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A Festival First

Reviewing Year-One with Festival Director Peter Oundjian

Article by Brianna Blair

Photography by Kelsey Huffer

Originally published in Boulder Lifestyle

For the last six weeks, the Chautauqua Auditorium has been buzzing with the vibration of strings

The Colorado Music Festival, which the Chautauqua Auditorium has hosted since the 1970s, brought ninety-six renowned classical musicians from across the globe to Boulder from June 27th to August 3rd.

But this year, the focus was on the person at the lead — first-time music director and principal spokesperson for CMF, Peter Oundjian.

Boulder Lifestyle: Tell us about yourself, Peter. 

Peter Oundjian: I am the youngest of five children in a family full of musicians and athletes. I am a violinist. I had the good fortune to play all over the world as a soloist and as part of the Tokyo String Quartet. In my late 30s, I was forced to abandon the violin due to overuse and repetitive strain issues with my hand. At that point, I adopted my other passion: conducting. Since 1995, I have held music director positions with the Royal National Scottish Orchestra, the Toronto Symphony, and now the Colorado Music Festival.

How was your first year as music director?  

My first year was fabulous. The orchestra was magnificent, we brought soloists from all over the world to Boulder. It was as great as I could have possibly imagined.

What were some challenges you faced as music director? 

One of the great challenges for me is to help bring the Colorado Music Festival the recognition it deserves on the national stage. We have an extraordinary orchestra, a phenomenally supportive audience, and one of the best performance spaces anywhere in Chautauqua Auditorium. The natural acoustic of the wooden auditorium is unique and spectacular.

I can only imagine there were some surprises along the way. 

One of the greatest surprises to me was the responsiveness of the audience. Just last night, we were performing Beethoven's "Pastoral" Symphony and we received a standing ovation at intermission. This community and the Colorado Music Festival audience has a tremendous desire to show their appreciation for what we do. I love that.

What were your big takeaways from your first year?

Generally speaking, every second I spend with music I learn something new. That was absolutely my experience during this festival, as in all of my years as a professional musician, music director and conductor. Specifically, I learned that this orchestra is one of the most versatile orchestras I've ever had the pleasure of working with. These amazing musicians from all over North America are enormously flexible and willing to go virtually anywhere, musically speaking.

What has been your favorite part about Colorado Music Festival?

That is hard to say because there isn't a thing about the festival that I don't cherish. But if I have to choose, it would have to be the people. I love seeing people of all ages having their lives affected by this music and the environment. That's why I do what I do. Without the audience, there is only so much we as musicians can enjoy. I love leaving the audience with the beautiful and transcendent, the complex and gritty, and everything in between.

So, what’s next for you?

I'm looking forward to putting the finishing touches on the 2020 festival plans which include new concepts and ideas. Apart from my usual touring, I'm looking forward to visiting Armenia, which is where my father was from. This will be the first visit for me in 22 years. I'm also looking forward to experiencing Boulder in the wintertime and enjoying some skiing.