your dream includes singing with confidence, I got you. I made a mini online course so you can get out of musical drama and finally understand which vocal elements make you sound good. Banish forever.
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The mission of the Zeitgeist Academy is simple. I want everyone to live their best musical life. If your dream includes singing with confidence, I got you. I made a mini online course so you can get out of musical drama and finally understand which vocal elements make you sound good. Banish forever.
Those fears of being out of key, off rhythm, and other assorted mayhem. Step into your best musical life my friends. Sign up for the free firstname.lastname@example.org slash radio.
**Morgan:** Another bullet point under this, this first value is just like, wow, there's so much in here, but choose unique, high value, historical, cultural, and intimate venues for performances. That's like all the venues. Well, I'm, I'm interested in, in some of the venues that you've chosen. The one I went to was in a fairly standard concert hall.
So, but then you've also mentioned the mission. Where else are these performances around town?
**Dave:** We do them all over. And, and, you know, one of the things that people ask me a lot of times is how do you find. How do you locate, secure these venues?
**Morgan:** And, a lot of it is... And so let's, let's take from you, before you get into like, where, like, what goes through your head?
So, do you book the venues? Do you come up with the, generate the ideas? How do you choose, as an organization, you know what, let's go here versus here. Or let's look for this type of thing this year. How do you make that decision in the first place?
**Dave:** Well, we're actually, we're planning summer of 2024 right now.
And we don't start with the venues necessarily. We start by saying, okay, we're going to do four chamber music concerts. We're going to do two dinners. We're going to do, we're going to present a guest artist at. Okay, I'm going to take back what I said, because we have, we have like four of the iconic type venues that we go to every year.
And so we dropped those in, so we have to be here, here, here, here, and here. And those would be the Mission in San Luis Obispo. We're always, we're always there. We always do a Baroque concert at Sarah Chapel in Shandon, California. It used to be called Chapel Hill. If you Google Chapel Hill Shandon, California, you'll see a picture, beautiful pictures of it.
Like a chapel up on a hill in the middle of the vineyard.
**Morgan:** Yeah, that's pretty out
**Dave:** there. It's way out there. Yeah. I have a, I can tell you a story about that later. We, we always do a concert at this fruit ranch in Avila Beach. And in the last few years, we've started doing an outdoor concert at the Dana Adobe, which is in the Pomo.
And I mean, those four cities alone are, Spread out
**Morgan:** all over the county. That is a huge range. Yes. Yeah.
**Dave:** I mean, so part of our, our mission, I think the first thing it says in the mission that references families bespoke county. So we, we try to reach every part of the county which if you're not living here, you wouldn't necessarily know that it's pretty rural.
Yeah. You know, overall quite rural. So we, we, we think about first, okay, if we're going to do four chamber music concerts, we want to do one In San Luis Obispo, we want to do one at Cuesta College. We want to do one in North County. So for the last few years, we've been searching and searching for the perfect venue in North County to do chamber music.
A lot of times we'll go to the other mission, Mission San Miguel, which is technically still in our county. We're hoping that we can make it work to do concerts at the Templeton Performing Arts Center this summer. And then, you know, yeah, it does, after we kind of decide, okay, this is what we want to do, then it's on me to call every venue and...
Make sure we can book it for the date we want and, you know, find out where are the musicians going to hang out and is there a good enough piano there for us to use for the concert? And if there's not, can I move a piano in
**Morgan:** for the concert? I definitely want to talk logistics with you later. Sounds really difficult, but continue.
**Dave:** And then I think it was 2016, maybe 2017. We started doing a series called the Midday Mini Concerts, which are concerts that take place at noon. On a weekday. They're free or really are by donation. But you know, you don't have to make a donation. And we try to pluck one of those in every part of the county.
So if we're not already doing a concert in Pismo Beach, you know, we might look for a church in Pismo Beach that would accommodate 200 people. So once we start talking about that series, we're looking at geographical location as well as how many people can we fit and we accommodate. There's so many little things, where are they going to park?
