Innsbrook Institute music festival features Cantor Sharon Nathanson

Jewish musician, Rick Recht, leads a Shabbat service at Innsbrook on Friday, May 27.

By Leanne Ortbals, Jewish Light Intern

Daniel Kopp, a 2011 Ladue Horton Watkins High School graduate, looks forward to majoring in music performance at Rice University this fall. But before he gets there, Kopp, a cellist, is excited to be returning for his third summer to the 11th annual Innsbrook Institute Music Festival and Academy, which takes place June 10-18. Located in the hills of Warren County about 45 minutes from St. Louis, Innsbrook Institute unites music students with the best professional musicians in the world, giving young people like Kopp a life-changing opportunity.

“I chose to major in music in college because of my experience at Innsbrook,” said Kopp. “It really is paradise for a musician.”

This summer, Kopp joins 36 other students at the academy to learn a chamber music piece to perform at the festival. “The students come together on day one not knowing each other or the music and by the end of the week can pull it off really well,” Kopp, who is a member of Traditional Congregation, explained. “It’s a culmination of music and a privilege to play with the other students.”

Students like Kopp not only benefit from instruction with professional musicians, they also get to hear them play, along with other audience members. The festival portion of Innsbrook features nine nights of concerts, including performances by vocalist Erin Bode; pianists Natasha Paremski, Wendy Chen and Grace Fong; violinists Robert Lipsett and Erin Schreiber, and cellist Andres Diaz. Another highlight this year is an evening of Jewish music, featuring Congregation B’nai Amoona Cantor Sharon Nathanson, on Thursday, June 16.

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St. Louis Symphony Concertmaster David Halen is the artistic director of the Innsbrook Institute and many members of SLSO both teach at the academy and perform at the festival.

Like Kopp, Rockwood Summit High School alum Michael Gandlmayr is returning for his third summer at the academy. Gandlmayr just finished his freshman year as a violin performance major at Northwestern University. Both Gandlmayr and Kopp value the friendships formed within the small student population at Innsbrook.

“Innsbrook allows students to bond over music and get to know the professionals on a personal level. It’s great to see the professionals are real people,” said Gandlmayr, who feels that spending quality time with his friends and mentors at Innsbrook has inspired him to be the best musician possible.

Ron James, executive director of the festival and academy, recognizes that Innsbrook gives students the chance of a lifetime. “Students spend the day working on their craft and can see the best of the best up close.”

Cantor Nathanson agrees, adding that the astonishing line-up of musicians, hand-selected by Halen, is the main reason she is returning to the festival this summer. She will be performing with percussionist Steve Moretti, cellist Diaz and pianist Chen. “The musicians who are there have an energy that is hard to experience and find,” Nathanson said.

She also looks forward to “bringing Jewish music to an audience that may not be exposed to it.” Nathanson will perform a variety of Jewish music in an evening named “Vessels of Song,” which is the Hebrew translation for “klezmer.” The pieces will include influences from all over the world and showcase “history and soul combined,” as Nathanson put it.

James notes that Jewish music is not only confined to the festival. He explains that Innsbrook has begun to hold occasional Friday night services at the resort throughout the summer. On May 27, local Jewish musician Rick Recht led a Sabbath service on the porch of a 150-year-old farmhouse, which “combined the coming together of nature, spirituality and music,” said James.

“He did an amazing job,” James added, leading “a service that anyone could enjoy, Jewish or not.” Another Sabbath service is planned for the Friday of the Fourth of July weekend and James is looking into holding another one later in the summer.

For a complete concert schedule and more information, go to

The Innsbrook Music Festival and Academy

When: June 10-18

Where: Innsbrook Resort, Highway F, Warren County

How much: $20-$30; free to children 17 and under

More info: 636-928-3366 or