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Kingston Chamber Music Festival showcases musicianship

July 21, 2011

Photo Courtesy KCMF

Jasmine Lin, Ken Olsen and Cheyen Chen perform a Strauss String Trio during last year's Kingston Chamber Music Festival.

KINGSTON – Under the artistic direction of Natalie Zhu, the Kingston Chamber Musical Festival will present its 23rd season at the University of Rhode Island through July 31.

Founded in 1989 by violinist David Kim, the festival strives to present the finest quality chamber music to the widest possible audience. Musicians from across the country appear annually during the two-week summer festival of six concerts held on the peaceful URI campus.

Celebrating 23 years, the festival is wrought in history right in South County when in the early 1980s, violinist David Kim, still a teenager, made his first visit to South County, where his parents had settled near his father’s new teaching post at the University of Rhode Island. Kim 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.  
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. Nineteen years later, the festival celebrated its 20th season in 2008 with 40 musicians presenting eleven concerts before capacity audiences.

In 2008 Kim announced that his 20th season as Artistic Director in 2008 would be his last because of his responsibilities as Concertmaster of the Philadelphia Orchestra and his desire to have more time with his family. Upon Kim’ recommendation, pianist Natalie Zhu became the new Artistic Director, beginning with the 2009 season.

Bringing in nine new members to the chamber, Zhu continues the tradition of the Kingston Chamber Music Festival. She has performed throughout North America, Europe, and China as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician. She’s played in the United States with the Pacific Symphony, the Concerto Soloists Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Astral Chamber Orchestra, the Bergen Philharmonic, and with the Colorado Philharmonic National Repertory Orchestra.

While nine new members will join the Kingston Chamber this year, 13 musicians are returning.

“The audience likes to see returning musicians and be introduced to new musicians as well. Twenty-two people come from all over the country. Everyone has fun,” Brian Mitchell, spokesperson for the Chamber said.
As the musicians come to South County for the next two weeks, Mitchell said many of them are excited about their stay, enjoying the beach and dinner at Champlin’s in Galilee.

“Musicians who come here and play and haven’t been to Rhode Island before say they love South County and want to come back,” Mitchell said.
Although the festival takes place at the URI campus, Mitchell said the festival is separate and independent of the university. The festival is operated independently by a 15-member board of directors.

“The University supports us, but we’re not officially a part of the university. We have a very cooperative relationship,” Mitchell said.
At the Kingston campus, Mitchell said volunteers and musicians join to put on the festival.

“It’s really a big friendly atmosphere. It’s a lot of work, but once it gets going, it’s a lot of fun,” Mitchell said.

If you go

The Kingston Chamber Music Festival runs through July 31 at University of Rhode Island Fine Arts Center, Upper College Road, Kingston. For more information visit

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