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A Brief History of Rich Legacy 

  • A Brief History of a Rich Legacy: Three Decades of Artistic Excellence


  • When you attend performances of The Hamptons Festival of Music you are experiencing the flowering of an artistic legacy with deep musical roots reaching back over three decades. For ten years The American Sinfonietta, conducted by Michael Palmer, toured Europe, playing the great concert halls in the musical capitals of Switzerland, Germany, and Austria. During this time the orchestra was hailed in Europe as “one of the top ten orchestras in the world.”

  • 1991-2001

  • By the1990s Michael Palmer achieved a solid career on American soil, but his sights were set on the musical capital of the world: Vienna. With the encouragement of San Francisco Symphony Orchestra Music Director Herbert Blomstedt behind him, Palmer traveled to Europe to meet with several eminent concert artist managers and producers to explore guest conducting possibilities. Among them was Joachim Schlote who told him “there are three ways to conduct in Austria, 1) be Austrian 2) be Leonard Bernstein 3) bring your own orchestra.” While considering the advice from Schlote, which included two options that were unavailable to him, Palmer reached out to his long time friend and artistic partner the world-renowned guitarist Pepe Romero. Romero was emphatic: “Well then, Michael, you must bring your own orchestra!”Soon thereafter Palmer set to work establishing a virtuoso orchestra to bring to Europe. No auditions were held for The American Sinfonietta. Instead players joined the orchestra only by Palmer's invitation, through recommendation from his trusted colleagues, the result being an immediately recognizable orchestral sound and artistic personality. For10 years the orchestra performed in the great concert halls of Europe:  In Stuttgart the Beethovensaal, in Frankfurt the Alte Oper, in Munich the Gasteig and Hercule Saal, in Salzburg the Mozarteum, and in Vienna the Musikverein, home of the Vienna Philharmonic.  The New American Sinfonietta, which you experience today, is formed by this same approach.


  • 1993: The Bellingham Festival of Music

  • As The American Sinfonietta grew in artistic excellence, a musical home in America became necessary. Palmer, a lifelong entrepreneur who has been founding orchestras since he was a youth, created The Bellingham Festival of Music in Northwest Washington with The American Sinfonietta as the orchestra-in-residence. When the European tours ceased in 2002, due to the financial stresses caused by the re-unification of Germany, the name The American Sinfonietta was dropped in favor of The Bellingham Festival Orchestra.


  • 2022: The New American Sinfonietta

  • The New American Sinfonietta that you experience today includes many musicians who have shared in this musical legacy for decades. Violist, Donna Clark, performed in the orchestra Palmer created in his early years. Concertmaster, Richard Roberts, was a college friend and duet partner of Palmer’s at Indiana University in the early 1960’s, as was violist, Richard Young. Violinists Juan Ramirez and Kenn Wagner and principal horn, Brice Andrus, as well as clarinetist, Laura Ardan, have been performing under Palmer’s baton at the Atlanta Symphony, some since 1967. Violinists, Grant Donnellan and Michael Heald, are original members of The American Sinfonietta. Violist Rick Neff was a student of Palmer's at Georgia State University, and many other musicians on stage today have played under Maestro Palmer for decades, consistently inspired by his music making.


  • The Hamptons Festival of Music

  • The performances that you hear at The Hamptons Festival of Music are the flowering of a rich legacy with deep roots that are now growing in your backyard. The creative team of The Hamptons Festival of music is comprised of artistic director Michael Palmer, executive director Michael Yip, associate conductor Logan Souther, and assistant conductor Eli Zelman. Maestro Souther began studying orchestral conducting with Palmer at the age of 15 in Atlanta. When asked about his early studies Souther recalls, “Apart from maintaining the highest musical standards, Maestro Palmer always encouraged me to study great art, great philosophy, great literature, and all things that wrestle vigorously with the human condition.” Eli Zelman began his conducting studies with Palmer ,also at Georga State University, in his sophomore year as a violin performance major.


  • It is the goal of the creative team that the performances presented at The Hamptons Festival of Music touch our community with Art, Beauty and the power of  Music to inform and inspire our lives.

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