In October 2014 Dan Ketter and I took a hike through western New York’s Letchworth State Park, where we daydreamed about how great it would be to make music in such a grand and beautiful place. Days later I was still thinking about this idea, and I started imagining outdoor music-making on a national scale, wondering if it would be possible to arrange concerts at scenic parks around the country. With a little bit of research I learned that the National Park Service (NPS) would celebrate its centennial year in 2016, and with this fortuitous coincidence in mind I knew I was on to something.
“I really want to play like that, but I’m just scared and I don’t know where to start…” These are the words an Eastman student said to me about playing bluegrass recently. Over my past three years at the Eastman School of Music, I have heard a variation of that phrase from classical performance majors countless times. “How do you do that?” “I wish I started playing like that earlier.” “I wish I didn’t have to depend on a score all of the time.”
After witnessing EFME’s Executive Director Michael Staffeldt and his two-man team perform the Herculean task of organizing, administering, and conducting a breadth of musicians and technicians, I was astounded by both the caliber of musicianship, and the remarkably high production value of the event. Immediately following that dress rehearsal I pulled Michael aside, congratulated him, and expressed my desire to participate in EFME’s future.