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Like most events in 2020, the annual Siletz Bay Music Festival (SBMF) was canceled due to COVID-19. But with vaccines rolling out to the public, the Board of Directors for the SBMF are planning to bring the festival back with a full slate of concerts.

The Board met on May 3 to announce some of the preliminary details for the 2021 festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 4-12. Artistic Director Yaacov Bergman was on hand for the event to provide a presentation to the Board members.

“This was an unprecedented reality that we’ve never been trained to deal with,” Bergman said of the struggles the festival faced this past year. “One of the things for me personally that allowed me to deal with this COVID reality is the idea of hope. Siletz Bay was very central in that. Having the idea that we could have the festival again.”

Bergman said the there wasn’t much doubt that the Board wanted to do whatever they could to try to bring back the festival this year. However, they know there is still much uncertainty on what the guidelines and regulations will be come September.

“Obviously we will face some challenges,” Bergman said. “We’ll have the social distancing and other safety measures. But at the same time, because of the vaccine, there’s a wonderful light at the end of the tunnel.”

Bergman, who is also the Director and Conductor of Portland Chamber Orchestra and Walla Walla Symphony, said he conducted his first concert in Walla Walla, Washington last week. After a year of pre-recorded performances, virtual events and more, Bergman said the emotion of playing in front of a crow for the first time in over a year brought tears to eyes of many of the musicians and audience members. It was something Bergman had never experienced before.

“It was really special,” he said.

This years SBMF is tentatively planning for eleven events performed by musicians from across the United States and around the world. The rough draft schedule includes six classical chamber music concerts, three jazz, cabaret, musical theatre and American song book concerts, two symphonic concerts, three free concerts including the traditional young people/family concert and one musical Tapas concert.

Bergman said there are still a lot of variables they are still working through such as venues, scheduling, housing artists and balancing a tighter budget. Bergman said the budget was cut 50 percent from what it normally would be, but he has developed a plan for how to adjust to that.

“I looked into the budget, and decided that one thing I would like to try is to keep the heart of the festival in tact, in terms of it being a multi-genre event with a variety of products together,” Bergman said. “Even if it’s a smaller festival, still, what makes this festival unique is the idea that we can bring together jazz, chamber music, symphonic music and more.”

Bergman figured musicians would be able to take a 30 percent cut on their normal rate to perform in order to keep in the budget. As he began contacting artists to gauge their interest in coming to the festival, Bergman was unsure of what the response would be.

“The return response was ‘I’m coming,’” Bergman said. “So it was a very heartfelt experience because you can’t even imagine what it means to a musician to play in front of a crowd after such a long time.”

Several artists will be returning to the festival such as renowned jazz clarinetist Ken Peplowski and Mei-Ting Sun, gold medal winner of the National Chopin Competition. In addition some of the festival favorites, Bergman said they will be adding several new artists to their lineup such as violinist Anthea Kreston, cellist Jason Duckles, pianist Martin Kennedy, vocalist Karla Harris and jazz artist Randy Porter.

“My vision every year is to do the same old, same old but continually making it more contemporary and more challenging… Things that will make everybody happy,” Bergman said.

Tickets for the event will be going on sale in June as more details are set to be released in the coming months. Although there is still some uncertainty, there’s no denying the excitement surrounding the annual event.

“I’m very excited about our program, it’s a legitimate program that gives our musicians the energy to come no matter what reality we are dealing with,” Bergman said. “There’s a great deal of excitement within the artists.”

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