Sweet sounds of summer concerts come to Windjammer Park

— Created July 27, 2022 by Kathy Reed

By Kathy Reed

Close your eyes and imagine you’re sitting in a beautiful park by the water. The sun is shining, the seagulls are soaring, the cool breeze is caressing your face and you’ve packed a delightful picnic dinner. The only thing missing is world class musical entertainment.

Wait! There IS world class musical entertainment! Welcome to the Sounds of Summer Concert Series, brought to Windjammer Park in Oak Harbor by the Oak Harbor Music Festival and Windermere Real Estate/Whidbey Island. The free concert series kicks off at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 3 and will run every Wednesday through Aug. 24, bringing some very talented musical artists to the Oak Harbor waterfront.

For organizers, this idea has been in the works for a while, and they’re excited to see it finally happen.

“I have been chomping at the bit to partner with the Oak Harbor Music Festival in a meaningful way,” said Kristen Stavros, co-owner and branch manager of Windermere Whidbey Island. “Before the pandemic we were going to make something happen, then COVID hit. In talking about it coming out of COVID, Cynthia [Mason] (Oak Harbor Music Festival) and I were noodling some ideas around. She’s always wanted to do this, we’ve always wanted to support OHMF in a meaningful way, so this was perfect.”

Stavros, who moved to Whidbey Island from New Zealand in 2005, said she couldn’t wait to be part of a smaller, more tight knit community like Oak Harbor. She started at Windermere in 2014 and became co-owner in 2019.

“Windermere has always had a community-focused ethos,” she said. “A portion of our earnings goes back to our community foundation, so we’re helping women and children in our community. It’s important to me to be a part of the place you live. And music and the arts are dear to me; it enriches our lives.”

“This is a shared vision of bringing music to the green in our beautiful Windjammer Park,” said OHMF board president ,Cynthia Mason, of this new joint venture with Windermere. “Larry Mason selected the concert series performers, recognizing the month’s series would be a great introduction to the Oak Harbor Music Festival’s Labor Day weekend event. It’s guaranteed you’ll be inspired by the power of this music.”

Starting off the four-week series will be Whidbey’s Saratoga Orchestra, with special guest, The Gothard Sisters. Zan Fiskum performs Aug. 10, the Chris Eger Band performs Aug. 17 and Janie Cribbs and the T.Rust Band close out the series on Aug. 24.

“This will be such a thrill for our musicians and organization to be part of this new series,” said Larry Heidel, executive director of Saratoga Orchestra. “We often lament that we’d love to do more summer concerts in the parks and when this opportunity presented itself, we resoundingly said YES!

“Accessibility to all the arts is super important and a free concert in a public space is a wonderful addition to the summer events here on the island,” he continued. “We hope people pack a picnic and bring their lawn chairs to some see us. Of course, we couldn’t do this without the support of Windermere Real Estate and Oak Harbor Music Festival.”

This is not the first time Saratoga Orchestra has played with the Gothard Sisters. Heidel said they are looking forward to sharing the stage with them again.

“We last performed with them in 2016 and it was a really great concert,” he said. “This time, we’ll have a full symphony orchestra of about 60 musicians backing their music. In addition to their wonderful Celtic and folk tunes, the orchestra will be playing selections from “Jurassic Park,” patriotic music and ending with a rousing rendition of “Stars and Stripes Forever” with a ‘guest conductor’ at the helm.” 

 Speaking of guests, Saratoga Orchestra will also have students from Whidbey Island high schools joining the professional musicians onstage.

“Since the founding of the orchestra in 2007, we’ve always placed a high priority on bringing opportunities to local youth,” said Heidel. “It’s been over two years since the last time we’ve been able to collaborate with students and it’s one of our favorite things to do. For many, this will be the first time they’ve sat side-by-side with professional musicians.”

That is an incredible experience for students, according to Oak Harbor High School Band Director, Brandon Nelson. Approximately a dozen of his students will be joining Saratoga on Wednesday.

“The experience of sitting next to professional artists at work cannot be replicated in the classroom,” Nelson said. “Silent discipline. Immediate sound. Musicians playing together almost-perfectly on the first try. The casual confidence of a professional shaking off and recovering from their mistakes. This can be a life-changing experience.  

“This experience is shorter than an internship, but much more than job shadowing,” he continued.”  These kids will go through this high-pressure artistic event and have a good think about how much of it they want in their lives.  Some will come out with a dedication to music as a career, others will be inspired to keep music as an intense hobby, and some may think ‘Wow, I did not have as much fun as everyone else.  I should spend my time and money on a different art form,’ and that’s all a healthy part of learning and growing up!”

Nelson said it’s good for students to see the difference between studying music in school and doing it professionally.

“Saratoga Orchestra, like most professional musical groups, only meet a few times before a concert,” he said. “This is part of why it’s so cool for the students to be invited.  Band class is five days a week for over an hour, with months between each concert as I teach them how music works.  The Saratoga Orchestra are professionals; just one to three practices before a concert.  The biggest shock for the students will be the breakneck pace.  Usually the orchestra can play 95 percent of the music perfectly the very first time they sit down together.”

The first concert will be staged in the kitchen on the west end of the park (enter by the electronic sign at SR 20 and S Beeksma) and the other three concerts will be at the pavilion, also on the west side of the park. All performances begin at 6 p.m.

Summer Concert Series organizers say they are more than happy to provide this new opportunity for people to enjoy, and feel certain this won’t be the last time Windjammer Park is filled with the sounds of summer concerts.

“What a stunning location at which to be able to have this; it’s calling for it,” Stavros said. “We only get one stellar month every year. Why not be outdoors enjoying our local scenic beauty? I can’t imagine anything better. It’s going to be magical.”

“I am over-the-moon-excited,” said Mason. “This is a true spiritual bank account deposit. I’m hoping Whidbey Islanders bring family, friends and their favorite picnic foods to enjoy music in the park. The Oak Harbor Music Festival’s board is thrilled to partner with Windermere Real Estate/Whidbey Island. They have been rock stars to work with in getting everything in order. It’s so fun to build community one note at a time.”

Learn more at oakharborfestival.com.