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Lakes Area Music Festival: A huge success

Starting four years ago, with five guest musicians from the Eastman School of Music, the Lakes Area Music Festival has grown in both the number of performers it hosts and in the size of its enthusiastic audiences.

The fourth season will conclude with a 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 19 concert at Tornstrom Auditorium at the Washington Educational Services Building in Brainerd. A free will offering for the concert will be accepted.

Artistic Director Scott Lykins, who grew up on the west side of Gull Lake at his family’s Lykins’ Pinehurst Resort, has helped bring together the enthusiasm and hospitality of Brainerd area music fans with the skill of professional and graduate school level musicians to establish a popular summer series of classical music.

“There’s been tremendous support,” he said. “This has been a huge success.”

This year’s festival, which began on July 29, has brought about 75 musicians to perform in the Brainerd area. The musicians are a mixture of artists who are currently performing with professional orchestras and graduate students.

Lykins, who earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., said slight compensation is offered to musicians for travel and accommodations are provided through volunteers who open their homes to the musicians.

Supporters of the music series have enjoyed hosting the musicians, the 2004 Brainerd High School graduate said.

“You have a chance to sit down and get to know them and have Minnesota Orchestra level music being practiced upstairs in your house,” Lykins said.

The musicians, many of whom are repeat performers, seem to enjoy coming to Brainerd as well.

“Pretty much everyone has just expressed that they love the community and the support and how hospitable everyone is,” Lykins said.

Lykins, 26, currently lives in the Twin Cities where he tries to pick up music gigs on either the cello — his primary instrument — or the piano. Organizing the Lakes Area Music Festival takes up much of his summer.

He said crowds at the seven concerts have averaged about 400 at each performance. Six smaller performances were also presented as part of the series. The family concert drew about 600 people and Wednesday’s opera, “The Magic Flute” drew more than 800 people — the festival’s largest audience so far.

Bonus offerings are the series’ lectures before the Wednesday concerts, a discussion series and a presentation with Central Lakes College’s life-long learning series.

“We do all that we can to get the word out but the best means of promotion is word of mouth,” he said.

Lykins said he has worked with a supportive board of directors, many volunteers as well as John Taylor Ward, assistant artistic director; and Sue Johnson, executive director. He said he and Ward have learned a lot about marketing and promotion, particularly in the early years.

The organizers, Lykins said, have tried to choose a repertoire that is accessible to the audience members, even those that aren’t necessarily classical music enthusiasts.

“We just want everyone to feel welcome,” the artistic director said.

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or He may be followed at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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