Before thousands of people flocked to the vest-pocket village of Orkney Springs, Va., and kicked back with a picnic under the stars to hear blazing bluegrass licks, great gospel tunes, classic country songs, stunning symphonic melodies and more at the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival, a relative handful gathered for small orchestras in a less idyllic setting.
The year was 1963. Outside of the region's county fairs, there was a decided lack of professional music presented in the Shenandoah Valley. A small group of people found this hard to accept and so formed the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival. That August, the new group presented its first concert in the gym of Massanutten Military Academy in Woodstock. Apple crates were hung from the ceiling to baffle the sound that bounced off the concrete block walls.
The music menu and the setting have changed since then, but the Shenandoah Valley Music Festival remains instrumental in presenting great music in the Valley. The Festival's grown and thrived for nearly 50 years by keeping one simple point in mind - it's all about the music. Present high quality music in an intimate, up close, pastoral setting - the grounds of the Shrine Mont Camp and Conference Center - and people from all around will come. We provide the music, nature provides the show.
Since the Festival's programming expanded beyond symphonic music in the early 1980s, performers who have dozens of Grammy, Tony and Emmy awards on their mantels have performed on the humble pavilion stage. Musicians from across the spectrum, including The Temptations, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Béla Fleck, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Sam Bush, Ricky Skaggs, Travis Tritt, Ronnie Milsap and many more have created a tradition of providing a "wow" experience just a few hours from the nation's capital.
All the while, the Festival has remained true to its beginnings as a presenter of symphonic music and to its role in music education. Every summer since 1979, the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra has graced the stage at Orkney Springs. Knowing that music education starts at home, the Festival also presents at least one family performer each summer and over the years has given scholarships, recognized outstanding music students in the region and, with the help of the National Endowment for the Arts, created the Valley's first public school strings program in Shenandoah County.
The Shenandoah Valley Music Festival's rich history is a testament to the public's love of great music that it continues to bring to the Valley each summer and to the magic of its special setting. One visit and you'll want to come back and become part of that history.