In the spring of 2010, a chance encounter between violin virtuoso Danielle Belen and Bill Haxton initiated a chain of events that forever changed the little town of Three Rivers: a few short weeks later, the Center Stage Strings summer music camp was born. To make the camp possible, residents of Three Rivers volunteered hundreds of hours of time and contributed generously to support the music camp, including opening their homes as lodging for the camp’s faculty and students.
Held in June of 2010, the first camp was a resounding success. Faculty came from the highest altitudes of the music world; students hailed from Bulgaria, China, Korea and from all over the United States; and the concerts presented during the camp played to enthusiastic full houses every night.
Shortly after that first camp Bill created Three Rivers Performing Arts, a non-profit organization, which would continue to support Danielle’s annual music camp, but which would also host events of its own.
Three Rivers Performing Arts hosts two main events: the Winter Concert Series, now in its 4th season and Concert on the Grass, whose origins date back thirty years. In addition, Three Rivers Performing Arts still serves as part of the volunteer support staff for the Center State Strings Music Camp & Festival.
Believing that high quality performances should be available to everyone, local businesses, citizens and service organizations have eagerly supported the endeavor. Because of their generous sponsorship, the concerts can be attended at the very low price of $12, and students, children and the adults who bring them can attend for free.
In 2013, two new initiatives have been set in motion that will bear real fruit for Three Rivers and Visalia over the next couple of years. First, we are creating a weekend-long classic western film festival that will feature a full corral of western activities, and to top it off we hope to have cameo appearances from Hollywood stars of the past and present.
Next the Dean of the Colburn Conservatory is now working closely with Three Rivers Performing Arts to bring Colburn music students to our area for specialized academic work, for credit. While they are here, they are promising to perform for free in casual, salon-type settings. This is an ideal way to introduce children to classical music and to inspire local youth already studying classical. Clearly, this commitment by a major conservatory to our region will have a profound impact on the future of classical music here, and perhaps much more. It could very easily evolve into a music and ideas festival along the lines of Aspen in Colorado or Chautauqua in New York, with potentially enormous benefits to the local economy. This part of course is up to us as a community.
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