Shooting the Breeze
by Katie Dickie Stavinoha

Lorie and I began our Shooting the Breeze session with James Dick on the stage of Festival Hill’s Concert Hall, which has been called the “most accoustically perfect performance hall in Texas.” Our early morning conversation is probably the closest I will ever get to “being on stage.”

He good naturedly answered our lightning round of questions, sharing his background and the history of Festival Hill, which he founded in 1971. It is one of the nation’s premier music education and performance centers. But, it is also a centerpiece of life in Round Top. Local schools use the world-class facilities for concerts, programs and graduation.

If you haven’t been on the grounds, go. They’re awe-inspiring. If you haven’t attended a concert or special event, go. It’s a memory worth adding to your collection.


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  • Just the Facts
    James “Jimmy” Dick
  • Concert Pianist, Founder Round Top Festival Hill Institute
  • DOB: June 5, 1940
  • Hometown: Hutchinson, Kan.
    University of Texas with special honors in piano in 1963


Shooting the Breeze with James Dick

What is your occupation? Concert pianist.

James Dick
James Dick is the founder of Round Top’s famous Festival Hill. The Kansas native has overseen the growth of this cultural treasure. He is our second Shooting the Breeze subject for the Round Top Register

What is your first childhood memory: Living on a farm, pulling turnips out of the ground, brushing them off and eating them.

What was your first paying job? We always had a vegetable garden. I sold vegetables door-to-door when I was very young. I remember bundling radishes—two bundles were 15 cents.

When I was six: My kindergarten teacher, Nadine Peterson, told my parents I loved the percussion instruments. My parents bought an old upright piano. I began taking lessons one month before I turned six.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]Favorite quote: Never dream the ordinary.[/pullquote]

Favorite author: I adore Barbara Tuchman, a historian whose works include The Guns of August.

What is your favorite movie? I don’t remember names usually. I like Tea With Mussolini—and am very fond of the actresses Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith…. I really love the theatre. When I was living in London, I had season tickets to the Old Vic and enjoyed the work of Sir Laurence Olivier, Sir John Gielgud and Lynn Redgrave.

What is your favorite vacation spot? If I had to get on a plane today I would go to Dubrovnik, Croatia. I also love London—since I lived there, I know how to get around.

What would I tell a 16-year-old Jimmy Dick? Work your passion. Be passionate and curious—don’t be ashamed of that.

Most famous person I’ve ever met: I’ve been fortunate to meet some notable people, but it was quite an honor to meet President and Mrs. Johnson when I returned from Russia as a Tchaikovsky prize winner.

First car: An old Buick—given to me by a teacher.

Last picture you took with your phone? I was on a bus in Maine, and I took a photo of the moon. It was huge.

What is the last thing you lost? My keys. I’m constantly misplacing them.

Favorite meal: When I first came to Texas, I learned about Mexican food. In fact, when I was thinking of moving to Round Top I was worried about whether there was good Mexican food available. There is now.  I love Indian food, too.

Why Round Top? When I began searching for a place to teach in the summer—concert musicians generally do not tour in the summers—I looked at the “other” Hill Country near Fredericksburg, Texas. I also thought about Kansas near Lindsborg.

Dalies Franz, my teacher at UT, knew Ima Hogg and of her interest in piano. I had met her on several occasions at my concerts. During a lunch at Bayou Bend, she asked me if I had heard of Round Top.

I hadn’t. But she introduced me to it—and the possibilities.

When we first started, we “borrowed” space in people’s homes in Round Top for pianos so the students could play. Then, we purchased six acres and a little school house at a foreclosure sale.

Today—210 acres, several buildings and a lot of bruises later—we’ve built a highly reputable place for young musicians to hone their skills and for audiences to enjoy their talents.

[pullquote width=”300″ float=”left”]When we first started, we “borrowed” space in people’s homes in Round Top for pianos so the students could play. Then, we purchased six acres and a little school house at a foreclosure sale.[/pullquote]

It’s hard to believe in 2020, we’ll celebrate Festival Hill’s 50th Anniversary. The people who came up with years, days, hours, minutes and seconds were twisted jokesters. There is so much to do and learn—and time is just so damn short….

If you have ideas for people for us to shoot the breeze with, let me know at [email protected] .