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Sitka Summer Music Festival

The festival occurs in early summer during the month of June with three sets of musicians. Each set of musicians plays roughly three concerts before a new set arrives taking over performing duties. This allows musicians to avoid having to set aside an entire month of their calendar to the festival and also allows them, if they choose to arrive early or stay later, to explore Sitka's splendor.

Each season of the festival consists of around ten evening concerts, the centerpieces of the festival, several free, informal "brown bag" concerts, and multiple fundraising events and cruises.

All of the evening concerts occur at the breathtaking venue of Harrigan Centennial Hall, in downtown Sitka. While it is not an auditorium (in fact it's the main hall of a convention/civic center), its glass-panel backdrop reveals a clear view of Crescent Harbor, Eastern Channel and its assortment of small, tree-covered islands dotting its water, snow-capped mountains, and an occasional bald eagle swooping down from the sky. Not surprisingly, when Sitka finally has an auditorium constructed (expected to be finished around 2008), the festival is expected to remain at Centennial Hall, primarily because of its unrivalled view.

While most would think it implausible for a full-fledged classical music festival to survive in a community of just over 8,000, the Sitka Summer Music Festival has managed to beat the odds and perservere. Part of this is because of the unusually high awareness and interest of the arts in Sitka, but also because of a large number of summer tourists in town. Community organizations and businesses offer numerous in-kind donations to keeping the operating costs down which also contributes to the financial vitality of the festival.

In discussions with the musicians themselves, the attraction for the festival for them is the above-average audience enthusiasm and the beautiful surroundings of Sitka. It is thought by many as a "paid vacation" and these factors lead to an unusually high rate of return by musicians throughout the years.

The current artistic director is Paul Rosenthal.

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