Historical Beginnings: Music by the Lake 1951-1969
A group of community citizens gathered at College Camp at the end of the 1950 season and formed the George Williams College Summer Music Association and a Music by the Lake program. It was the beginning of 17 seasons featuring some of the world's finest artists at the time.
In the early years of the summer music series, performances were held in the building originally known as the Tabernacle. The building was built during the summer of 1890 and was later renamed the Lewis Auditorium.
The inaugural season in 1951 featured the De Paur Infantry Chorus, Williams Kappel, Elena Nikolaidi, and Three Young Artists. Issac Stern performed at Music by the Lake in 1952 and Robert Merrill appeared in 1955.
The seventh season of Music by the Lake featured Rise Stevens of the Metropolitan Opera, the Fine Arts Quartetter, the Chicago Swedish Glee Club, Edward Gordon, pianist, Gold and Rizdale, duo pianists, and William Warfield, baritone.
Doc Severinson played both classical and popular selections accompanied by a professional instrumental group at the 15th annual Music by the Lake in 1965. The following year, John Denver appeared as a member of The Mitchell Trio and Sherill Milnes was featured.
Escalating costs and waning support triggered the decision to suspend the summer music festival in 1968.
Reviving a Tradition: Music by the Lake 2001-Today
Music by the Lake was revived in 2001. The Allyn Pavilion for the Performing Arts was constructed on the same site as the Lewis Auditorium, which was removed in 1998. The first season features Sylvia McNair, soprano, the Chicago Symphonic Pops Orchestra, and a Young Artists Performance. Opera became a mainstay of each season in 2002 with a young artist performance of Puccini's "La Bohème."
As the revitalized music series celebrated its fifth season in 2005, average attendance reached 6,500 people annually. Sponsorship gifts reached an all-time high this year as well. Successful seasons continued with attendance continuing to climb.
Community and university leaders began a campaign to develop a permanent seasonal facility to accommodate the growing festival. A leadership gift from Michael and Jacky Ferro and contributions from more than 130 other individuals and groups resulted in a new summer venue in 2008, The Ferro Pavilion.
Recent seasons have included performances by Kenny Loggins, Michael Bolton, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Thomas Hampson and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as productions of "Die Fledermaus" and "Madama Butterfly."