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Sunflower Music Festival returns for 31st year

Series of 10 free concerts begins June 9

05/31/17 03:05 pm CDT
"But the real joy for Topeka is the series of outstanding live music performances by fantastic artists"

     This summer’s Sunflower Music Festival marks the 31st year of the event with 10 concerts by both outstanding professional musicians and some of the region’s most talented student artists.

     The event kicks off as it has in the past with a chamber orchestra concert on Friday, June 9 and then hosts nightly free concerts in Washburn University’s White Concert Hall every evening until Saturday, June 17.  In addition, there is a 3 p.m. matinee performance on Saturday, June 17 with the participants in the Blanche Bryden Institute – the educational arm of the festival.

     Finally, there is a handful of bonus performances by Blanche Bryden student ensembles: noon on Wednesday, June 14 at Grace Episcopal Cathedral; 1 p.m. on Wednesday, June 14 at Brewster Place; 1 p.m. at on Thursday, June 15 at the Topeka Shawnee County Public Library; 1 p.m. on Thursday, June 15 at Children’s Discovery Center; and 2:30 p.m. on Friday, June 16 at the Topeka Zoo.  Like the other concerts, these are free performances, with the exception of admission cost at the Topeka Zoo.

     “This is a chance to hear some phenomenal performances,” said Charles Stegeman, co-founder and artistic director of the festival.  “This year, we’re pleased to welcome an outstanding guest conductor from Berlin, Germany – Catherine Larsen-Maguire.”

     Catherine Larsen-Maguire was born in Manchester, England, and is now based in Berlin. After ten years as principal bassoonist at the Komische Oper in Berlin, where she also directed concerts and operatic performances, she began to concentrate exclusively on conducting in 2012. Her repertoire ranges from the baroque to the 21st century; she has a special interest in contemporary music.

     Larsen-Maguire is just one of the professional musicians who are coming to Topeka to be a part of this festival, Stegeman said. 

     “We also have great artists like Grammy Award nominated recording artist Karrin Allyson, who will perform on Monday night at a jazz concert with her KC All Stars,” he said.  “Her voice has been described as ‘other worldly’ and she and her band are sure to attract a crowd.”

     But that’s just the start of this jam-packed festival, Stegeman said.

     “We also have the opportunity to draw on the talented Washburn music faculty and they will be joining the list of musicians who are some of the best in the world.”

     In addition to offering the highly regarded series of ten free live music performances, the Sunflower Music Festival provides an intense learning environment for both high school and college musicians through the Blanche Bryden Institute.  The institute became part of the festival in 1993 and provides tuition-free instruction to approximately 20 promising young students who audition for the positions.  Since its founding the institute has seen more than four hundred young musicians pass through its doors and many have gone on to exceptional professional careers.

     In 2008, the institute added a second division which provides intensive instruction to university-level, pre-formed quartets with the festival’s professional Quartet-in-Residence.  Returning this year is the highly popular professional ensemble Amernet Quartet from Florida International University – a prominent ensemble that tours the world.

     “But the real joy for Topeka is the series of outstanding live music performances by fantastic artists,” Stegeman said, “and all of them are absolutely free.”

     For further information about the Sunflower Music Festival, along with a full list of the performances and of the artists, go to www.sunflowermusicfestival.org or check out the Washburn University calendar at www.washburn.edu.

     The Sunflower Music Festival is hosted by Washburn University’s Music Department and co-sponsored by a number of organizations including Capitol Federal, Security Benefit, the Rea Charitable Trust, the Redbud Foundation, the CCS Fund of Topeka Community Foundation, the Topeka Community Foundation and the Lewis H. Humphreys Charitable Trust.


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