The Pine Mountain Music Festival (PMMF) was founded in Iron Mountain, Michigan, in 1991 by Laura Jean Deming, a cellist and member of the orchestra of Lyric Opera of Chicago. That first season was primarily chamber music, but by 1992 opera was being produced. The festival primarily runs from mid to late June in Keweenaw, Marquette, and Dickinson counties in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
The PMMF is one of only a few summer festivals nationwide producing a season of professional opera, chamber music, and other genres of music, including folk and jazz - it is the only one to tour all its acts in multiple cities hundreds of miles apart. The festival has presented 36 operas, including three commissioned world premieres: The Children of the Keweenaw (2001), The Diaries of Adam and Eve (2007), and Rockland (2011). It also premiered a new string quartet, Oday Daywayigun (2010). Educational components have been an integral part of the festival: the Orchestra Fellowship Program (1994-2007; 2015); the Resident Opera Artist Program (1998-2015); the in-school program OPERAtion Imagination (2002-2014); and UPstarts, a program providing performance opportunities for emerging young artists of the Upper Peninsula (2012-current).
The festival received the Governor’s Award for Arts and Culture in 1998 and the Great Lakes Community Arts Award from the Michigan Association of Community Arts Agencies in 2003. The festival earned the first direct grant ever awarded to an Upper Peninsula arts organization by the National Endowment for the Arts for The Children of the Keweenaw (2001).
The festival is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. Its artistic director is Joel Neves, director of orchestral activities at Michigan Tech and national president-elect of the College Orchestra Directors Association (CODA) (2016-current). Past artistic directors include Donald Schleicher, director of orchestral studies at University of Illinois (2015); Joshua Major, head of opera studies at New England Conservatory of Music (2003-2014); Christopher Mattaliano, general director at Portland Opera (2001-2002); and Laura Jean Deming, cellist, Lyric Opera of Chicago (1991-2000).
The festival has a small and dedicated year-round staff (including executive director, Douglas Day) and has been blessed with large numbers of dedicated volunteers.