Drayton Harbor Music Festival attracts world-class musicians to Blaine

Published on Wed, Jul 2, 2014 by Ian Ferguson

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For one week every July, Blaine hosts an ensemble of musicians who would be equally at home in the concert halls of Seattle, Vancouver or New York. 

More than 20 illustrious musicians – professors from schools such as Berkley and Juilliard, and performers who have shared stages with Frank Sinatra, Herbie Hancock and Dizzy Gillespie – come to Blaine to teach music to lucky students and perform free concerts for the public.

The Drayton Harbor Music Festival, previously called the Blaine Jazz Festival, is in its 13th year. Along with the name change, organizers have expanded the offerings beyond jazz music to include an a cappella choir, songwriting and musical theater.

Organizer Kristi Galbraith said between 60 and 70 students have signed up for the week-long music camp July 6–12, which is run by the non-profit Pacific Arts Association.

“It’s always amazing to see the improvement in the students’ abilities. They come in with a wide range of experience, and in just five short days they are able to produce a beautiful concert,” Galbraith said.

The improvement of the students may be amazing, but it’s not necessarily surprising given the talent of their instructors. Students get a week of intensive lessons with world-class musicians, Galbraith said.

“The faculty musicians bring such great energy and knowledge, and their ability to share that knowledge with the students is incredible,” she said.

One of the faculty instructors is trumpet player Greg Hopkins, who directs the Berkley Concert Jazz Orchestra and performed with Frank Sinatra. Another faculty member is Greta Matassa, an acclaimed singer who has been voted 

best jazz vocalist in the Northwest. The other 19 instructors have equally impressive musical resumes.

Students in junior high and high school aren’t the only ones who benefit from the talents of the musical faculty. The festival includes a packed schedule of concerts, many of which are free to the public.

The week of music opens with a performance by Pearl Django, a gypsy-jazz quintet that will be performing alongside other festival faculty members at the Blaine Performing Arts Center (PAC) at 7 p.m. on Sunday, July 6. A series of evening concerts will be held at the PAC and at Semiahmoo Resort, which is a partnering sponsor of the festival this year. People attending the evening concerts are encouraged to give a donation to benefit the Pacific Arts Association and future festivals.

“We’re very happy to be able to work with Semiahmoo Resort and give performances at their beautiful venue,” Galbraith said.

For free entertainment, swing by G Street Plaza at noon on any weekday next week, where a variety of bands and jazz combos made up of faculty members and students will perform against the backdrop of Drayton Harbor. 

On Saturday, July 12, the street entertainment culminates with a street fair along Peace Portal Drive. The road will be closed to vehicle traffic between G Street and H Street, with food and entertainment booths set up for pedestrians to peruse while festival musicians serenade the scene. Local businesses interested in hosting a booth are encouraged to contact the Blaine Chamber of Commerce at 332-4544.

On Thursday, July 10, the festival big band, a collaboration of faculty musicians, will perform at Semiahmoo Resort as a benefit for the music camp. Hopkins will lead the band and Matassa will sing a few numbers. The festivities begin at 7:30 p.m. and include hors d’oeuvres and a cash bar. Tickets are $40 and can be found at draytonharbormusic.org.

The students will play their showcase concert on Friday, July 11 at 7 p.m. at the PAC. For a full schedule of events, visit draytonharbormusic.org.