The history of summer music programming in Stratford is somewhat entwined with that of the internationally renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival. In the 1950’s, when the concept of a cultural festival was emerging in Stratford, one idea was to encompass many performing arts forms, including music and film, in this new arts environment for Canada. Thus, the first Stratford Music Festival was held in 1955 under the direction of the theatre’s music director, Louis Applebaum. Over the next two decades, renowned artists such as Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Glenn Gould and Liona Boyd appeared on the theatre festival’s various stages.
The idea of a unique summer music festival was abandoned by the mid 1970s, only to be briefly revived by the pianist, Elyakim Tausig, and then the conductor, Boris Brott, in the early 1980s as an independent festival, which also collapsed by the end of that decade.
Stratford Summer Music as we know it today began in 2001 under the leadership of John A. Miller. John’s creativity, passion and sound business sense has built Stratford Summer Music into one of Ontario’s finest summer music events. John’s first season, in 2001, featured performances from First Nations author and pianist Thompson Highway, composer R. Murray Schafer and Toronto’s Quartetto Gelato, thus setting the standard for diversity and excellence for all seasons to come.
Over the next decade the Festival expanded gradually, cautiously adding length to its calendar, exploring new venues, reaching out to new audiences, growing its donor base – and always seeking out the most exciting array of musical artists possible from Canada and from around the world.