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Penn's Woods Music Festival, Cancelled in June, Makes An August Comeback This Summer

Stephanie Swindle
Penn State School of Music

The Penn's Woods Music Festival is a decades-long tradition: a professional festival held each year in June on Penn State’s University Park Campus. Like so many events, it was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic. And it couldn’t be held in June this year, either, due to pandemic restrictions.  But at the end of June, hope was suddenly on the horizon.

“We had been looking at all the restrictions starting to lift,” said Russell Bloom, assistant director of Penn State’s School of Music. 

Bloom said Penn State’s School of Music put all kinds of options on the table.

“Could we be chamber music outside? Could we go into a park? Could we go to Millbrook Marsh and be in a barn?”

They had to figure out how to live stream the concerts from those locations, too.

“And so we created these scenarios that we sent on to our dean and to Penn State University’s pandemic safety officer.”

Bloom and his team got the approval toward the end of June.

“And the response on June 20 for us was by August 1 you will be fine.  Go for it.”

That gave them just a few weeks to put together a 2021 Penn's Woods Music Festival for August.

“So in six weeks, we are putting together a full festival that normally would have taken me and some of my team six months to plan.”

Despite the short prep time, the festival will have the usual number of concerts. As Bloom puts it, they’re going “full force.”

As usual, the Penn's Woods Music Festival will have two chamber concerts on Wednesday nights, August 4 and 11,  held indoors, in the recital hall on Penn State’s University Park Campus.

“And then on Saturday night, August 7,” Bloom said, “instead of being inside, this is the first time the orchestra will be playing outside.” 

Bloom said the orchestra will play on the Olsen Stone Terrace, adjacent to Penn State’s recital hall.

“And the next week, on August 14, we’re going to do Music in the Gardens.”

That's the second Saturday night orchestra concert, to be held outdoors on the Event Lawn at Penn State’s Arboretum. The Penn's Woods Music Festival has held “Music in the Gardens” concerts at the Arboretum in previous years. But this time, Bloom said, the orchestra will be amplified.

“We are going to amplify it, with every instrument being amplified and mixed.  So it will be a lovely evening and you’ll be able to hear everybody.”

There will also be a jazz concert on Friday, August 6, held outdoors.

The music on all the other concerts will include, as always, classical fare, like Dvorak’s Serenade for Winds a Vivaldi Oboe Concerto and a symphony by Mozart. But one thing that’s different about this Penn's Woods Music Festival is that all the tickets will be general admission.

“So that way, when you come, you can feel the space out,” Bloom said.  “And if you want to move your seat, you can. If you want to be in the thick of things, you can sit down front. So that way people can socially distance.”

If you haven’t yet been fully vaccinated, the festival asks that you wear a mask while you enjoy the music.

Editors' note: The Penn's Woods Music Festival is a supporter of WPSU-FM.

You’ll find details on the Penns Woods Music Festival here.

If you’d like to listen to past performances from the Penn's Woods Music Festival from years past, you’ll find many of them included on WPSU’s monthly program, In Performance at Penn State, featuring performances from Penn State’s School of Music.


Kristine Allen is Program Director of WPSU-FM. She also files feature stories for WPSU on the arts, culture, science, and more. When she's not at WPSU, Kris enjoys playing folk fiddle, acting, singing and portrait-sketching. She is also a self-confessed "science geek." Kris started working in public radio in college, at age 17, and says she "just couldn't stop."