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-June to mid-July in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Northeast Wisconsin, although alternate scheduling sometimes occurs.
The PMMF is one of only a few summer festivals nationwide producing a season of professional opera, chamber music, and other genres of music. Since the early years of the Festival, these productions have toured among communities 100 miles apart. The Festival has commissioned new works including two operas, The Children of the Keweenaw (2001), and Rockland (2011); a chamber opera The Diaries of Adam and Eve (2007); and a string quartet entitled Oday Daywayigun (2010). Throughout its history, educational components have been an integral part of the Festival: the Orchestra Fellowship Program (1994-2007); the Resident Opera Artist Program (1998-current); the in-school program OPERAtion Imagination (2002-current); 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; this was to commission The Children of the Keweenaw, which premiered in 2001.
The Festival is governed by a volunteer Board of Trustees. PMMF's Artistic Directors have included Donald Schleicher, Professor of Conducting and Director of Orchestral Studies at the University of Illinois (2015); Joshua Major (2003-2014), Head of Opera Studies at the New England Conservatory of Music; Christopher Mattaliano (2001-2003), General Director at Portland Opera; and Founder Laura Jean Deming (1991-2001), cellist, Lyric Opera Orchestra.
The Festival has a small and dedicated year-round staff, and has been blessed with large numbers of dedicated volunteers.