Q & A David Halen

A frequent soloist with orchestras and at festivals around the world, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra concertmaster David Halen has achieved much success over the course of his career. But it’s at Innsbrook Institute Music Festival & Academy, of which he is founding artistic director, where Halen notes a special connection to not only the extraordinary 10-day event (June 10 through 18), but also the landscape.

LN: How many years has the Innsbrook Music Festival been in existence?

DH: This is our 11th season—it was born of an idea between myself and Ed Boyce, the founder of the Innsbrook Corporation. Ed and I had been friends for a long time, and we felt Innsbrook would be perfectly suited for sort of a miniature version of what goes on at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado (where he also is concertmaster).

LN: What is the attraction to Innsbrook that brings such a highly acclaimed group of musicians back each year?

DH: Innsbrook is lovely. I grew up in a part of Missouri—at the tip of the Ozarks, just south of Warrensburg—that looks just like Innsbrook, so when I go there I feel like I’m going home. But for others, it’s partly the atmosphere—the kind of people who spend time there enjoy the finer things in life. And then there’s a very special chemistry among the performers: They enjoy playing together, and they enjoy reuniting at Innsbrook to see each other. It also gives them the opportunity to meet other brilliantly talented people and to work with the students in residence during the festival.

LN: How many students attend the institute each year?

DH: We have between 30 and 50 students who are some of the best, brightest and most talented high school and college students from around the country, and for some, from around the world. It’s very exciting for them and they learn an incredible amount in a very short period of time with a focus on the whole musician, not just the playing.

LN: Describe the festival and what it’s like to attend a concert at Innsbrook.

DH: It’s an intense nine days, and there’s a series of 14 concerts that are presented in a very intimate setting, so that the artists and audience interact and it results in a very visceral, exciting context in which to hear music. It’s almost as if you are hearing these great artists perform in your living room. The audience is encouraged to bring a nice glass of wine with them. A lot of people will come out to Innsbrook and rent a place for the entire week, and a lot of them will go to almost every event.

LN: What are some of the highlights on the schedule this year?

DH: We’re excited to feature Erin Bode on June 14. And the most unusual concert we’re doing this year is the Tales of Brother vs. Brother on June 11. This is the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War, and we forget that it was a major part of Missouri’s history. This concert features music that was either written in Missouri, or is about the Civil War and the dilemma the state of Missouri faced. We will perform on the front porch of a beautiful, 1840s homestead log cabin that has been restored and is located in a valley that probably looks just as it did in the 1800s.

    Other artists performing at the 2011 festival include Jacob Braun, Wendy Chen, Grace Fong, Miran Halen, Robert Lipsett, Sharon Nathanson and Chee Yun. For a complete list of performers and a concert schedule, visit innsbrookinstitute.orgLN