Kingston Chamber Music Festival at the University of Rhode Island. Founded in 1989 by violinist David Kim, the festival strives to present the finest quality chamber music to the widest possible audience. Extraordinary musicians appear annually during a two-week summer festival of six, reasonably priced, evening concerts held on the peaceful URI campus in Kingston, R.I., just a 10-minute drive from the ocean. Programs feature many of the world's established music stars playing alongside young rising stars.
The festival has created a number of other vehicles designed to reach future and under-served audiences, including a one-week Schools Outreach Program that has touched thousands of elementary school children since its inception in 1990; an artist(s)-in-residence designation during the summer festival that provides free recitals in senior centers, and recreation and church halls; and an annual scholarship for a music student at the University of Rhode Island. The 580-seat, air-conditioned Fine Arts Center Concert Hall at URI is a friendly, open space during the festival. Two scheduled rehearsals are open to the public; two post-concert, question-and-answer sessions with musicians are held; and the musicians are usually available after each concert to greet and talk with patrons as they leave.
In the early 1980s, violinist David Kim, still a teenager, made his first visit to South County, R.I., where his parents had settled near his father's new teaching post at the University of Rhode Island. Kim, who even at a young age displayed a knack for organizing things, felt right away that South County would be a great location for a music festival. He kept that thought in mind while his career was taking off. In 1986, Kim was the only American violinist to win a prize at the prestigious Tchaikovsky Competition in Moscow. Numerous concert dates as a soloist with orchestras around the world soon followed.
Three years later, with backing from then URI President Edward Eddy and Dean Richard Gelles, and help from cellist Michelle Djokic, a fellow student with Kim at The Juilliard School, the first Kingston Chamber Music Festival was held in the summer of 1989. Eight musicians performed three concerts at the Fine Arts Center Concert Hall. Sixteen years later, the festival celebrated its 16th season in 2004 with 22 musicians presenting six concerts before capacity audiences. The festival has welcomed hundreds of musicians from scores of countries around the world. Among the major artists who have appeared in Kingston are violinists Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Sarah Chang, and pianists Andrew Litton and Ignat Solzhenitsyn. Cellist Djokic and pianist Gail Niwa have appeared with Kim at every festival since its founding. (Both women have gone on to start their own chamber music festivals.) Though the festival's association with the university has always been mutually supportive, the festival is operated independently by a 15-member board of directors. Festival founder Kim was named concertmaster of The Philadelphia Orchestra in 1999, and, two years later, the board of directors appointed a managing director to help Kim with festival administrative duties.