When folks think about classical music or symphony orchestras, rarely does Round Top, Texas come to mind. More than likely, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic is where most non-Texans would travel for a high-class musical experience. But one of the most alluring classical music experiences in the nation awaits right here, in our small town of 90 people.
The Round Top Festival Institute was established by concert pianist James C. Dick in 1971. Dick studied piano at the University of Texas at Austin, and was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study in London under the great English pianist Sir Clifford Curzon. He launched a distinguished career that eventually led him to start a summer program for promising young pianists in our idyllic town, which slowly evolved into a chamber music program, then an orchestral program.
Today, the project at the Round Top Festival Institute is an internationally-acclaimed music program for aspiring young musicians and distinguished faculty. The grounds, known as Festival Hill, include 210 acres and house newly-built structures alongside impeccably-restored historic Texas buildings. Festival Concert Hall was intricately designed to fine-tune its natural acoustic properties without resorting to electronic enhancements, and the ceiling is suspended 12 feet below the building’s actual roof, creating a deeply resonant acoustical chamber — ideal for listening to classical music as it’s meant to be heard.
And what would the Festival Institute be without an annual music festival? For five weeks each summer, the performers and young artists in residence who comprise the Texas Festival Orchestra perform concerts each weekend while living on Festival Hill and rehearsing seven days a week under the direct tutelage of top professional musicians and conductors from around the world. For any fan of classical music, it’s a must-hear. And for fans of Central Texas, surrounding Fayette County will not disappoint — make a weekend of it by exploring the scenery, history, restaurants and lodging that make it all well worth the journey.
For more information on the Round Top Music Festival Concert Series, including schedules and tickets, visit the Festival Institute’s event page.