Lakes Area Music Festival kicks off 14th season

The Lakes Area Music Festival recently kicked off its 14th season with a tribute to earth, water and spirit featuring a world premiere by Peruvian-American composer Jimmy López Bellido followed by Jean Sibelius’ “Second Symphony, “inspired by the Apennine mountains of Italy.

Conducting a symphony
Christian Reif conducts as "Pago a la tierra" by Jimmy López Bellido is performed Saturday, July 30, 2022, during "Tribute to the Earth," a Lakes Area Music Festival program, at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The Lakes Area Music Festival began its 14th annual season at the new Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts at Brainerd High School.

“Tribute to the Earth” was the nonprofit's season opener with “name-your-own-ticketing” performances Saturday, July 30, and Sunday in the Brainerd lakes area. It followed the festival’s annual fundraising gala earlier this year that featured music from “West Side Story.“

“Last fall, between myself, our other artistic director John Taylor Ward and our music director, Christian Reif, we spent the fall months kind of putting together the themes and the repertoire that we wanted to include this season,” said Scott Lykins, co-artistic director. “Over the winter, it's a lot of work contracting all of the artists that we want to bring into this area to perform those pieces and all the logistics of getting ready for that.”

Founded in 2009, the Lakes Area Music Festival connects the nation’s best performers and audiences through excellent classical music and inspiring education, according to its organizers.

“Our approach to programming our seasons has definitely changed over the past 14 years,” Lykins added about planning this season, which includes the Wednesday, Aug. 3, chamber music 7:30 p.m. performance at the Gichi-ziibi Center entitled ‘Three Statutes.” “Early on, we were catering toward a local community that maybe wasn't as exposed to the standard repertoire that audiences, who have the chance to attend orchestra concerts all the time, have.”


Cellist Scott Lykins
Musician Scott Lykins is a co-artistic director of the Lakes Area Music Festival.
Contributed / Lakes Area Music Festival

Indian-American composer Reena Esmail works between the worlds of Indian and Western classical music. Her work, ”Three Statues,” takes inspiration from Hindustani singing traditions and sits aside chamber works by French composers Maurice Ravel and Francis Poulenc.

Organizers of the Lakes Area Music Festival announced last August the remaining activities and performances of its 2021 season were canceled due to two positive COVID-19 tests among performers, so they are making up for lost time and responding to pent-up demand this year.

“After over a decade, our audience has really built trust around what we put on stage and play for them,” Lykins said. “That's given us an opportunity to expand to include a lot more living composers and American composers and underserved composers in our season.”

For example, the “Pago ala tierra” that was performed as part of the Aug. 3 “Tribute to the Earth” comes from composer Jimmy López Bellido, a native of Lima, the capital and the largest city in Peru. Bellido studied at Lima’s National Conservatory of Music prior to graduating from the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki with a Master of Music degree. Bellido completed his doctorate in music at the University of California-Berkeley.

“We oftentimes hear from our audience what some of their favorite pieces and composers are. And we've certainly worked some of those into our programming … but also try to include some fresh new things that most people have never heard before to keep it interesting and educational,” Lykins said. “We are always trying out something new each season, expanding various programs, and continually creating new experiences that we're doing for the first time and that we're bringing to our audience for the first time."

The theme of this season — “World’s Connect” — manifests the “exhilaration, friction, beauty and tremendous power that occurs when contrasting forces come together,” according to the festival, a Brainerd-based nonprofit.

“In every program that we will offer this season, we are drawing on the excitement that comes when two very different forces come together within a single performance,” Lykins said. “And so each of those concert titles have been chosen to reflect that idea.”

The 14th season will feature 180 artists from the top orchestras and opera companies nationwide. For three weeks, they will make the lakes area their home, performing chamber music, orchestra and opera, as well as various community outreach activities


“We also have educational lecture videos that are also accessible through our websites that go in more into depth about what we mean, for example, by ‘Us & Them’ — how does that actually present itself in the music that we're doing,” Lykins said.

“Us & Them” is the title of the Saturday, Aug. 6, program at the Gichi-ziibi Center and features a “concerto grosso” that pits a group of soloists against a larger ensemble, “moving between cooperation and contrast.”

“The lakes area presents a wide variety of different types of entertainment,” Lykins said. “And I think it's important to be able to take in very different types of music or theatrical performances or visual arts.”

Artistic advisor and baroque violinist Chloe Fedor will lead a baroque ensemble in early examples of concertos in “Us & Them,” partnered with modern takes on the genre by Errollyn Wallen and Samuel Carl Adams.

“I think what our organization has done very well is welcome new people into the classical music world, and present our programs in an accessible and comfortable way,” Lykins said.

Bellido’s “Pago a la tierra” (“Tribute to the Earth”) last month, for example, is based on an ancient Andean ritual of thanksgiving for nature’s bounty, and serves as a commemoration of the music and culture to come at this year’s festival, according to a news release.

“By bringing music here to downtown Brainerd and offering our concerts without a set admission fee, we’re given anyone who's interested the opportunity to check us out,” Lykins said of the Lakes Area Music Festival.

“Every Sunday afternoon and Wednesday evening concerts will be livestreamed, so right at the time that it's happening in the hall, people can tune in either on our Facebook page or our YouTube channel and watch those concerts right from their home.”


For more information about the festival and this season, including program information, tickets and COVID safety protocols, call 218-831-0765, or visit The activities are made possible by the voters of Minnesota through grants from the Five Wings Arts Council and Minnesota State Arts Board, through a legislative appropriation from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund.

FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at . Follow him on Twitter at .

I cover the community of Wadena, Minn., and write features stories for the Wadena Pioneer Journal. The weekly newspaper is owned by Forum Communications Co.
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