By Stephanie Klett and Bill Barth
Imagine you are comfortably seated by a world-class lake, whose undulating waters sparkle in the sunlight. A cool breeze wafts ashore as the day’s heat slowly surrenders and evening gently descends.
Excitement builds as the crowd around you stirs with anticipation for the evening’s entertainment, the famous performer you have eagerly been waiting to see and hear. Suddenly the stage comes to life. The crowd roars in appreciation.
There’s no need to imagine. Not as another extraordinary summer schedule arrives for Music by the Lake, a premier festival for the Lake Geneva region and a great way to enjoy spectacular scenery and exceptional entertainment.
The first concert is just days away at the scenic site along the shore of Geneva Lake at George Williams College of Aurora University, Williams Bay. Here’s the schedule:
Linda Eder, Saturday, June 17, 7:30pm
Her voice crosses the musical spectrum, from Broadway and standards to pop, country and jazz. She has sold out Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center and Radio City Music Hall. Tickets are $85 dress circle, $70 orchestra, $45 terrace, and $30 lawn.
Justin Roberts, Sunday, June 25, 4pm
He’s a five-time Grammy nominee best known for modern family music. He and his band have traveled the world from Hong Kong to New York. He has 16 full-length albums to his credit. Tickets are $15 for dress circle, orchestra, terrace or lawn.
Martina McBride, Saturday, July 8, 7:30pm
The country star has sold more than 23 million albums, which include 20 Top Ten singles. She’s a four-time Female Vocalist of the Year for the Country Music Association, along with three Top Female Vocalist honors from the Academy of Country Music. She also has been recognized for philanthropic work on behalf of domestic violence victims. Tickets are $85 dress circle, $70 orchestra, $45 terrace and $30 lawn.
Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra, Sunday, July 16, 4pm
The local favorite has made a strong reputation for its musical skill and creativity. Under the direction of David Anderson, recipient of the American Prize in Conducting in the community orchestra division, the symphony will deliver a showcase performance for the entire family. Tickets are $15 for dress circle, orchestra, terrace or lawn.
The Guess Who, Saturday, July 22, 7:30pm
The Canadian band, somewhat ironically, is best known for its mega-hit from the 1970s, “American Woman.” The band has released 11 albums and charted 14 Top 40 hits, including “These Eyes” and “No Time.” The Guess Who were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 1987. Tickets are $85 dress circle, $70 orchestra, $45 terrace and $30 lawn.
BritBeat, Saturday, July 29, 7:30pm
Fans of the Beatles won’t want to miss this one. BritBeat produces a multimedia experience showcasing the Beatles historic impact on music. It’s a journey back to the ‘60s, well worth taking. Tickets are $85 dress circle, $70 orchestra, $45 terrace and $30 lawn.
We caught up with Yvette Howard, Vice President for Operations at George Williams College, and leader of the team behind Music by the Lake. Not surprisingly, she’s a very busy lady. She credits the team for making it possible to stage and coordinate such an ambitious project each year.
“I am part of a team that includes colleagues in the Development, Communications and Operations departments,” she said. Team members hail both from the local George Williams College and the campus in Aurora, Illinois.
Planning and executing the summer schedule isn’t something that happens in a matter of days or weeks, but over a long haul.
“Our planning begins each fall for the following summer season,” Yvette explained. “There is a network of agents we work with and always welcome artist suggestions from our audience. Each concert is made possible by many volunteers from the local community as well as university employees.”
Performers, she said, love the venue on the lakefront and the relatively small size – a packed house is about 2,000 patrons – allowing artists to interact closely with the crowd.
“Their view from the stage is incredible,” Yvette said. “Anyone up there has an unobstructed view across the lake, to the back of the house, and all the lawn seating areas. Artists have routinely commented that they’d love to come back.”
Not long ago, Aurora University announced plans to cease academic instructional activity at the George Williams College campus. Plans call for continuing to use the lovely grounds and buildings as a conference center.
So, the natural question: Is there a future for Music by the Lake? The answer seems to be yes.
“We are looking forward to the upcoming 22nd season of the festival and hope to continue the tradition in the coming years,” Yvette told us.
Our advice: Let the future sort itself out and enjoy the shows. This summer’s lineup is awesome. We’ve already snagged tickets for two of the performances. We hope to see you there!
Stephanie Klett is the President and CEO of Visit Lake Geneva, and the former Secretary of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Bill Barth is the former Editor of the Beloit Daily News, and a member of the Wisconsin Newspaper Hall of Fame.