Special Reports

MA 30 Profiles in Courage: Alexander Lombard

December 2, 2014 | By Susan Elliott

President and CEO
Lake George Music Festival

Who abandons a doctoral degree program, a fulltime teaching position, any hope of a decent social life, and financial stability to devote 40 to 50 unpaid hours a week to pursuing a dream? Alexander Lombard did just that when he created the Lake George Music Festival in upstate New York.

A talented pianist and teacher, Lombard had participated in numerous summer festivals and had long felt it would be great to have "one of these" in his hometown of Lake George. Spurred by his belief that his generation of emerging professional musicians—the “20-somethings”—were eager for a collaborative artists’ retreat that focused on performing and networking rather than lessons or master classes, Lombard took a leap of faith in 2011 and launched a three-day grass roots festival in two local churches.

Today, the festival is gearing up for its fifth anniversary in August with ten days of nightly chamber concerts, two full orchestra concerts, and community outreach performances and activities in just about every available public venue.

Defining itself as “an artist retreat for gifted young professionals,” the festival has hosted members of major orchestras, such as those of Philadelphia and Detroit, along with students and faculty from major conservatories from Juilliard to Curtis. Composers Richard Danielpour, David Lang, Libby Larsen, and David Ludwig are also active participants. Live festival recordings have been featured on a variety of radio programs, including NPR’s Performance Today.

From the beginning, Lombard has eschewed traditional distinctions among  students, faculty, and guest artists, and instead emphasizes collaboration and artistic growth. This populist attitude carries over to the festival’s decision, much debated, not to charge admission. “For now at least,” notes Lombard, “we'd rather have a full house . . . [than risk] decreasing our audience totals just for the money.”

The undeniable success of the Lake George Festival is all the more noteworthy in light of what one observer calls the “pervasive gloom-and-doom attitude towards the arts and especially classical and new music.

“Alex,” he continues, “has created a festival that has not only brought classical music to a community where it was previously missing, but has also brought the community to the music.”

Ellen McSweeney



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