SMF Musicians Perform Outreach Concerts


On May 6-7, three professional musicians featured at the annual Staunton Music Festival will perform free chamber-music concerts at two historic churches in rural Virginia. First, on May 6th at 7:00 pm, SMF travels to McDowell Presbyterian Church in Highland County. Then on May 7th at 3:00 pm the program is offered at Fincastle Presbyterian Church in Botetourt County.

Outreach poster lowViolinist Fiona Hughes, cellist James Wilson and harpsichordist Carsten Schmidt will present an engaging one-hour program of mainly Baroque works—with a touch of something more contemporary.  All three performers are acclaimed experts in historical performance traditions. McDowell Presbyterian and Fincastle Presbyterian were both chosen for their superior acoustics, intimacy, and historic significance. These venues are ideally suited to 17th- and 18th-century chamber music.

The concerts, offered as part of the Staunton Music Festival’s Outreach Concert Series, are supported in part by a Challenge America grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Such concerts support the Festival’s mission to bring world-class music to remote and underserved populations.  The concerts are free and open to all; donations will be accepted.  Receptions will take place immediately following the concerts.

Violinist Fiona Hughes holds degrees from Oberlin Conservatory and Cleveland Institute of Music.  A founding member of Three Notch’d Road: The Charlottesville Baroque Ensemble, she is a versatile performer of both modern and baroque violin.  Fiona performs frequently with the Handel + Haydn Society, Mallarmé Chamber Players, Washington Bach Consort, Boston Baroque, Duke Vespers Ensemble, and the Richmond Symphony.  She has performed in numerous music festivals, including Banff, Staunton, and Japan’s Pacific Music Festival. Fiona’s period bows are by David Hawthorne, and her violin is the ex-Vieuxtemps Claude Pierray (1720 Paris).

Cellist James Wilson has performed throughout the world on Baroque and modern cello, appearing at such venues as Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Vienna’s Musikverein, and the Sydney Opera House. He has been invited to the Hong Kong Arts Festival, the City of London Festival, the Deutsches Mozartfest in Bavaria, Finland’s Kuhmo Chamber Music Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival, and the Aspen Music Festival. This season saw Mr. Wilson serving as guest principal cellist of the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and touring internationally with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. He is the Artistic Director of the Richmond-based Chamber Music Society of Central Virginia and teaches cello and chamber music at Columbia University in New York City.

Carsten Schmidt enjoys a flourishing career as a pianist, harpsichordist, and conductor, and has performed widely throughout Europe, North America, and Asia. He has been heard in such venues as the Ravinia Festival, Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, the Moscow Conservatory, as well as in broadcasts worldwide. His repertoire ranges from the early Baroque to new works, of which he has premiered more than 100. He studied at the Folkwang Institute in his native Germany, as well as Indiana University and Yale. Schmidt is the founding Artistic Director of the Staunton Music Festival and is also professor of music at Sarah Lawrence College in New York City.
WHAT: Free Outreach Concerts, presented by Staunton Music Festival
CONCERT 1: Friday, May 6th from 7:00-8:30 pm at McDowell Presbyterian Church, McDowell, VA
CONCERT 2: Saturday, May 7th from 3:00-4:30 pm at Fincastle Presbyterian Church, Fincastle, VA
WHO: Staunton Music Festival artists Fiona Hughes (violin), James Wilson (cello) and Carsten Schmidt (harpsichord)
CONTACT: Jason Stell, 540-569-0267,

Staunton Music Festival’s mission is to offer exceptional chamber music performed by international caliber musicians at historic venues throughout Staunton in a way that is accessible to all. Concert programs are innovative and seek a balance between old and new music. SMF musicians include local, national, and international artists, many of whom are acclaimed for their knowledge of historical performance traditions. We believe in the power of live classical music to transform the region and all of its residents.

In early 1998 current artistic director Carsten Schmidt organized two chamber music concerts, pulling together several friends to make a weekend of music in Staunton, Virginia. From that modest beginning springs the Staunton Music Festival, recognized today as one of the region’s most innovative and accomplished chamber music organizations. That growth and longevity has been made possible by a committed, supportive local audience, who helped sustain SMF over the past 18 years. Isolated concerts developed into a six-event summer concert series. That model was further enhanced with support from the Community Foundation of the Central Blue Ridge, which made it possible for SMF to offer daily free noontime concerts beginning in 2009.  In August 2016 SMF will present 22 concerts over 10 days.