VOCAL EXERCISES - Artist in the Schools instructor Sarah Branton of Cherry Creek, Colorado, leads an exercise in the Sitka High School band room this morning as she teaches students how to improve their volume. Branton will be here all week working with choirs at Blatchley Middle School and Sitka High. Her instruction is part of the effort to rebuild school  choir programs and numbers following the pandemic. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

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Daily Sitka Sentinel

Musicians, Listeners Gather For Sitka Festival


Sentinel Staff Writer

Performances by cellist Zuill Bailey, musicians from the New World Symphony, and a lecture series by festival favorite Martin Sher are among the highlights of the 52nd season of the Sitka Music Festival which kicks off next week.

Alex Gonzalez and Stephanie Block perform during a Sitka Music Festival evening concert June 19, 2021. Gonzalez will join other musicians for the festival’s 52nd season beginning May 31. (Sentinel Photo by Reber Stein)

Musicians start arriving this weekend in time for the first Cafe Concert at the Mean Queen on Wednesday, and the first evening programs at Harrigan Centennial Hall next Friday and Saturday.

Festival executive director Alex Serio said most of the popular programs will be back, along with something new: a free lecture series “A Sher Thing” 6 p.m. every Thursday at the Miner Music Center at Stevenson Hall.

“We liked that name because audience members are ‘sher’ to leave the presentation with more knowledge of the music that is going to be played that weekend,” Serio said. “It’s a more intimate event for those who want to have more information.”

Sher is a violist who has played the festival for several years. He has performed with the Berlin Philharmonic and is currently the senior vice president of the New World Symphony in Miami.

Serio said the lecture series is still taking shape but he expects Sher will invite fellow musicians to his talks to play sections of the upcoming music to familiarize audiences with it.

For more than three decades music educator and pianist Susan Wingrove-Reed gave informative lectures before the concerts. During COVID, she and other musicians offered lectures by video, but the feature was not presented last year. Serio said they were missed, “so we’re trying to re-institute them.” 

Serio said the Festival board “extends their deepest thanks” to Wingrove-Reed for her many years of service.

Also new this year are digital program notes that will be emailed to ticket buyers.

“The night before the concert, you’ll get an email with a link to that program. “You can download it and read the program notes about the music on your computer or iPad before the concert,” he said. 

The printed program for each concert will include a QR code for the same notes.

“It’s environmentally friendly and budget friendly for us as well,” Serio said.

Zuill Bailey, the Festival artistic director and a Grammy award-winning cellist, will be coming to Sitka following a concert tour in Greece, arriving in time for the Wednesday cafe concert.

Serio said the first full evening programs next weekend will be special.

The Mahler Piano Quartet is on the program for the Friday, June 2, concert at Centennial Hall, and will feature members of the New World Symphony and pianist Alfredo Oyaguez.

“It’s a special piece of music because it’s Mahler’s only piece of existing chamber music,” Serio said. “He’s more known for symphonic works, and he wrote it when he was 15 or 16 years old.” 

Robert Schumann’s piano quintet in E flat major also is on the program. Serios said it’s a staple of the chamber repertoire – “a major romantic 19th Century chamber work.”

The program is rounded out by a piece by Piazzolla, “The Four Seasons of Buenos Aires.”

“They were originally four tango compositions which are now played as a suite,” Serio said. “There’s a nice Argentinian flair. He gave the seasons a different order than Vivaldi’s famous Four Seasons.”

The Saturday, June 3, concert will be a celebration of Rachmaninoff’s 150th birth year, which will feature Bailey and pianist Natasha Paremski.

Serio is pleased with violinist Alex Gonzales’ return to Sitka. He was here previously as a younger musician of the New World Symphony. “He’s now out playing professionally everywhere and it’s exciting to have him back.”

Festival fans can also expect the regular schedule of concerts Fridays and Saturdays through June 17, with a final concert Friday, June 23, wrapping up the series in time for the Sitka Fine Arts Camp’s Jazz on the Waterfront the following day.

Other special events include the Sea Mart Family Concert June 4, Allen Marine cruise concert June 11,  Father’s Day Crab feed June 18 and the brunch concert June 25.

Serio said this year is also special because the Festival Foundation has received an offer to match every dollar donated up to $50,000, thanks to a gift of that size from an anonymous party.

That would be added to the $1.2 million in the foundation currently.

“It’s a ‘sound’ investment in our future,” Serio said. 

Tickets for the evening concerts are less expensive if bought in advance for the evening concerts. They are $25 for seniors, youth and military, and $30 for others at the door; and $22.50  and $27.50 if purchased in advance. They can be purchased at sitkamusicfestival.org and at Old Harbor Books.




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At a Glance

(updated 9-12-2023)

By Sentinel Staff

The state Department of Health and Social Services has posted the following update on the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Alaska as of 8:57 a.m. Tuesday, September 12.

New cases as of Tuesday: 278

Total cases (cumulative) statewide – 301,513

Total (cumulative) deaths – 1,485

Case Rate per 100,000 – 38.14

To visit the Alaska DHSS Corona Response dashboard website click here.

COVID in Sitka

The Sitka community level is now "Low.'' Case statistics are as of Tuesday.

Case Rate/100,000 – 152.50

Cases in last 7 days – 13

Cumulative Sitka cases – 3,575

Deceased (cumulative) – 10

The local case data are from Alaska DHSS.






September 2003

Sitka Tribe of Alaska is “upset and disturbed” about the Senate appropriations bill that cuts spending for Alaska tribal courts, STA Vice Chairman Gil Truitt said today. He was referring to Sen. Ted Stevens’ move to divert Department of Justice grants from tribal courts and tribal police officers to fund the Village Public Safety Officer program.



September 1973

Photo caption: Receiving service pins at a Carpenters Union Local 466 dinner meeting at the Kiksadi Club were, from left, Arthur Littlefield, Alvin Helm, Harley Finch, Dave Gibson, Gerald Hughes, Fred Nelson, Walter Moy, Edward Nelson, William Sutton and Don Stromme.


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