Since the early days of the twentieth century groups and families gathered in and around the Lewis Auditorium at George Williams College to enjoy live performances throughout the summer. Built in 1890, the building was originally known as the Tabernacle and was later renamed Lewis Auditorium.

In 1950 a group of community citizens gathered at College Camp to form the George Williams College Summer Music Association, and in 1951 the idea was created for Music by the Lake. It was the beginning of 19 seasons featuring some of the world's finest artists. The 1951 season included appearances by De Paur's Infantry Chorus, Williams Kappel, Elena Nikolaidi and Three Young Artists in Lewis Auditorium.

From 1951 to 1969 artists performed for enthusiastic lake community audiences such as violinist Isaac Stern, baritone Robert Merrill, pianist Christoph Eschenbach, bass-baritone Williams Warfield, Chad Mitchell Trio with John Denver, trumpeter Doc Severinsen, New York City Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Due to escalating costs, the summer festival went quiet after the 1969 season.


In 2001 Music by the Lake was revived, this time in a new space. A pavilion tent, a gift from the Allyn Foundation, was erected in place of the Lewis Auditorium. The first performance featured Grammy award-winner soprano Sylvia McNair. For a number of years, the Allyn Pavilion showcased artists such as The Irish Tenors, the 5th Dimension, Maureen McGovern, Glenn Miller Orchestra, Ramsey Lewis Trio, Duke Ellington Orchestra and the New Sousa Band. Opera was first offered in 2002 with a young artist performance of Puccini's La Bohème and has become a staple of each year's season.

By the fifth season, average attendance reached more than 6,500 concertgoers and has continued to rise over the years. Community and university leaders responded with a campaign to build a permanent facility for the growing summer festival. With a leadership gift from the Ferro Family Foundation and contributions from more than 130 other individuals and groups, the new permanent summer venue, the Ferro Pavilion was dedicated in 2008. The outdoor performance space provides concertgoers an up-close, open-air musical experience with breath-taking views of the water.

World class summer seasons continue to create memories of Music by the Lake today. A summer tradition, the outdoor festival features big band, classical, musical theater, family shows, opera and classic rock concerts throughout the summer. Recent years have included performances by Kenny Loggins, Michael Bolton, Peter Frampton, Cheap Trick, Thomas Hampson, Doobie Brothers and members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as well as productions of  Strauss's Die Fledermaus and Puccini's Madama Butterfly.

View a list of performances from 1951-1969
View a list of performances from 2001-2016