The Caroga Lake Miracle

A letter from Board member Hon. James Hopkins

Anonymous donor pledges $125,000 matching grant for construction of a performing arts venue

This is the Cinderella story about how 7 years ago Kyle Price, an 19-year-old cellist, got a few of his friends together to give free concerts while spending their summer at his grandmother’s house on Caroga Lake, population 518, in one of the most economically depressed areas of Upstate New York. They ambitiously called the concerts the Caroga Lake Music Festival (CLMF). They convinced the local Pastor to allow them to play at the Caroga Lake Chapel, where they would accept donations. Each summer the CLMF attracted an increasingly larger group of admirers and artists. Soon the number of musicians outgrew Kyle’s grandmother’s house and local families began to house and feed them.

Two years ago the CLMF became a tax-exempt 501(c)(3) charity, the Caroga Arts Collective. They ventured to Switzerland, Florida and Maine to give concerts. A year ago they revitalized the Nick Stoner Inn, a shuttered building in Caroga Lake that now houses some of the artists and has become a thriving restaurant/bar/inn/music venue. They also began to revitalize Sherman’s, a lakeside amusement park that had been closed for many years, by getting local community members to donate countless hours and services to make it a concert-worthy venue.

This summer Caroga Arts hosted a week-long InterArts Showcase, a multi-discipline symposium; the two week-long National Summer Cello Institute; and gave 40 concerts in Upstate New York, Vermont and Florida involving over 90 artists from around the world performing a variety of music genres, from classical music to gypsy jazz. The artists were housed and fed by over 80 local families. Sherman’s was the site of a revival series of free concerts including Sawyer Fredericks, 2015 The Voice winner; Matthew Whitaker, the 17 year old blind jazz pianist who has also performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theatre, and the Newport Jazz Festival; and Saundersfest, an event hosted by an incredibly talented local family that includes a Grammy-Award winning bassist, a backup singer for Chance the Rapper, and the CEO of L.L. Bean who is on the Board of Caroga Arts. The Caroga Arts Board is led by a successful local businessman and also includes a former dean of the Juilliard School; a nationally prominent trial lawyer and her husband, a retired federal judge; and several locally prominent supporters.

There have been exciting recent developments for Caroga Arts. An anonymous donor has pledged an $125,000 matching grant for construction of a performing arts venue, even though a capital construction drive has not yet been announced. At the same time the successful lawyer that made a conditional donation of Sherman’s to Caroga Lake four years ago has agreed to assist in allowing the Town of Caroga Lake to transfer Sherman’s to Caroga Arts so that it could become a first-class performing arts venue.

The Town of Caroga is holding a public hearing on the proposed transfer on September 18th at 7 p.m.

CLMF in The Leader-Herald

Read supporter Anita Potocar’s Letter to the Editor

“Amazing how they were able to transform the Caroga Chapel or the living room at Nick Stoner Inn, into concert halls, right here in Caroga Lake.”