The history of Eastern Music Festival

History

Sheldon Morgenstern
Founder

Sheldon Morgenstern

“The story of the Eastern Music Festival is a simple one – EMF is growing better, not just older, every year.”

When Sheldon Morgenstern established The Guilford Musical Arts Center, now Eastern Music Festival, in 1961 on the campus of Guilford College, he had one goal: to start a summer music camp where the study would be oriented towards the student, something he had not experienced at other such summer camps. With the assistance of Dr. Clyde Milner, then-president of Guilford College, and a group of equally passionate friends and family, Morgenstern was able to raise enough money and support to hold the first camp during the summer of 1962. Seventy-two students and 14 professional faculty members participated in the first year. Since that time the number of students has grown to include 200 young artists and 80 professional faculty musicians from across the country and abroad; by limiting the student body to 200, the Festival is able to maintain a 3:1 student to faculty ratio, providing a unique personal dimension to teaching and playing music unavailable at other music festivals.

Student walking

Founder Sheldon Morgenstern moved to Greensboro with his parents as a young child. He attended Greensboro Senior High School (now Grimsley) where he played French horn in the orchestra. After graduation, Morgenstern attended Northwestern University on a full scholarship to study French horn and conducting. His passion for teaching music led him back to Greensboro and to the campus of Guilford College. From 1961 until 1997 he remained the music director and primary conductor for the Eastern Music Festival. Morgenstern passed away near his home in Collonges, France on December 16, 2007. His career spanned multiple decades, reaching the lives of countless musicians and music enthusiasts. His passion continues to live on in the hearts of our faculty and staff, young artists, and supporters.

Past students at EMF

Throughout its 53-year history, EMF has maintained and realized its quest for excellence – in performance, education, programming, and execution. Faculty members participate in the students' curriculum in a variety of ways, including teaching private lessons, coaching chamber music, teaching theory, or conducting master classes. Many of the Festival's guest artists also assist in the education of our students through their performances and often through participation in a master class. Every EMF student rehearses six times a week and presents a full-length concert of standard orchestral repertoire. The two Young Artists Orchestras are of equal ability; seating assignments change weekly, and students generally perform with both orchestras during the course of the Festival. They are held to the same professional standards as our faculty regarding performance, attendance, and punctuality. In addition, our students experience performing with faculty soloists and visiting artists. EMF is the only summer music festival that can boast these privileges, due to the commitment of maintaining a student to faculty ratio of 3:1.

Wynton Marsalis as a student at EMF
Wynton Marsalis as a student at EMF

Eastern Music Festival's alumni include many who have proceeded to professional careers in music. The first Concerto Competition winner, Eliot Chapo - 1962, went on to become the youngest concertmaster in the history of the New York Philharmonic at age 26. Gustavo Romero, a 1977 alumnus, performed as a piano soloist with the New York Philharmonic and toured worldwide. Other EMF alumni include Michael Chertock, piano, Rolando Morales-Matos, percussion, Jeffrey Multer, violin, and Grammy-winner Wynton Marsalis, trumpet. Many of the Eastern Festival Orchestra were once students at EMF. EMF can also list an impressive record of guest artists throughout the years: Sarah Chang, violin, Yo-Yo Ma, cello, Leonard Rose, cello, Dame Evelyn Glennie, percussion, and André Watts, piano, among others.

Past students at EMF

Sheldon Morgenstern's dream of a summer music camp – The Guilford Musical Arts Center – that focused on the needs of its students has grown into the internationally renowned Eastern Music Festival. To steal from our history, "the story of the Eastern Music Festival is a simple one – EMF is growing better, not just older, every year."

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