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Special Reports

MA Top 30 Professional of the Year: Aloysia Friedmann

December 4, 2018 | By Susan Brodie

Founder/Artistic Director
Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival

A little over 20 years ago, violinist Aloysia Friedmann planned a weekend-long chamber music festival that, over time, has helped transform a small isolated island in the Pacific Northwest into an arts-loving community.

The daughter of two professional musicians, Friedmann grew up mainly in Seattle. Summers always involved family camping or cottage stays on tiny, idyllic Orcas, the largest of the San Juan Islands (the winter population of 5000 more than doubles in summer), in Puget Sound.

Friedmann earned her undergraduate and master’s degrees at the Juilliard School, after which she became a busy New York freelancer, playing with the such groups as the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, American Symphony Orchestra, and on Broadway.

A bank account, a telephone, an address, and some help
When her parents bought a small cabin on Orcas in the early 1990s, she got to thinking about establishing a chamber music festival. In 1997 she proposed a two-day event to the director of the 213-seat Orcas Island Center Theater, promising to handle all details including fundraising. “I knew I would need four things,” she remembers, “a bank account, a telephone number, a mailing address, and individuals who could help me within the community.”

The learning curve was steep as she absorbed details of data bases, 501(c)(3) board formation, and fundraising, while still gigging in New York. “I was [playing] at Madison Square Garden, and between shows I was writing notes and cards [to donors]. But I just felt that I really wanted to give it a shot.” The first festival,
in 1998, sold out so quickly that they added a third concert to handle demand.

Fast forward to 2018: last summer’s two-and-a-half-week season comprised 14 concerts and other public events, plus an additional program on nearby Lopez Island. Year-round artist residencies serve school children, teachers, and local musicians. With a fulltime staff of five and a board of 10, OICMF has a robust organizational structure, and over 200 musicians have come to the island to play. Friedman’s hard-won success has earned her a seat on the board of Chamber Music America.


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