Is there enough, are there enough bathrooms? You know,
**Morgan:** stuff like that. Is that about the typical 200 people? Even for a Tuesday weekday lunch? Some are
**Dave:** busier than others, but in the summer we do have concerts on a Thursday at noon that are 250 people. Wow. And what I think is especially cool about the midday concert is that you can hear that violinist that I was talking about that It's playing all over Europe and you, you can come to San Luis Obispo and hear this person play a solo recital free, you know and it's not somebody that, it's like, you couldn't even pay to see this person,
**Dave:** you can come out to the Methodist church and, and see them during the festival, which is, which is really, really
What's been your favorite venue for any reason? Fun, quirky?
**Dave:** Yeah, I mean, my favorite, my favorite venue is the chapel up on the hill and it's just so gorgeous up there. Yes, it is so hot. I mean, we get out there.
**Morgan:** Oh my gosh. Yes. Shandon is so when we moved here I wanted to live in slow. There was not anything in our that we were able to buy in slow So we we were in it we were looking just kind of all over and I have was not from this area and everyone kept saying Like there's like the series of towns leading out towards the central valley.
And obviously, you know, the further out you go, the less the houses are. And but everyone would say, oh yeah, but it's, it's five degrees hotter up there. It's five degrees hotter up there. And I was like, okay, whatever. So I'm in a Tascadero here. Paso Robles. It's five degrees hotter. It's five degrees. By the time you get to Shandon, it's like, it's like 120.
**Dave:** the height of summer where the, the poor stage crew is, they're setting things up around like one o'clock, two o'clock in the afternoon, it can be a hundred degrees and they, they yell at people, don't open the door. It's like, it's our, it's nice and comfortable inside until you keep opening that door and letting the hot air in.
Right. But then, you know, as the concert is starting at seven 30 in the evening, the sun is setting. Yeah. It's cooling off. They're playing beautiful, you know, concertos by Bach or Telemann. One year it rains, but that's only once is it rained in 10 years but it's just a gorgeous evening. And so, I mean, I, I look forward to that, that venue, visiting that venue every year.
**Morgan:** Nice. So that was a lot of conversation about one of your four values. I'm not going to go through all of them, but I did want to touch on another one that I just found so interesting, which is be involved in the cultural community at large. And this is where kind of that diversity comes into play here.
So it talks about showcasing the lifestyle of the central coast. You've mentioned already, like the, the wine and the hiking and, you know, the, the amazing things that are here alongside the music. And then it also talks about designing activities and programs that provides multiple points of entry to the festival and the art form.
Can you talk a little bit about that and what that means?
**Dave:** So, I mean, the way we look at different points of entry are, you know, you could come to a notable encounter, maybe that's the first time you've experienced a piece by Mozart. And actually, I think that's a great way for somebody who doesn't know anything about classical music to experience it for the first time in this kind of informal.
Conversational environment. We also the like those mini concerts are talking about we provide a lot of free or low cost events, you know, throughout the summer and throughout the year. We do a family concert every summer, which is a 5 ticket or anyone to attend, you know, but that that actually the family concert is my favorite event of the year.
Because my family gets to come. But while the chapel is my favorite venue, definitely my favorite event is the family concert, because we work with a local frequently we work with a local dance company called movement arts collective. And they do, they bring a student and professional dancers in to do.
A setting of Carnival of the Animals with costumes with our musicians. That's what we did. We did Carnival of the Animals two years ago. This last year we did Appalachian Spring with dancers. And it's just that I think starting to bring kids to stuff like that when they're five, six, seven years old is the best thing that we can do.
Especially if you're not going to experience that at your public elementary school, you know. And then the other thing we do on the education side of that is we work with our partners at Cal Poly and at Cuesta and at the Perlman Arts Center to get our musicians in front of students. It's hard to do that during the summer because there are no students around.
Right. But when we're, when we're working on our events throughout the year we brought Scott and a music a trio of musicians to the PAC. That's our big performance space. And they perform for 700 middle school students. They've, Scott has gone in and talked to music appreciation classes at Cuesta.
A lot of our musicians have done what we call masterclasses. That's where, you know, That would be
**Morgan:** amazing to do a masterclass with these world renowned performers.
**Dave:** And, you know, usually when you're talking about a masterclass, Like, in my case, it would be like, I'm gonna go play a piece on my string bass for a master bass player.
