Friday, June 21, 2013

The Long Tradition of the Yachats Music Festival

When Joanne Kittel and her husband Norman arrived in Yachats in 1988, the Yachats Music Festival had already been in existence for seven years. “We stumbled onto it,” says Joanne. If there had been any doubt in their minds about the wisdom of leaving Chicago and moving to this remote little village on the central Oregon coast, those doubts died when they entered the Yachats Community Presbyterian Church.

Norman had loved classical music since he was a child. On their first date, he took Joanne to a five-hour Wagner opera. Joanne learned to appreciate the music, but what really impressed her was the warmth and friendliness of the Four Seasons artists. Over the years, she and Norman formed strong ties to the performers and the board members and sponsors of Four Seasons Arts, the booking agency founded by Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams to promote music for audiences of all races and conditions and to provide venues for performances by artists of all races as well. “The opportunity to hear, to know, understand and appreciate good music,” said Dr. Williams, “will lead to far greater communication between races and people.”

And so it has, not just for the Kittels, but for many of the residents of Yachats who step up as sponsors and audience, and who volunteer, as Joanne and Norman did, to help with publicity, the artists’ reception, ushering,  and all the other tasks that support a three day music festival.

For the 20 to 30 artists who travel worldwide for their scheduled performances, the Yachats Music Festival is a treasured opportunity to play, relax, and learn together. The festival includes four workshops for the artists and festival patrons, another way to further Dr. Williams’ vision of lifelong learning through music.

Dr. Williams was the first African-American impresario to head a concert-giving organization in the United States. He believed that classical music is for everyone, and both his stage and his audience reflect the human family in all its diversity. Although Dr. Williams died in 1999, his legacy continues; the Yachats Music Festival is dedicated to his memory.

This year, the concerts take place July 12 through July 14. There is a concert each night, at 8 p.m., and an afternoon performance at 2 p.m. on Sunday. General admission to each concert is $19. Tickets are available online at or locally at the Adobe Resort (541 547-3141) or the Yachats Visitor Center (541 547-3530 or 800 929-0477).  Member and patron packages are available at $85 and $140; call 541 961-8374 for details. Additional information is available at Four Seasons Arts, 510 845-4444, or

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