It was a cold night on Snow Pond in Sidney but inside the Snow Pond Center for the Arts’ Alumni Hall, the literal and figurative warmth was palpable.

The Philharmonia Boston Orchestra was performing Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht Opus 4, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C major, Opus 48, directed by Jinwook Park.

Sitting among the adults in the audience Nov. 4 were children dressed in black and holding violins and bows, listening intently to and watching with awe their mentors on stage who had worked with them earlier.

The children, members of the Snow Pond Youth Symphony, sat mesmerized as the musicians delivered an exquisite, impeccable performance of both the complicated Schoenberg piece and the heartrending Tchaikovsky.

Later, the youths joined the Boston orchestra and students of the Maine Suzuki Association onstage, where they played their hearts out in a performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Divertimento No. 1 in D major.

The presentation was top-drawer, which is no surprise.

Park, the conductor, is a common thread here. He is a violinist, performer, educator and music director of not only the Philharmonia Boston Orchestra, but also the Snow Pond Youth Symphony and Colby Symphony Orchestra, teaches violin and viola at Colby and has a private studio in the Boston Area. At Colby, he directs four concerts a year at Lorimer Chapel that are free and open to the public and of a stellar quality you typically find only in larger cities in the northeast.

Which is all to say we are fortunate to have venues in central Maine that feature not only great music, but also offer a top-notch music education for children and teens that include bringing professional musicians from places such as Boston to serve as teachers, mentors and inspiration to youth in central Maine.

Thanks to the Wiggin family, which started New England Music Camp Association 80 years ago and continues to expand and improve offerings in music education and performance, we adults also benefit.

The music camp was founded by Paul E. Wiggin, a musician and conductor, and his wife, Nina, who believed every student, regardless of financial situation, should have access to a high-quality music education. Every summer since 1937, the camp has offered musical, social and recreational activities for 350 musicians, ages 11-18, and given financial aid and scholarships to those in need.

Now doing business as Snow Pond Center for the Arts, the camp has expanded its summer program by offering affordable, year-round music education through Snow Pond Community Music School on the camp grounds. Also, the center has added partner locations throughout central Maine, making more sites accessible and raising awareness about the value of music education. The YMCA in Augusta and Alfond Youth Center in Waterville are just two of those sites.

In 2016 the Snow Pond Arts Academy opened on the Sidney campus. It is the only public performing arts charter high school in Maine, has 148 students enrolled and offers what school officials call a rigorous academic curriculum integrated with arts education in a culturally rich environment. The residential program is optional.

Snow Pond Enrichment, the center’s after school program, was launched in September for students in grades one through eight and offers daily academic support, recreation and music education. Instruments are available for use by students at no cost.

In 1970, the Wiggins’ son, Davis Wiggin, and his wife, Jeanette, took over New England Music Camp, transforming it into a venue that began to draw students not only from around the country, but also the world — and from all walks of life. Seven years ago the couple’s son, John Wiggin, and his wife, Kim, took over the camp leadership and have expanded programs and offerings, improved infrastructure and joined others in central Maine working to help revitalize the area, enhance the arts and boost economic development.

Wiggin, Snow Pond’s executive director, who spoke at the Nov. 4 performance, is just now announcing that the center has received a generous challenge grant through the Bill and Joan Alfond Foundation to help renovate and improve the amphitheater on campus known as the Bowl in the Pines.

The Alfond grant requires that Snow Pond raise $100,000 by Dec. 31 this year in order to receive $65,000 from the foundation to support the project.

One of the largest outdoor stages in the U.S., the amphitheater on the lake has great acoustics and is one of the most appealing performance venues anywhere in the country, as Wiggin duly notes.

Eleven free concerts and three requiring tickets were held this past summer. Improvements to the amphitheater will allow for seven or eight ticketed events on a much larger scale, as well as 12 free concerts, according to Wiggin. The changes will enable the center to become one of the premier outdoor concert venues in New England and offer central Mainers major national music performances in their own backyard.

Plans call for the amphitheater stage to be extended forward by 8 feet next spring and improved steel supports will allow for additional sound and lighting required by national touring artists, according to Wiggin.

In the fall of 2018, concession renovations, ambient lighting and landscaping are scheduled to be completed. The investment is anticipated to draw well-known performers and larger summer concerts which will benefit local businesses because of the increase in visitors to the region. Snow Pond officials estimate the revenue to local businesses will be $350,000 per event and profits will support students, their families and community members engaged in Snow Pond programs or facilities, according to Wiggin.

Meanwhile, Snow Pond has created a task force — whose members include town, police and fire officials, as well as residents and business owners — to discuss safety, traffic, parking, communications, scale and type of events. Those interested in joining the panel may call Christa Johnson, the center’s director of development, at 844-476-6976, extension 203, or email her at [email protected]

Wiggin says he is optimistic central Mainers will support the amphitheater project. In addition to thanking the Alfonds for their investment, he encourages people to visit the center to see first-hand the opportunities there.

We are fortunate to have a gem such as Snow Pond Center for the Arts in our sphere.

It benefits everyone and offers education and cultural enrichment opportunities — as well as year-round concerts — many communities can only dream of having in their midst.

When the winter is long, dark and cold, live performances serve to warm our hearts and inspire our intellects.

It’s a gift worth perpetuating.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at [email protected]. For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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