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Skaneateles Festival Life

The Skaneateles Festival: Chamber Music in the Finger Lakes

What started as a local adoration for music has grown into a flourishing festival attracting world-class musicians and music lovers from all over the globe. The Skaneateles Festival is celebrating its 42nd season, back together again after a Covid hiatus, and offering an exhilarating concert lineup. There is something for everybody, from sipping wine, listening to jazz in the vineyards to an exclusive lecture series from pianist Aaron Wunsch, and even a concert just for the kids and the kids at heart.   

A Hidden Gem

Skaneateles is a hidden gem tucked away in the scenic Finger Lakes Region of Upstate New York, just over a three-hour drive from New York City. Positioned on the north end of Skaneateles Lake, the picturesque town of Skaneateles is home to sprawling vineyards, several local shops, charming restaurants, and the Skaneateles Festival. “For decades, this hardy festival has brought high-quality chamber music to the Finger Lakes region” (New Yorker). 

A 2021 Season with Stars and Rising Stars

Dover Quartet - Skaneateles Festival Life Announcement
Dover Quartet

The Dover Quartet kicks off the festival’s live 2021 concert season on Thursday, August 12, with their Skaneateles debut. The New Yorker called the Dover Quartet “the young American string quartet of the moment,” and indeed, the Dover Quartet has captured the attention of audiences and critics like no other ensemble of their generation. 

Jazz Under the Stars

The widely admired Bill Charlap Trio rounds out week one with back-to-back shows Friday and Saturday, August 13 and 14, at the Robinson Pavilion at Anyela’s Vineyards. Grammy award-winning pianist Bill Charlap’s resume includes performances and recordings with many leading artists of our time, including Tony Bennett, Phil Woods, Gerry Mulligan, Wynton Marsalis, Freddy Cole, and Houston Person. The Bill Charlap Trio includes bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington and has been recognized as one of the leading jazz ensembles on the stage today. “As a unit, this must be one of the best piano trios ever, and certainly as instantly recognizable as any of its great predecessors” (The Guardian).


Voices Within

On August 26, Artistic Directors Aaron Wunsch on the piano and Julia Bruskin on the cello will return to the Festival alongside Emily Bruskin in a program entitled The Voice Within. The evening will also feature 18-year-old rising star, Avery Gagliano. Recent winner of the United States Chopin Piano Competition, Gagliano will feature works ranging from Chopin’s bold Piano Concerto No.1 to soul-stirring works by African-American composers Florence Price and George Walker. 

Time for Three

The sensational string band Time for Three closes out the festival with their unique blend of Americana, pop, and classical with back-to-back shows on August 27 and 28 under the stars at the Robinson Pavilion. “This remarkable group is not to be missed, and its members play (and sing) with joy, mastery, creativity and supreme artistry in all that they do; truly no one else is like Time for Three” (The Strad). Violinists Nick Kendall and Charles Yang, along with bassist Ranaan Meyer draw on their classical training and love for a wide range of music. Hear various eras, styles, and traditions of western music fold in on themselves and emerge new. 

Classes and Education

Kids of all ages will love Time for Three’s energetic, joyful presentation of bluegrass, folk, and classical favorites. Their enthusiastic exchange with the audience and musical show and tell will keep everyone engaged, bringing the joy of music to a new generation. Time for Three’s exceptional family performance will be held Saturday, August 28 at 11:00 AM at the Mandana Barn in Skaneateles. Tickets for youth 18 and under are free, and adults pay $5 at the door. No pre-registration is required. 

Festival Artistic Director, Aaron Wunsch, will offer intriguing insights into the inner workings of the music with a lecture series entitled Voices Unheard: Music at the Margins, a virtual educational course that is open to all through SkanFest U . Caroline Shaw, the youngest-ever Pulitzer Prize winner, will discuss her new work, The Evergreen, to be premiered at the festival by the Dover Quartet on August 12. SkanFest U takes place over four Tuesday virtual sessions on August 3, 10, 17, and 24. The series is $40, including all four classes (free for Season Pass holders). Classes will also be recorded for later viewing. 

Locations and Tickets 

Tickets are on sale now and available for purchase through the Skaneateles Festival’s website http://www.skanfest.org or by calling the festival’s office at (315) 685-7418. Youth 18 and under are free. 

Skaneateles Festival concerts are held Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings at 8:00 PM. The two Thursday shows will take place at an indoor venue which is still to be determined. Friday and Saturday concerts take place at the Robinson Pavilion located at Anyela’s Vineyards, a lakeside vineyard 4.5 miles south of Skaneateles on West Lake Road (Route 41A). Audiences are welcome to arrive as early as 6:00 PM and bring picnic dinners to enjoy on the lawn overlooking the incredible view of the lake. Wine and beer will be available for purchase at Anyela’s Vineyards; outside alcohol is not permitted.In the event of inclement weather, Friday and Saturday concerts will be moved indoors. Venue changes will be made aware to all affected ticket holders in advance and may also be confirmed by calling the festival office at (315) 685-7418 or visiting http://www.skanfest.org.


Special thanks to Ellen Sorber of the Skaneateles Festival for providing the content for this piece.

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