Yeah. Who's gonna offer me their feedback. And when Scott comes and does a masterclass, he doesn't care what instrument you play. Like he plays violin, but he like, I'd love to hear an OBO player, or I'd love to hear a singer, or I'd love to hear a piano. Which is super cool. Nice. And when you, so when you go to one of those classes, you're not necessarily just talking about.
How to play the violin that you're talking about music and we get a lot of our, like, kind of core audience members that will, one of their favorite things to do is go to these master classes and watch the students of the youth symphony or at from Cal Poly's music department interact with our performers.
And those are also totally free. So, those, those are also one of the, one of the best parts of my job is seeing the students. Yes.
**Morgan:** At the, at the show I went to, right, right behind us were these, this small group of college students. And it was so fun listening to them because they were, you know, muttering to each other like, like you do when you're in college, you're like sitting there and you're talking, not during the show, but like in between the facts about Mozart and wasn't he the one that, Oh wait, you know, like all of these little stories and, and they were, they were so into it and the history and they were bringing up things about the composers.
And I was like, this is awesome.
**Dave:** Yeah. I'm glad to hear that little anecdote. Cause we do everything we can to get students to come in and, and. If we've got seats open, we want students to sit in those seats. So we'll, we'll give you a ticket. Just give us a call.
**Morgan:** Yeah, that's awesome. And then I think the rest of it, I just want to make a point.
Your third, the third value is be good stewards. That is a lot about. Financial stewardship, which I'm sure is could be its whole own conversation. If you want to dive into that, we can
**Dave:** the last several years. That piece of has been going quite well. So we're nice. We have a really good team and a great board.
That's really looking ahead to make sure we're around for 100 years, not just 50. So,
**Morgan:** yeah, yeah, that's huge. I'm on several boards myself of different arts organizations. And that's I mean, it's not as like flashy to talk about, but it's definitely important. It's really, really important work and it's hard.
And then I'll just love the last value here is make serious music, seriously fun. Celebrate the way music brings people together. Like isn't that what it's all about? I
**Dave:** mean, it's just downright fun. I mean, as an audience member. You experience some amazing performances, you get to meet all these incredible artists.
And then, you know, as a, one of the organizers of it, I'm just totally immersed in it for two weeks and I come out on the other end looking forward to the next one. So yeah, I was just going to say, we don't, we don't only do serious music. I
**Morgan:** mean, yeah, tell me about that. You, so yeah, we haven't even talked about, you said flamenco and you said some other things.
What else, what else do you do? That's we've talked about classical. What other things do you do? That's maybe not classical music.
**Dave:** I mean, we just, we have these, these few venues where it's just not suited to do classical music. And cause either it's outside in the sun and you, you know, you can't move a piano and play a piano in the middle of a lawn.
Or, you know, you, you need to have a PA system so people can hear everything. And, you know, you don't want, you don't necessarily want to listen to classical music amplified in that way. But so. We just, we, I shouldn't say we, I shouldn't say we, my our executive director Lloyd is kind of responsible for programming the, what I call the presenting series.
And so he just looks for and identifies, identifies artists who are performing at the same level as our classical musicians, just in a different genre. So yeah, we had the flamenco dance, evening of flamenco dance outside at the Dana Adobe in the Pomo was super cool. We brought her in from Spain. And then she, she worked with a guitarist and a singer and percussionist that she knew here in California.
This last year we had a singer songwriter who came out and sang a bunch of songs at the Fruit Ranch, that original song. What else did we do this year? Oh, yes, this past summer we had a violinist named Lucia Miccarelli, who, she's a classically trained violinist, but she kind of ended up making this career as a singer.
Thank you. Slash violinist slash actress. She was on an HBO show called Treme about New Orleans jazz. And now she goes around and she tours with Chris Bodie and other people like that. Josh Groban. And she came out and did a solo show. So she's one, one example of an artist that somewhere in the vision statement, it talks about the word unclassical.
Yeah. So it's, it's classical musicians that are doing other things. Which is, which is really cool. We've done a few shows like that. Yeah. Either with a visiting artist or we say to our musicians, Hey, does anybody have an idea for putting together a concert? That's like using you, you all classical musicians, but you're playing Johnny Cash or you're, you're playing jazz, but it's for string quartet, something like that.
