Editorial: Castleton spirit

Zombies and vampires, according to all the media buzz, are everywhere this summer – except Rappahannock County. Here we have world-acclaimed musicians and artists, plus their most talented understudies. Yes, we have the Castleton Festival, now celebrating its fifth year, running July 3-28.

Although created from Lorin and Dietlinde Maazel’s international vision, the Castleton Festival is very much a local affair. The Maestro and his wife are not just “blow-in’s” but, rather, are deeply committed to the special community that is Rappahannock County. This unity of purpose is what is becoming known as “the Castleton spirit.”

A fitting example is the composition of the newly announced Castleton Festival board of directors, almost half of whom hang their hats in Rappahannock County: Nina O. May; J. Clifford Miller, III; Alexia Morrison; Nedra G. Smith; John Fox Sullivan; Susan Strittmatter; Christopher R. Wall; Cheri Woodard.

Of these board members, Howard Bender, the Festival’s director of institutional advancement and external relations, says: “They are generous, passionate ambassadors of the Castleton Spirit and are now intimately involved in the process of supporting the vision of the Maestro and Dietlinde Maazel as a sustainable business model. This model includes an initiative  to increase a ‘Virginia-centric relevancy in our community’ by educating and giving special access to our students and businesses through outreach events facilitated by the new board.”

An example of such outreach events was Sunday’s ribbon-cutting at Virginia Chutney, where five of the Festival’s CATS (Castleton Artists Training Seminar) singers showed up for a surprise performance. CATS is now an accredited college course that selects about 50 students each summer for a rigorous eight-week course in singing, acting, movement, languages and career management.

This is one of the many ways that the Castleton Festival is different from other summer festivals around the country – and why, as its residents already know, Rappahannock is blessed.

Walter Nicklin