A select group of music students from top universities and conservatories all over the world found themselves embraced by the Round Top community as they studied, performed and enjoyed small town Texas country life for six weeks during the 50th annual Summer Festival Institute at Festival Hill. 

The students, carefully selected by the Round Top Festival Institute from a pool of roughly 500 applicants for the prestigious program, became honorary residents upon their arrival in early June, staying through the end of the festival in mid-July. One goal of the program beyond an intense education is to give students a quiet place to focus on music and the natural world.

They hike and walk the 200-plus acres of the Festival Hill campus and some can even be found practicing music under the sprawling oak trees. 

The group of nearly 90 students also take time to explore the town center and connect with locals beyond the stage.

“In a small town like Round Top, the locals can get to know them,” says Pat Johnson of Festival Hill. “Round Top Coffee Shop offered specials throughout the program and sponsored a Sunday picnic for the students and staff.

“The ladies there knew a lot of students by their first names before the end of it. We have great support from the community.”  

Royers Cafe is among the generous supporters of the Summer Festival, providing its famous pies to the Festival Hill kitchen throughout the six-week program. The famed Round Top restaurant also hosted a special fried chicken picnic dinner for the students and staff at Henkel Square. 

The Summer Festival concert series also draws locals to the town center. Concert-goers frequented Duo Modern restaurant at Market Hill where fresh, healthy food is served buffet style. The ability to zip through the line for a glorious chef-crafted meal and get to performances on time was a boon for ticket holders, who flocked to the local gem to grab quick, hearty meals before the Festival Hill shows. 

A total of 22 concerts were performed by the students and guest conductors at Festival Hill’s renowned hall this summer. The annual Young Persons Concert, which includes an “instrument petting zoo” where children and families are invited on stage to visit with the musicians and touch and try the instruments, is always a big draw. The Texas Tribute Patriotic Concert was a sell out, and many students’ families were among the nearly packed house for the closing concert, which included a performance by Festival Hill founder and pianist James Dick. 

“As we celebrate our 50th anniversary, the success of each festival is so important and 2022 was no different,” Dick says, reflecting on the season. “It was perhaps even a milestone as we had so many situations we had never faced before and came through with flying colors.

“Unlike some festivals this summer, we didn’t lose or cancel any concerts and the attendance at our final concert was almost a full house.” 

Festival Hill founder and pianist James Dick takes a bow with guest maestro

If you missed out on the Summer Festival performances this year, the summer 2023 Festival Hill schedule will be revealed in September. Students interested in participating in the Summer Festival Institute can find the application here

In the meantime, the music at Festival Hill is only on pause. The hall will roar back to life on August 27th when the Magnolia City Brass Band launches the August to April concert series. For more information or to get tickets, click here.