MPW Orchestra rehearsal

The Penn’s Woods Music Festival is a summer professional orchestral and chamber music festival begun in 1986 and offered in its current format, since 2008. The festival was begun to provide something the community did not have - a professional classical music festival in the summer. The festival, with a community advisory board, is supported by generous contributions from community volunteers and patrons. 

PWMF is a wonderful collaboration with outstanding professional musicians from the area and from across the nation performing beside Penn State School of Music Faculty, alumni, and exceptional students.  These extraordinary forces gather for two weeks of high intensity music making that is the highlight of the concert year. PWMF provides the most exciting orchestral experiences in the region - standing ovations are certainly a frequent occurrence.


Mission Statement

The mission of Penn’s Woods Music Festival is to offer outstanding chamber music and orchestral performances by professional musicians. Supported jointly by Penn State and the surrounding community, the festival seeks to inspire a passion for classical music through innovative concert programming, educational activities, and informal events.

Vision Statement

Inspiring a passion for live music in this and future generations.


History (1986-2002)

In launching Music at Penn’s Woods in 1986, School of Music Director Lyle Merriman expressed hope that the festival would become a centerpiece of central Pennsylvania’s summer art offerings. Markand Thakar was music director during the first two seasons. The concerts were in Schwab Auditorium with the chamber music recitals in Eisenhower Chapel and, later, in the Music Building Recital Hall. The 1987 season offered four, instead of three, concerts. It was also the year of the first guest conductor. When Markand Thakar left Penn State, the guest conductor of 1987, James Paul, succeeded him as the musical director of the festival for 1988. In 1989 Douglas Meyer became music director and invited James Paul to return as guest conductor.

Expansion was steady and the programming extensive. The orchestra was growing not only in number but also in proficiency. The orchestra outgrew the stage of Schwab Auditorium. To accommodate the larger orchestra, a move was made to Eisenhower Auditorium. During Meyer’s tenure, the Escher Quartet was in residence for several years, bringing a new perspective to solo artists and a new dimension to the chamber music. The Alard Quartet, based at Penn State, had been a part of the early years, but now, with the addition of the Escher Quartet, the student musicians had additional coaching.

Then, from 1994 to 1999, Pu-Qi Jiang served as music director and conductor. Jiang made an immediate impact. He often included female conductors and young composers as well as new or seldom-played works by American composers, plus world premieres.

In 2000, the orchestra was honored to perform at the National Governors Association Annual Meeting. Conducted by renowned Philadelphia Orchestra resident conductor Luis Biava, the orchestra featured the United States Army Chorus in a concert of music composed by Aaron Copland to close out the NGA meeting.

2001 marked the arrival of Gerardo Edelstein as music director. A native of Argentina, Edelstein is one of America’s talented new conductors. Maestro Edelstein has received ovations for his skillful conducting of the orchestra. There have been many changes over the years. The locally assembled chamber group was an international assemblage. Musicians from the United States, Brazil, China, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Croatia, Korea, Russia, and Hungary played and lived together for one month each summer.

In 2003, the orchestra festival was suspended due to budget cuts at the University.

History (2008-present)

In 2008, the orchestra festival was reinstated.



Quick facts: 

  • A world class roster of conductors and musicians has performed at the festival.
  • MPW has presented two world premiere compositions and several U.S. premiere compositions.