Talented young musicians played their heart out at Dunsmuir's River Garden Symphony

Shareen Strauss
Mt. Shasta Area Newspapers
Music By the Mountain's 16th Annual River Garden Symphony on Aug. 8, 2021, featuring Pacific Crest Music Festival Orchestra, was a big at Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens. The best of the best classical youth performers played for a crowd of 160.

Music By the Mountain hosted the River Garden Symphony featuring Conductor Martin Majkut and the Pacific Crest Music Festival Orchestra at the Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens on Sunday. The smoke wasn't bad enough to stop about 160 people from enjoying the16th annual outdoor gala on Aug. 8.

Pacific Crest Music Festival is made up of high school and collegiate students from around the world who come each year to Dunsmuir for 10 days of intensive music education to push themselves beyond the limits of their current abilities. It was founded by violist Bill Whitson, who fell in love with Dunsmuir as a child traveling through the area.

Pacific Crest Music Festival President Mike Whitson sits on the edge of the stage in front of a memorial dedicated plaque of his father Bill Whitson who founded the Pacific Crest Music Festival along with his brother David, nephew Joseph William, nice Kelly and Mother Peggy.

Now, 25 years later, Bill's son Mike Whitson – also a violinist – continues the Pacific Crest Music Festival, bringing youths from the Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (Yola) along with others from across the globe. The program draws the strongest young musicians from the most prestigious schools in the field regardless of their social or economic backgrounds.

"Teaching music is a cutthroat field," said Mike Whitson. "To succeed, you need to be the best and embrace the competition. We engage about 14 to 30 students each year."

Music By the Mountain's 16th Annual River Garden Symphony on Aug. 8, 2021, featuring Pacific Crest Music Festival Orchestra, was a big at Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens. The best of the best classical youth performers played for a crowd of 160.

A dozen young classical performers of stringed instruments were led by Slovak Philharmonic's Martin Majkut, who is also the music director of the Queens Symphony Orchestra in New York. Together, they played works by composers Mozart, Vivaldi, Dvorak and Zeljinka in the outdoor area along the Sacramento River surrounded by trees in the Botanical Gardens. 

Sixteen-year-old violinist Derrick Guintini of Redding performed a solo, "Rondo in C Major, K. 373" by Mozart. He currently attends Idyllwild Arts Academy on a scholarship.

"I started playing a fiddle at 5 years old. I went to the California Music Educators Association and got hooked. I switched to the violin and classical music. This is my third year at this festival. I am learning with some of the best musicians I've ever played with. It is a small group and very challenging but fun." 

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"I am a long-time supporter of the Music By the Mountain," said Siskiyou County Supervisor Ed Valenzuela, who attended Sunday's concert. "My son is a music major. Just looking at the wide range of the eclectic mix of people just shows the value of music not just in south county but music as a whole." 

"The soft poetic classical music with the river backdrop created kind of a fantasy illusion. It is so surreal. It is good to have this back," said Dunsmuir's Michael Howell.

Music By the Mountain's 16th Annual River Garden Symphony on Aug. 8, 2021, featuring Pacific Crest Music Festival Orchestra, was a big at Dunsmuir Botanical Gardens. The best of the best classical youth performers played for a crowd of 160.

Founded in 2004 by Laura Dahl and Sally Portor-Monroe, Music By the Mountain is a non profit organization run by volunteers. It depends on fundraisers and donations to provide county-wide music education to Siskiyou schools and provide musical instruments and scholarships for children. For more information visit their website at musicbythemountain.org

The website for Pacific Crest Music is pacificcrestmusic.com.