The Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival was born in 1994 of a remarkable relationship between religious and cultural institutions. A secular event, the Festival is sponsored by three religious institutions (representing Catholic, Jewish, and Protestant faiths) and Detroit Chamber Winds & Strings, a prominent musical ensemble that also provides administration for the Festival.
In two weeks each June, the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival presents nearly 20 concerts in southeastern Michigan. Many of these performances occur in the venues of the Festival's sponsors - St. Hugo of the Hills Catholic Church, Temple Beth El, and Kirk in the Hills Presbyterian Church. Additional concert locations have included the Detroit Institute of Arts, Kerrytown Concert House (Ann Arbor), SELIGMAN PERFORMING ARTS CENTER, Grosse Pointe Memorial Church, Art Gallery of Windsor and St. Thomas Aquinas Church in East Lansing. A special highlight was a performance at the Library of Congress, in Washington, D.C.
Pianist James Tocco has been Artistic Director of the Festival since its inception. A native Detroiter, Mr. Tocco has brought a rotating contingent of world-class musicians to the Festival, creating an event of national significance. The list of performers reads like a long "Who's who" in chamber music, including Jeremy Denk, Andrés and Roberto Díaz, Peter Oundjian, Paul Katz, Joseph Silverstein, Miriam Fried, Gilbert Kalish, Philip Setzer, Jonathan Biss, David Finckel, St. Lawrence Quartet, Peter Wiley, Miró Quartet, Wu Han, Fred Sherry, Ida and Ani Kavafian, and a host of additional musicians.
The Festival provides a major educational initiative to assist ensembles emerging to professional stature. The Shouse Institute brings three to four groups annually to Detroit from throughout the world for performances and coachings by Festival artists. These young artists attend the Festival tuition-free and receive complimentary lodging. Among the groups matriculating through this program are eighth blackbird, the Jupiter Quartet, the Parker Quartet, the Claremont Trio, the Pacifica Quartet, the Corigliano Quartet, the Ariel Quartet, the Enso Quartet, and the Jasper Quartet.
Dedication to artistic excellence has brought considerable attention to the Festival. Its concerts have been featured on NPR's Performance Today, and the Festival has released two compact discs on the Gasparo label, a disc on the Newport Classics label, and a disc on Albany Records. The national media has also paid the Festival favorable attention, with previous mention in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Travel and Leisure Magazine.
That same reputation has attracted considerable support in Detroit's business community. Recent Festival sponsors include Comerica, Honigman, HP, Keane, Compuware, the Edw. C. Levy Co., Plante Moran, and others.