News from Festival Hill
News from Festival Hill
The lilting calls of cave swallows in residence in the eaves of the Concert Hall roof are the only music that is heard most days at Festival Hill. Usually this time of year there are over one hundred young musicians, conductors and faculty members on campus. The grounds are bustling with students heading to meals, practicing under oak trees and hurrying to Concert Hall rehearsals. The postponed Festival and performances have left a quiet spot on the Hill .... but wait, is that James Dick at the piano?

It all started this past March with a concert grand piano in a bluebonnet field and James Dick, Round Top Festival Institute Founder and Artistic Director, performing the Edward Grieg Nocturne Op. 54/4. It was one of the first pieces James Dick performed at the summer festival in 1976. The video "Texas Bluebonnets Grieg Nocturne" can be found at

On June 18, 2020, James Dick recorded live on the stage of the Festival Concert Hall the Beethoven Sonata No. 8 in C, "Pathetique," to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the composer. That performance can be seen at

As part of Austin's KMFA's ongoing effort to highlight the work of their arts partners during this pandemic, they introduced "Live at Round Top," a six-week series of broadcasts showcasing the finest performances by 2019 Round Top Music Festival faculty and young artists.

The radio show "Encore Houston" - Houston Public Media - broadcast on June 28th also included recorded performances of the 2019 Round Top Music Festival. On July 1st, American Public Media's radio show "Performance Today" broadcast nationally the 2017 Sergei Rachmaninoff Symphony No. 2 in E, Op. 27: Movement 1 with the Texas Festival Orchestra led by Conductor Perry So.

Many of the young artists who receive scholarships to Round Top Festival Institute are self-quarantined this summer in states like New York and California. Unable to perform or attend other workshops, some of the 2020 faculty members set up virtual master classes online for the accepted Festival musicians.

Nancy Ambrose King, oboist, is currently the Professor of Oboe at the University of Michigan. She is on the faculty of the Sarasota and Round Top Music Festivals. Ms. King gave an internet master class to the accepted young artists: Jamison Hillian (Curtis Institute), Jasper Iguse ( San Francisco Conservatory of Music), Jeehoon Kim ( Eastman School) and Laura Yawney (Chicago Civic Orchestra). Nancy will be welcomed back at Round Top in June 2021. The second master class was conducted by 2020 Faculty Drew Pattison. Drew has held the position of Principal Bassoon with the Elgin and Lake Forest, Illinois symphonies and second bassoon in the Houston Opera. He has also performed with the Chicago Symphony, Lyric Opera, Joffrey Ballet/Chicago Philharmonic, and many other groups in the Chicago area. You can enjoy his musings on sound and bassoon on Facebook at

On July 2, Tomas Cotik, violinist, presented a session, in which he discussed the contradictions between the opposing trends and traditions in Bach interpretation, and some personal solutions to them. The session included a discussion about the bow, sound, articulation, string crossings, slurs, dynamics, intonation, vibrato, ornaments, trills, tempo rubato, and more.

Hailed by Michael Tilson Thomas as "an excellent violinist," Tomas Cotik is internationally recognized as a soloist, chamber musician, and professor. Committed to both performing and teaching, Dr. Tomas Cotik is the violin professor at Portland State University where he recently received the inaugural Dean’s Council Award For Research, Scholarship and Creativity. Prior to this, he was part of the faculty of West Texas A&M University.

Jason Shafer, clarinetist was on Facebook Live with the young artist selected for that instrument on July 13, from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm. Jason is the Principal Clarinet with the Colorado Symphony in Denver.

This past week James Dick recorded Six Short Essays for piano by Ulysses Kay, now on YouTube at In 1973, African-American composer Ulysses Kay was invited to be one of the first composers-in-residence at Round Top Festival Institute.

A nephew of the New Orleans jazz trumpeter King Oliver, Kay played jazz saxophone as a boy and later turned to piano, violin, and composition. After receiving his B.A. at the University of Arizona, he studied at the Eastman School of Music and Yale University, and the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts.

James Dick characterized Kay's compositions as "narrative." Ulysses Kay composed approximately 140 musical compositions for orchestra, chorus, chamber ensembles, piano, voice, organ, and band. He wrote five operas as well as scores for film and television, among them his notable Essay on Death (1964), a tribute to President John F. Kennedy.

More live performances are planned...
Even though we have to take a hiatus in the Concert Hall, we simply can't stop the music.