This favorite summer series draws world-class entertainers to Williams Bay, Wis., every summer. This year’s lineup promises musical diversity, seasoned talent and well-regarded speakers.
The popular Music by the Lake concert series returns this summer with an exciting event lineup on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University, in Williams Bay, Wis. With its lively shows and world-class entertainers taking the stage at an open-air venue, the program draws quite a crowd every year, offering four Saturday night concerts and two Sunday afternoon concerts that are appropriate for the entire family.
Sarah Russe, vice president of community relations for Aurora University, says last year’s series brought in 7,700 people, with 1,000 of them being first-time visitors.
“We were really fortunate last year, as several concerts sold out,” she says. “Performances including Lyle Lovett and the Chicago Philharmonic ended the series, and they were fabulous performances. We are hopeful that this season brings additional sold-out events.”
This year’s lineup includes an eclectic group of artists with some surprises in store.
On Sunday, June 24, the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra opens the season with a “A Lakeside Matinee.” The community showcase features music from blockbuster movie scores including “Frozen,” “Lord of the Rings,” “Forrest Gump,” “Star Wars,” “Superman,” “Gladiator” and “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
On Saturday, July 7, Bruce Hornsby & The Noisemakers take the stage. The famous singer/pianist/composer/bandleader and his band are known for contemporary hits such as “Over The Rise,” “The Way It Is,” and “Celestial Railroad.”
Next up on the schedule, Wynonna & The Big Noise arrive on Saturday, July 14. Wynonna Judd has sold more than 30 million albums during her 34-year career and is probably most notable for her time spent with the beloved mother/daughter duo The Judds. Her latest work with The Big Noise mixes the sounds of country, Americana, blues, soul and rock.
Wynonna’s arrival is a bit of a departure from more recent Music by the Lake lineups, says Russe, adding that she’s excited to see a new twist in this year’s schedule.
“We have not had a ‘true’ country artist in a few years,” she says. “Wynonna will be our first jump back into country.”
On Saturday, July 21, baritone Nathan Gunn and the Chicago Philharmonic perform “An Evening of Love Songs.” Grammy Award-winning Gunn is said to be the most sought-after baritone in the country. Having performed at renowned opera houses, he is an in-demand soloist with symphony orchestras around the globe. The Chicago Philharmonic, under direction of Artistic Director Scott Speck, features more than 200 of the highest-level classical musicians performing in the Chicago area.
Next on the schedule, Music by the Lake’s youngest fans are in for a treat, with a magical journey into Ralph’s World on Sunday, July 29. Indie rocker Ralph Covert and his band invite the audience to join them on a musical adventure that revolves around the pop-rock planet Ralph’s World, featuring a lot of silliness and high-energy fun. Children 3 and under are admitted free.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, the iconic Grammy-nominated Three Dog Night closes the summer season. The American rock band is known for hits such as “Joy to the World,” “One,” “Shambala,” “Mama Told Me (Not to Come)” and “Black and White.”
Seating options at the venue include reserved seats in the dress circle and orchestra sections of the pavilion, or general seating on the terrace. Additionally, visitors can bring lawn chairs, blankets and picnic baskets to kick back and relax on the lawn. Snacks and meals will be available for purchase, including sandwiches, burgers, salads, and the best-selling ice cream in the College Inn. People with pavilion or terrace tickets can purchase wine, beer and champagne.
Music by the Lake was launched in 1951 and it originally featured some of the world’s most prominent performers at the campus’ Lewis Auditorium. It ran for several successful seasons until financial support began to diminish and the program ceased in 1969.
In 2001, after a gift was donated from the Allyn Foundation, the Allyn Pavilion was created in place of the Lewis Auditorium. Concerts continued on the pavilion for several years, until growing attendance figures prompted a campaign to build a newer and bigger venue. After more than $1.5 million was raised through a generous gift from the Ferro Family Foundation and donations from 130 other sources, the new Ferro Pavilion was built and dedicated in 2008. The series has been going strong ever since.
Attendees continue to come out and enjoy summer evenings in the open-air atmosphere with great music and lovely natural surroundings on Geneva Lake. It also helps that there is much to see and do around the lake’s communities.
“It is such a lovely and intimate atmosphere,” Russe says. “Right on Geneva Lake, it’s a smaller venue, so it is also easier to get to. And it’s an opportunity to enjoy a picnic on the lawn or grab a snack on campus. Festival supporters at the Friend level or above can have dinner before Saturday-night shows through our exclusive Dining Club.
“We love being part of this community, and we want to continue to support the Geneva Lake area with tourism and provide great family entertainment,” Russe continues. “We look forward to it year after year.”
Festival supporters at the Friend level or above have access to tickets before the general public. General ticket sales are now open. For more information on supporting Music by the Lake or purchasing tickets, visit musicbythelake.com or call (262) 245-8501.