While the winter months in Ajijic are jam-packed with theater productions, chilli cookoffs, lip-sync concerts, a plethora of musical events, Semana Santa celebrations and heavy traffic, the summer months for those that live in our magical town year-round, can sometimes feel dry, even if it is the rainy season. But year rounders in Ajijic now have a summer event to look forward to.
The same group of people responsible for bringing the music of Northern Lights Festival de Febrero to Ajijic for the last 16 years began work on a new project back in September, 2017 that will come to fruition for two weeks from August 11 to 26.
Named Festival del Lago, this music festival is a little different from its sister festival in February. While Festival de Febrero is a two-week intensive production of daily concerts, this festival’s priorities are geared toward the training and development of advanced classical music students.
With an international faculty hailing from such prestigious institutions as The Royal Academy of Music in London, the Scandinavian Cello School in Copenhagen, the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Universities of Toronto and McGill, the Festival del Lago has the potential to change the entire music education landscape of Mexico.
What is even more impressive is the international array of students that have been recruited to attend. According to the festival’s artistic director Christopher Wilshere, there are students coming from as far away as England, Korea and Iceland. Among the dozen international students attending will be 24 Mexican students on scholarships. In total, 36 students will attend the summer workshop along with nine faculty members – a very favorable ratio of teachers to students.
“So much of music is learned through example, listening and observing,” says Wilshere. “One of the biggest impediments to young Mexican students studying music here is that they’re not exposed as often as they should be to a high international level of playing. Most of us in the Northern Hemisphere can afford to travel to these wonderful summer workshops and be exposed to other great players and teachers. But the cost of attending is astronomical for many Mexicans, not to mention the travel costs. It becomes nearly impossible for most to even think about going. Our mission is to bring the international talent to Mexico, which has huge cost saving implications for Mexican students.”
Much of the faculty will be familiar to lakeside residents who have attended the Northern Lights Festival de Febrero in the past. Some familiar names include The Gryphon Trio from the University of Toronto, professor of viola at The Royal Academy of Music Juan-Miguel Hernandez, Manhattan Chamber Music Players founder violist Luke Fleming and Minju Kim, who teaches at the prestigious pre-college division of The Cleveland Institute of Music. There are also new arrivals who will be visiting Ajijic for the first time, such as Mark Fewer, professor of violin at McGill University. Also appearing for the first time is violinist Aaron Schwebel, the current concertmaster of both the Canadian Opera Company and the National Ballet in Toronto, and virtuoso cellist Jacob Shaw, who is the founder and director of The Scandinavian Cello School in Denmark.
During the August festival, four one-hour “Master Series” concerts will be held at the Auditorio de la Ribera in Ajijic, featuring the faculty members of the festival. But there will also be evening student recitals and masterclasses held at the beautiful Haus Der Musik. All performances are open to the public.