**Dave:** so cool. Yeah. I mean, it's super fun.
**Morgan:** What's one of your favorite stories? Just like you work in this, we've, we've got a lot of high level stuff. Let's, let's talk some, some day to day stories. What are some of your favorite stories of doing this job every single, every single day? Yeah.
**Dave:** One of the, one of the, my favorite moments was we had a, I think it was maybe seven years ago now. There's a piece by the composer, Ralph Williams for piano quintet, which will be piano, violin, viola, cello, and bass. And it's rarely performed. And it's a piece I got to play when I was in graduate school and as a bass player, and I just loved it.
And I kept saying, it's got, Hey, let's do this piece. And it didn't work out for whatever reason. Finally. And it showed up on a concert and he comes out and says, we're doing this piece because Dave told me we needed to do this piece. And it's become one of my favorite pieces. And the performance was just incredible.
And it actually got recorded. And it's one of our most popular
**Morgan:** videos. And you're like, yeah, see?
**Dave:** Yeah. So that, that's really awesome. That's actually the thing I enjoy the most about this. Is being involved and then in all of this planning, all of this organizing, and then finally seeing a show take place and having it just be so incredible.
So that, that, that's super cool. But then I also just have all these stories of things that have gone horribly wrong.
**Dave:** Usually the goal would be that the audience members don't know anything about what has going on. That was early on in my career. I spoke to somebody who was the production manager for big orchestra.
And she's like, people should not know that you are doing your job well, and people should not know when something goes wrong. So if you've, you know, like if the bus breaks down with all the musicians on it, do you need to call everybody about that? Or who do you really need to let know about this? Sure.
Contain it. That has not happened at the festival that did happen in Baltimore and bus. Oh, my goodness. On the way to a concert. And we just had to start quite, quite late. Quite late. Yeah. Sorry to the 2000 people that were there. But yeah, one of the stories I like to tell is my when I first got hired before we moved to California permanently, I flew out for a week to help kind of.
I was learning about what the festival was still at the time. And so I came out and I attended one of these weekends, three day weekends. And we're getting to the venue for a dinner that we're hosting, and we get there and, you know, all the tables are there and they're all the plates and all the glasses and stuff.
I, I didn't know I was going into catering when I got this job. I, I am. But we were missing a pretty important piece of it, which were chairs. Oh no. There, there were a hundred people coming for dinner, like in four hours and there were no chairs. So actually that's when I, I met, My favorite chair guy.
**Morgan:** I love that you have a favorite chair
**Dave:** guy. I just like, okay, first result on Google. Can you get here in an hour? Yeah. All right, great. So now I call this guy for everything. And that was just an instance of, you know, that was, I was in between operations managers. So the previous person I've forgotten to order is the chairs.
Somebody's gotta do it. Yeah. That happens. Most recently, this, this last summer when we were, we got to our, our we were getting set up for our concert at the chapel up on the hill. It was the last day of the festival. The last day of it was like the last Saturday of July. And the musicians are arriving, they're getting ready, they're tuning, and the bass player, there's one bass player in the orchestra for this show, and she runs up to me and says, My, my tuner just cracked.
Like, the peg at the top of her instrument that holds the strings on, cracked off. Oh no. Like the key, and she couldn't tune her string. And I was like, well how out of tune is it? And she played it, and it was extremely out of tune. Oh no. And for those who don't know, Shandon is an hour from San Lisbispo. There's no way this is getting fixed in time for the concert two hours from now. Thankfully, I'm a bass player, you know, and I have a bass, it's just at my house. So one of our stagehands grabs his van and starts driving. I gave him my key to my house and said, go into my house and get my bass and bring it back.
And he got back by, I think he was there at 715 and the show was at 730. Oh my gosh. So, I mean, it's one of those, just like, you know, other duties as assigned, all hands on deck. We just do what we have to do to make it happen. And actually, the guy that ended up driving. Two hours, just to get the base was super happy.
