David McCormick, a native of Charlottesville, is the new executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017. The festival will be June 11-18 at Eastern Mennonite University and in other venues in Harrisonburg. (Photos by Andrew Strack)

Charlottesville-based musician and educator David McCormick leads Bach Festival into 25th year

When David McCormick was five years old, his mother took him to the opera “La Bohéme.” He fell asleep. Unlike most 5-year-olds, though, he was upset when he woke up and found out how much he had missed. And in the years since, McCormick hasn’t let much in the world of music pass him by—studying, teaching, practicing and performing in a variety of settings.

He will continue his journey and passion in that field with a new call as the executive director of the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival, based at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

“David clearly brings a tremendous amount of energy to this position,” says Dr. Michael L. Allain, vice president of the festival’s advisory board. “If his success with [musical group] Three Notch’d Road in Charlottesville is any indication, he will surely bring a fresh and lively vision to the Bach Festival.”

McCormick, a native of nearby Charlottesville, Virginia, says he attended his first Bach Festival concert in Harrisonburg this summer and fell in love.

“From that brief encounter, one concert, I saw this is a festival with a lot of heart,” McCormick says. “It’s a great opportunity to join a festival that embraces what I think is some of the best music out there. I’m pleased to be a part of it.”

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David McCormick plays with musical groups Three Notch’d Road and Alkemie, based in Charlottesville and New York, respectively.

There is a “tradition of great Bach festivals around the country,” McCormick says, and he hopes to use that network to build up the Harrisonburg event, “giving it more of a regional or even national reputation.

“I think there’s a real potential in this area to encourage tourists to be part of this festival,” he adds.

McCormick brings a diverse background to the position. He holds a degree in medieval Renaissance and Baroque music from Case Western University in Cleveland, Ohio, and three degrees—in music education, violin performance and chamber music—from Shenandoah University.

He also performs medieval music on the vielle (a violin-like stringed instrument) with New York-based Alkemie and founded the Charlottesville-based baroque music group Three Notch’d Road. His work has been primarily as an educator, teaching violin and viola students in the Charlottesville and Waynesboro areas. He says he plans to bring that educator’s perspective to the festival, as well, helping audiences more deeply understand the music they’re hearing.

McCormick follows Mary Kay Adams, who served as executive director for the past decade. Adams, a flutist, has also played with the festival since its beginning and plans to continue in that role.

Another key member of the festival leadership, artistic director and conductor Ken Nafziger, will continue in his role. McCormick says that Nafziger’s presence was a factor in his decision to accept the executive director job.

“One of the strong points that brought me here was definitely Ken,” McCormick says. “I’ve seen from afar that his leadership of this festival is unbelievable. He’s the heart and soul of this festival. I worked with him professionally a few years ago, and he’s just such a great musician and a great human. He embodies a lot of the values that are important to me.”

Nafziger, professor of music at EMU, had similarly good things to say about McCormick. “I’m delighted that David has accepted the position of executive director for the Bach Festival. His broad wealth of experience in management and in performance will find a warm welcome within our organization as we prepare for our 25th season and beyond. I look forward to working with him: as a planner, as a dreamer of the future, and as a performer.”

McCormick enters his duties at a particular noteworthy time, as the Shenandoah Valley Bach Festival celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2017. The festival will be June 11-18 in Harrisonburg.