Blaine Harbor Music Festival will return virtually in July

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Blaine Harbor Music Festival will bring its eclectic mix of world-class instructors to teach youth – and even adults this year – in a newly designed online format July 12-17.

“The joy of seeing student and faculty getting together and enjoying each other’s skill and everything they learn is plenty enough for me,” said Bryan Johnson, president of Pacific Arts Association, which organizes the yearly event. “We work hard for 51 weeks a year for that absolute glory where we can get together to share the love of music. It’s a very unique experience.”

In a new addition this year, adults will be able to take lessons in select subjects such as composition, American popular music, songwriting and world music. No prior experience is needed for most classes, Johnson said.

The rest of the classes will be geared toward students 12-20 years old, with the camp’s previous age limit of 18 raised to allow older students who missed the festival last year, which was canceled because of the pandemic, to attend. Students will need to audition for their music courses.

Johnson said the arts association decided to host a virtual event to protect the Blaine community.

“It was an empty summer last year. We toyed with the idea [of in-person] briefly but the idea of running the risk of infecting anybody trumped any desire to get out and do it,” Johnson said.

Tuition will be lower because running a virtual festival is less expensive, Johnson said. The festival will charge $100 per class and $300 for unlimited classes, which is $195 less than the normal unlimited ticket. Attendees may take up to five classes per day.

“It will all be interactive,” Johnson said. “Nothing will be canned.”

The festival will email participants a password for each Zoom class. A virtual concert, similar to the one usually in the G Street plaza, will be livestreamed at 1 p.m. every day on Zoom, which can be the festival’s website, blaineharbormusicfestival.org. The showcase concert will also be held on Zoom the evening of the festival’s last day, July 17.

As for faculty, Johnson said many of the same familiar faces who have been gracing the festival for over a decade will be in attendance, as well as new international musicians who are able to attend now that the festival is virtual. New faculty includes Liam Watson, who is the festival’s previous head counselor and studying music in Seoul, South Korea.

Nick Biello, a longtime saxophone instructor at the festival, will also work as the festival’s program director this year.

“The faculty is a loyal bunch,” Johnson said. “They come back year after year after year. It’s as much of a family affair as anything.”

This year’s class offerings include masterclasses in jazz vocals, piano, guitar, drum, saxophone, brass and bass, among many others.

The festival will celebrate its 21st year in 2021. In 2000, Bruce and Sandy Wolf started the festival in Blaine after running a similar camp in Fairbanks, Alaska with Ted DeCorso, who still works as the festival’s artistic director.

Although he expects the 2022 festival to be in person again, Johnson said he is going to push to have virtual components so people all over the world may attend. “There are so many people who would be delighted to do this far away as teachers and kids have gotten used to doing virtual classes,” he said.

Festival registration is now open. For more information and to register for the Blaine Harbor Music Festival, visit blaineharbormusicfestival.org. The festival’s Facebook page, facebook.com/blaineharbormusicfest, is posting interviews with faculty who will be in attendance.

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