He got to sit in the air conditioning of the van. Oh, that's
**Morgan:** true. He's like, okay, stuff in 115 degree heat.
**Dave:** Yeah, exactly. So yeah, my base got to, got to perform at the festival.
**Morgan:** That's cool. Was it, yeah, someone, someone played your base. That was probably pretty awesome. Yeah. Nice. Logistics, man. So I, before, I used to run a music school and it was much, much smaller scale, but we did so many gigs and I can really appreciate the schlepping and that's just on such a small level because it would be bands, rock bands and various kinds of bands.
That's a lot of stuff too. It's a lot of stuff. So I learned how to fit, you know, a full electric keyboard, full drum kit. Several guitars, all of the stands, everything into my little Honda Civic and drive around to all these events. I'm assuming that's not what you do, but you also said that your car gets some solid miles.
So like, can you like, let's talk logistics. Like what is up to you to, to schlep versus what do you hire out? I
**Dave:** mean, I try to delegate as much as possible. We, we do have, you know, a really, a really great stage group and our, our, the head of the stage group he does a really good job of trying to keep track of where everything is and where everything needs to be.
We do have a truck we, we rent a truck for the two weeks that has the speakers and the music stands and chairs and tubs full of stand lights and stuff like that. But what people don't always think about is when you have a concert. And you want to have bottles of water or cookies to sell at intermission or wine.
God forbid we want to sell wine at intermission. That's the fault of me and like my assistant to move cases of wine. I think this summer we went through 40 cases of canned water because it was so hot. So we're like, who's got the water? Everybody, we need, we need six cases of water. We had to buy, we went to Miners and bought 10 box fans this year because it was so hot at Mission San Miguel.
And I ordered 300 pounds of ice to be delivered. And it's just like, there's all these little things that. You know, your, your standard audience member may not think of, but if you get there and you're hungry and there's no chips to buy at intermission, you'd be like, oh, well, where are the chips?
**Morgan:** Right, right.
And for those people not in California, I'm not from here. And so. People not from California, the missions, like they're they're a key part of the culture here up and down the coast and they are very historical, very old and they are meant to stay that way. So they do not have their, it's funny cause they are extremely popular venues for concerts.
I've both performed and attended many, many concerts in various missions and they're hot and they're old and there's, there's no air that moves at all.
**Dave:** No. So this year, actually what we did, it's we, we constructed our own swamp coolers. So a tub, a tub full of ice with a fan behind. I think we had six of those set up in the, in the sanctuary and it was like coordinating them, like, okay, switch them all on there.
The audience is coming in. Okay. They're going to start playing. Switch them all off because you can't have this fan, this fan noise going during the concert. And then, you know, for the four minutes where they're switching pieces, turn back on. Yeah, so I mean, The logistics is actually, I think it's the most fun.
And one of the, one of the big parts of my job is to make what we call the master schedule. And so, yeah, there's a schedule of what time the concert starts and there's a schedule of when the rehearsals are, but then there's a schedule of when the piano movers come there's, when do the volunteers need to show up?
**Morgan:** Do you wrangle volunteers? Because that's also a full time job.
**Dave:** It is. During the summer, we actually, we have another staff member who does our volunteer coordinating and she's awesome. We need 10 volunteers for this one or I need it. I need an extra two volunteers to come help at the master class or.
Set up snacks backstage. That is a big one. Is we really, we, our musicians work super hard and we try to make it easy for them. So like in the morning, if they're coming to a 9 30 AM rehearsal, but maybe there's breakfast, but then that means someone has to go pick it up. Right. I don't have to set it up.
I don't have to make the coffee. We were doing a lot of Instacart orders this last year just because they were eating so many snacks, like they would not stop eating the snacks. I get to eat. Got the right stuff if they
**Morgan:** want it. Some things never change. Right. I've never met a musician that was not highly motivated by food.
**Dave:** Yeah, right. And then there's just things that have to happen in a certain order. So, like, we work with Steinway has a showroom in Los Angeles that lends us pianos
**Morgan:** every year. Your pianos come from LA?
**Dave:** Our a lot of our pianists are what we call a Steinway artist and that means they have a contract with Steinway that they will perform on a Steinway whenever possible.
