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The Winter Classics: The Olympics of music

By Rhonda McBride 11:35 AM February 17, 2014

Over the years, the Sitka Music Festival has become the hub of classical music in Alaska

ANCHORAGE – Anchorage fans of classical music say performances put on this weekend by the Sitka Summer Music Festival were like the Olympics of music.

Festival organizers said every seat in its Winter Classics series this weekend was filled.

The concerts, which are held at Grant Hall on the Alaska Pacific University campus, raise money for the festival, which takes place during the month of June in Sitka. For more than 40 years, it’s attracted nationally and internationally known performers who charge no fee for their appearances. The concerts, like the series in Anchorage this weekend, help pay their expenses.

The festival was founded by violinist Paul Rosenthal, who retired as director two years ago at the age of 70.  Rosenthal was a student of famed violinist Jascha Heifetz and one of the main attractions Sunday night when he performed alongside pianist Piers Lane and cellist Zuill Bailey, who is the new artistic director for the festival.

For longtime fans, seeing Bailey and Rosenthal on stage together was symbolic of the continuity of the festival.

Over the years, the festival has become the hub of classical music in Alaska, with well known artists giving concerts around the state throughout the year.

Bailey said he hopes to continue the tradition of bringing some of the best performers in the classical music world to Alaska to share their music and enjoy the creative freedom that a setting like Sitka provides.

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