I'm nearing the end of my 6th summer at the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. my first engagement at Sewanee was in 1993, I was a dopey high school kid who thought music was fun, but basically had no clue about the profession. When I left Sewanee that summer, I was still pretty dopey, but I came home with one major idea - I love music, and somehow, I'm going to make this my profession. Period. It took me many years to actually become a professional, and I had many more influences along the way - but I can look to this one specific moment, summer 1993 at the Sewanee Summer Music Center( now festival), as the spark, the moment that sent me down the path I currently walk. I will always be grateful to the teachers I met and worked with that summer, many of whom, Frank Shaffer and Bruce Dinkins in particular, became lifelong friends, mentors and colleagues.
Summer Music Festivals can be transformative places, intensive opportunities to try out new ideas, perform, take risks and really think about why and what you want to do as a musician. They are also places to improve, push yourself and see how you stack up against players from other programs across the US. I've made lifelong connections from my experiences at various festivals, and I would not trade what I learned there for anything - my summer music experience is at least as valuable as anything I did in college or graduate school.
When I student tells me " gosh, I really want to do a festival but they are too expensive" or "I need the time off" or "I don't know, I think I'll just stay home and practice" I usually get pretty annoyed. If you are serious, you invest in yourself, in your education and in your career. You have your ENTIRE lifetime to work, but you won't work the way you want to if you do not invest in developing the musical ideas, playing experience professional networks needed to be a successful musician.
GO - go right now, and start planning for your 2017 summer festival experience, you will not regret it.