by Dave Warner

The Caroga Lake Music Festival kicks off its two-month summer season with “The Cello Player” on July 1, 2022, at 7 pm at Sherman’s Park in Caroga. They continue their busy schedule of concerts and performances throughout the month, showing up in Little Falls on July 21, 2022, at Rock Valley Brewing Company.

The Caroga Arts Ensemble, featuring saxophonist Eddie Barbash will play at 7 pm as part of the Midsummer Nights Picnic scheduled for that same evening.

Kyle Price founded the organization and he stated, “The music festival started in 2012 and really was inspired by visiting Caroga every summer and winter break where my grandmother and grandfather lived. Our family spent a lot of time there.”

He said that he was there in 2011 and he heard some music coming out of the chapel and there were a lot of cars there and he said, “My sister and I immediately looked at each other and said ‘we should do a concert here with some of our friends’.

Price’s sister had been on the music festival scene and music conservatory and was very well established. He was also a musician at the Cleveland Conservatory and had attended a large number of music festivals, camps, and other venues. “We had a pretty wide network of friends that were attending Julliard and the New England Conservatory and an array of schools in the northeast.”

He thought that it would be a great opportunity to come to the area and share their music with the community. “It had very innocent beginnings,” stated Price. In fact, their first sign was hand-drawn to bring attention to that concert.

At the time all of this began, Kyle was 19 and his sister was only 21, so when they started, most of their musician friends were between 17 and 21. Price says, fast forward to today and, “I’m approaching 30, and all the musicians who were there – that network has grown and they’re now playing in the Seattle Symphony, the New York Philharmonic, and Philadelphia Orchestra.”

He says the thing that has kept this group together is the return to Caroga Lake each year and the experiences they have shared there.

Price says that the organization grew very quickly because the concerts were so successful. “We were fun and spontaneous – a kind of friends with friends thing.”

“We had an amazing connection with the audience that got people to spread the word about the festival to their friends and family so our audience grew very quickly, as did the demand for more concerts. Eventually, we decided to bring the concert experience outside the chapel to other locations. Bring the music to the audience,” he stated.

Price thinks that was a really important receipe for their success.

By 2015, they were looking at performances at Sherman’s because it was picturesque and had a great history of big bands playing there. “I had kind of a convergence of two ideas. Essentially the music festival, which was going really well, and this other idea to bring other artists from film, poetry, writing, and visual arts to come together to put their creative energy together with community members to essentially reignite a town through the arts.”

Price says that when that secondary idea kicked in, things really started opening up even more. “Over time, we started doing concerts there which was quite challenging in the beginning, only because the town was hesitant to have anything at the property.”

“I tried to check off every box that I could to prevent them from saying I couldn’t go there,” he said.

Once approved, the first concert was a resounding success in the facility and showed that it could bring life back to the park.

Price said that they wanted to take ownership of the park so that they could make improvements to it. And in fact, they were able to do that on December 31, 2019.

“We really wanted to turn it into a destination for visitors, artists, and community members alike to enjoy,” he stated.

Price said that they also love meeting new people in venues outside of Caroga, including Little Falls.

“It’s so much fun and something we love to do. Mohawk Valley Center for the Arts getting connected with us allowed us to bring the music to a wider range of people and create a broader sense of community amongst the whole region.”

He said that doing community outreach strengthens their sense of identity as a community and region.

Price said that their effort to make Caroga Lake an arts destination is becoming internationally known. “I think that’s really fascinating.”

Today, the main building is up to code, as is the carousel. “I think the fact that we got it working again was empowering for the local community who have fond memories of Sherman.”

Price says that it will be nice to have a full season again. “Last year we had nearly a full season. It was a little shorter because of concerns with Covid and not exactly knowing what to expect. This year, we’re going to be bigger than ever.”

Performances begin on July 1, 2022, at 7:30 pm with the American Modern Opera Company. The next day, there’s the Red, White, and Blues & Bluegrass program at 6 pm.

One of the highlights of the year will be a symphony event where they will have more players than ever involved. “It will be just over 40 musicians. It might be the first time a Beethoven symphony has performed at Caroga,” Price stated.

They are also having their first Jazz Fest, bringing a lot of fantastic Jazz players to the area.

“It’s a very eclectic program this summer and everyone is very established or increasingly emerging in the music scene across the world. I think it’s going to be a memorable summer and I’m just excited I’m part of it,” he said. “I’m prepared for it and I just want to see who’s going to come along for the ride.”

Future plans for the location include more music performances and more venues that support bigger ticket artists.

Price also says they are about to kick off a five million dollar capital campaign that will build a new state-of-the-art amphitheater at Sherman’s and also an artists lodge at a property called Myhill, which was donated to Caroga Arts.

“We have the right stepping stones in place to increase that engagement, but a big reason why I started the Caroga Arts Collective was to also to umbrella education programs,” he said. Once the new additions are completed, he’ll be able to fulfill that second part of his dream.

To find additional performances and events, visit carogaarts.org