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In order to create a more engaging experience for the audience, the National Music Festival concerts are held in smaller venues. (National Music Festival)

There’s music in the air this summer in Chestertown, Maryland, as the National Music Festival celebrates its 10th anniversary. The annual two-week long event is scheduled from August 8 to 15, 2020 (originally planned for May 31 to June 13). Audiences will enjoy over 30 concerts and 200 rehearsals during the Festival.

While all music festivals bring in world-class celebrations of music, the National Music Festival is unique. Performances are held in smaller venues, and rehearsals are open to the public. This creates a much more casual, intimate atmosphere.

But the most important difference is the nature of the festival itself. Sometimes called “boot camp for the Beethoven set,” it brings together internationally known performers who mentor gifted apprentice musicians as they embark on their professional careers.


More than just an opportunity for entertainment, the National Music Festival brings together student apprentices with seasoned mentors to help prepare them for professional careers in music. (National Music Festival)

According to Caitlin Patton, co-founder of the Festival, the mentoring goes beyond just improving musical skills.

“The mentors teach, but they are also role models,” she said. “They help students understand the real world and the kinds of choices they must make to balance their personal and professional lives. They hone their musical abilities, but also learn the critical business side of the performing world.”

Mentors are invited by Artistic Director Richard Rosenberg, himself a respected conductor, music historian and record producer. Many of the mentors have been with the festival for its entire existence. About 200 students apply for a place in the festival. This year, 110 apprentices and 30 mentors from 15 counties and 30 states are participating.

“Most training festivals are ensemble events, with professionals and students performing separately. We are different because everyone rehearses and performs together,” said Patton. “For the students, it inspires them to bring their best efforts. And the mentors say that playing with such enthusiastic, talented students keeps them on their toes.”


National Music Festival

Two hundred rehearsals are free to attend. They take place throughout the day, in venues as varied as church halls, art galleries, a bookstore, yacht club, the Chestertown Farmers Market and even a local auto repair shop. Evening concerts are on the campus of Washington College, area churches, Adkins Arboretum and The Mainstay in Rock Hall.

Tickets for the evening concerts are $15-$20, except for the festival galas. Two special gala evenings are scheduled. The opening night gala features a reception and orchestral concert. During the festival, there will be a celebration cabaret concert with vocal mentors and students.

There are packages for the entire two-week event for $250. Those guarantee admission for all ticketed performances, as well as special gifts, invitations to receptions and admission to pre-concert lectures. Individual tickets for concerts sell out quickly; organizers recommend that you check the concert schedule and purchase tickets as soon as possible.

There is a special family ‘instrumental petting zoo,’ where children and parents can see and play instruments. That’s followed by a family concert. Children are welcome at the rehearsals, but children under 5 years of age should not come to the ticketed events.

More information about the National Music Festival, including ticketing, schedules, and special events is found at nationalmusic.us. For information about lodging, restaurants, and other activities in Chestertown and Kent County, visit Kent County’s tourism information page: kentcounty.com/visitors.

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