Music, Meadows and Mountains: Stowe Performing Arts Turns 40

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VT Symphony
Vermont Symphony Orchestra plays during Music in the Meadow. Photo courtesy Stowe Performing Arts.

By Olivia J. Kiers

Celebrating its 40th anniversary season this year, Stowe Performing Arts is a non-profit community organization that brings live music to the mountain town of Stowe, VT. Best known for its outdoor, evening concert series, Music in the Meadow, which stages four events at the Trapp Family Lodge’s concert meadow every summer, Stowe Performing Arts draws crowds who wish to hear incredible music while enjoying the view as the sunset turns to a starry sky. No one knows this better than executive director Lynn Paparella. “These concerts are so enjoyable in part because of the scenery,” explains Paparella. “The backdrop of the Nebraska Valley is an incredible view. Somebody at a concert once showed me a photo of mountains on their phone from when they had just been to China, and it looked exactly like the scenery we were seeing in person at that moment. It’s spectacular.” Taking a picnic to the concert is encouraged.

The view may be beautiful, but the adjective Paparella uses to describe the music is “mind-expanding.” “We have had some artists that perhaps a lot of people had never heard of before, but because they have their series tickets and they trust us, they go.” A key—and favorite—part of Paparella’s job is to stand up on stage and introduce these musicians. “The day I got to introduce Asleep at the Wheel, and Ray Benson slapped me a high five as I left the stage, I just thought I was going to die, I was so happy!” exclaims Paparella, who had been part of the programming committee that suggested Asleep at the Wheel, the nine-time Grammy Award-winning country music group. Another of Paparella’s favorite bands, the swing-revivalists Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, first performed for Music in the Meadow ten years ago; they are returning to the lineup this year to help celebrate the series’ 40th anniversary (Sunday, August 7).

Another highlight of this season will be its kickoff concert, the final performance of Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s (VSO) Wanderlust tour (Sunday, July 10). The VSO has a longstanding relationship with Stowe Performing Arts, and its concert is usually the biggest for Music in the Meadow. “To get an orchestra to come to a small town is a big deal,” says Paparella. “We just love the relationship with them and look forward to it every year.” Finally, Music in the Meadow’s last concert of the season is not to be missed, and not just because it is the series’ free concert—the United States Air Force Heritage of America’s newly formed “Rhythm in Blue” jazz ensemble will celebrate the unique, American qualities of jazz, while honoring military veterans (Sunday, August 21).

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Rhythm in Blue jazz ensemble. Photo courtesy Stowe Performing Arts.

Impressively, Stowe Performing Arts relies on financial support that comes largely from within the Stowe community itself. “There’s support from ‘corporate sponsors’ which are local businesses, and then support from innumerable people who live in the community, who believe that live music in this community is important.” Paparella, who never wanted to get involved in the business of fundraising, now exclaims, “I absolutely love it! Why would I ever be nervous about asking for money when we have such a great product?”

What does make Paparella nervous? Mother Nature. “There is only one challenge, and that is the weather. We have to go indoors if rain comes. People might say, Well, why don’t you build a venue so you don’t have to worry about the weather? but that’s not who we are. We are an outdoor concert series, and people love that. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t constantly exploring new possibilities—new and creative ways to keep the show going despite inclement weather.” Many attendees still bring their picnic to the Stowe High School, the series’ current rain location, and Paparella explains that no matter what, the concerts are always a good time. “To have live music in our town is just so important. To be supporting people who are out there making a living through music—that’s important, too, and it’s a huge part of what we do.”

See stoweperformingarts.com for a full lineup of Music in the Meadow concerts and ticketing information, as well as information about Stowe Performing Arts’ other concert series.


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