Eric Samuels and Alison Griffiths

It was Eric Samuels’ nine years at the Aspen Music Festival that convinced him to start a similar festival in his adopted home town of Park City.

That was nearly 20 years ago, and today Samuels’ Utah Music Festival and School attracts young musicians from around the country.

The festival, which runs from July 7 to Aug. 26, is basically a summer music camp where young musicians from age 8 through college can come and perform and study with some of the country’s leading orchestral players. “We’re connecting young professionals with professional musicians,” Samuels told Reichel Recommends. This year about a hundred students, half of whom are from Utah, have applied and been accepted.

Among the musicians who will be coming are principal players from the Detroit Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the Pittsburgh Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Samuels, who is a cellist, and his wife Alison Griffiths, a flutist, also teach and coach. “We have about 65 to 70 faculty members,” Samuels said. “Many of them come from major symphonies, but we also have many who teach at conservatories and colleges.”

Student quartet (from a past festival)

There is also a lot of diversity in the students who attend, Samuels said. Students come from Williams College, Juilliard, the Colburn School, the San Francisco Conservatory and elsewhere. “They like coming here because we treat them like our musical children. We make them feel like family.”

Camaraderie is important to the school. Students and faculty are housed in the same condos and townhouses at the Canyons Resort and elsewhere in Park City. They get to develop close ties outside of coaching sessions that are essential to the overall experience.

All of this takes a large staff, and Samuels is always in need of volunteers and volunteer housing. To find out how to help, and also for more detailed information on the festival, log on to or call 435-640-9393.

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About Edward Reichel

Edward Reichel, author, writer and composer, has been covering the classical music scene in Utah since 1997. For many years he served as the primary music critic for the Deseret News. He has also written for a number of publications, including Chamber Music Magazine, OPERA Magazine, 15 Bytes, Park City Magazine and Salt Lake Magazine. He holds a Ph.D. in composition from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He can be reached at Reichel Recommends is also on Twitter @ReichelArts.

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