And that also means that Steinway will provide a piano for them if they need one and we, we just have to pay for the, the moving of the piano, but we don't rent it. I mean, and these, these Steinways are 200, 000 instruments that are just incredible, incredible pianos. And so if we're doing a a notable encounter at Halter Ranch Winery, they don't have a piano there.
Right. They don't, they don't have a stage there, so, okay, the stage has to get built first, and then the piano has to arrive, and then the piano has to be tuned and so there's just all these little things going on behind the scenes, and we have a really, really awesome team that, that, that takes care of it all, but I do have to schedule every, every little thing.
Which is fun.
**Morgan:** Wow. As long as I
**Dave:** don't forget to schedule something.
**Morgan:** I feel like there's, I feel like we could probably talk for at least another hour about all of this. Probably. There's so much. I agree. Awesome. But let's, as we wrap this up, I have a couple of questions. So what, what's next for Festival Mosaic?
What are you guys working on? This is in 2023 that this is being recorded towards the end of 2023. So what are you guys up to? So
**Dave:** we just wrapped up our 2023 fiscal year actually, and it ends in four days. But it's pretty much, pretty much wrapped up and we had a really great year. We had a fantastic summer festival.
We. Met all of our goals and fundraising and ticket sales, which is awesome. Which means next year, we're just, we're going to try to make it even better. Yeah. Yeah. Well, we're not going to just do that because years we didn't have an orchestra concert. And so next summer we're going to be back at the performing arts center at Cal Poly.
We're going to have a big orchestra concert which means we have to fundraise and sell tickets to accommodate that. It's going to be a really great week. It's probably going to be more like. Nine days this year, but we're going to try to spread things out because our audience members get tired if they're trying to go to everything.
And we do have about 50, 40 to 50 patrons that buy the quote everything package, which means they come to every event. And they're exhausted. Yeah, that's a lot, so spread things out a little bit more next summer. And then in 2025, it's going to be our the 20th anniversary of Scott Hughes, music directorship.
And so we're hoping they just have a big, a big, big celebration, lots of concerts, orchestra concert, maybe with a choir, you know, like a big choral piece would be super fun. I volunteer. Yeah, I
**Morgan:** know. I will be in that.
**Dave:** So, I mean, we're just, we're always looking ahead and we're, we're just always trying to plan, plan to make the next experience bigger and better.
**Morgan:** Nice. Well, I love it. I have one last question and I ask every guest this. So do you, do you know what Zeitgeist means?
**Dave:** I, yeah, kind of,
**Morgan:** so spirit of the times and one of the reasons that I, I was so like, like just dialing into everything on your mission statement and everything festival mosaic, because it's kind of this, the, the, the vibe felt very similar, let me say zeitgeist.
So in, for me, some of the most. Momentous and moving, life changing musical experiences I've had, where, where when I was not just listening to the music, but I knew a little bit about it, I knew about the culture, I knew what people, what were the fashions, what were people eating, what was the gossip of the day and the politics, and it It situates the music in a way where you're not just listening to the music, you're plugged into something much greater.
So I've termed what I kind of, what I call a zeitgeist moment, which is where you're listening to music and just something clicks in and you feel like you're part of something greater than yourself. What was a recent zeitgeist moment for you? It could be classical or it could be something completely unrelated.
**Dave:** I mean, I got to be honest, my musically, most recently, the most, like satisfaction I've been getting has been coming from playing with my wife and her band because we, with our three kids, we, we don't get a lot of time to perform together. And this year we've just made it a priority once, once the band decided they wanted me to play bass with them.
Which is okay, we'll just got to get a good, good list of babysitters going and we're just going to do it. And it is just awesome to be, to be a part of. Making music with her. That is. Yeah. Yeah. And it's not at all related. No, that's, that's fine.
**Morgan:** It's a separate, it's a separate question. And again, I ask everybody that and that I would love to hear you guys sometime.
I know your wife is very talented and I haven't heard you play yet personally, but well, other than I've probably been on stages with you at Master Chorale so, but I haven't heard you. Different vibe than Master Chorale. Different vibe, I'm sure. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And we'll put links in the show notes.
to your personal projects as well, including that group.
**Dave:** This has been really fun. Thank you for asking me. Thank
**Morgan:** you so much for being on my podcast.
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