The Songs at Mirror Lake Music Series (SAML)...
is now counted as one of the highlights of the summer tourist season. But it was not always so. This year the free seven-week concert series will be celebrating its 13th season of bringing an eclectic group of performers from a variety of genres to the beautiful setting of Mid's Park on Main Street in Lake Placid, New York. So let's take a look at the history of this hugely successful, all volunteer, community effort.
Although it may be hard to imagine now, there was not a vibrant music scene in Lake Placid in the early 2000's. While the Lake Placid Sinfonietta was in existence and the Lake Placid Arts Center hosted the rare musical performance, there were not any venues where contemporary live music was readily accessed. Into this vacuum stepped a small group of dedicated volunteers to remedy the situation. Led by Chairperson Bill Billerman and Vice-Chair Katie Million, this group of hardy souls set about fundraising for a weekly free concerts series.
The concept from the beginning was to provide a wide ranging menu of musical styles...
and concentrate on emerging artists that were yet unknown to the wider population. The group also emphasized a regional and local flavor to provide these worthy musicians an avenue to attract new fans. While the series enjoys widespread community support now, in the first couple years funding trickled in and SAML Treasurer Val Rogers kept the group informed as each new local business contributed.
The series got a huge boost when the Uihlein Foundation donated $5,000. This was fitting as the venue for the concerts was right on Main Street at Mid's Park. Mildred "Mid" Uihlein was instrumental in saving this open space and creating a park for the village in the 1940's. Just as Mid and her friends raised funds to preserve this beautiful property, now the SAML Committee and volunteers led by tireless fundraiser Jen Ledger resulted in further success with increased donations and sponsorships.
As with any new venture it took time for the series to gain traction. Attendance at early shows was sometimes sparse and weather was always a concern. The original bandshell, named in honor of longtime Sinfionetta conductor Paul White, was not weather proof and in heavy rain the concerts were held in the St Eustace Episcopal Church across the street. One can only imagine the confusion of unsuspecting tourists as they wandered past the church and heard the sounds of a rock band coming from inside.
a bigger stage, extended roof, better acoustics...
The Village of Lake Placid undertook major renovations to the park and again with the support of the Uihlein Foundation dedicated the beautiful new green space as Mids' Park on July 4, 2005. As popularity of the Tuesday evening concerts increased, even bad weather attendance outgrew the church and rain events moved to the Lake Placid Center for the Arts. Subsequent fundraising resulted in construction of a new and improved bandshell, which includes a bigger stage, extended roof, better acoustics, retaining wall along the water, as well as an aesthetically pleasing design. Now the shows can go on rain or shine and many bands remark that it is one of the most unique and scenic venues they have ever played.
The strategy of featuring up and coming musicians has proven to be a good one as many of the artists that have appeared for free at Songs at Mirror Lake have gone on to great success in their careers. In fact, several now host their own festivals and command high ticket prices for their shows. Some the notable acts that have graced the SAML stage are Assembly of Dust, Rubblebucket, the Infamous Stringdusters, Ryan Montbleau, Greensky Bluegrass, Sister Sparrow, JJ Grey, Anders Osborne, Martin Sexton, Lukas Nelson, Amy Helm and Rusted Root.
The support of the local business community has been amazing and the many dedicated volunteers involved...
Over the years, the entire community has come to enjoy and look forward to the Tuesday evening concerts. The support of the local business community has been amazing and the many dedicated volunteers involved with putting on each week's show have become like family. But the entire effort would not be possible without the sponsors that provide the funds to bring in these great musicians. Particular thanks go out to the long time series title sponsor The Pines Inn and presenting sponsor Adirondack By Owner. But all the businesses and individuals who help keep this series alive are well appreciated. As the concerts' popularity expanded, it has been gratifying to see restaurants and pubs around the village also begin to feature live music at their venues. Many evenings one can go from the SAML concert right to another live music show. And other neighborhood communities have started their own local concerts as well.
This all just goes to show that a group of determined individuals can make a real difference in their community. With the support of the public and local businesses, Songs at Mirror Lake has spurred a burgeoning live music scene that is a true asset for our populace and the thousands of visitors to the region. Now in its second decade, SAML expects to keep on rocking on Tuesday nights for many summers to come!
For more information on the Songs at Mirror Lake Music Series or to become a sponsor/donor please visit the SAML Facebook page or www.songsatmirrorlake.org.