Music by the Lake: Another Star-Studded Season on Williams Bay

The beloved tradition near Geneva Lake continues with an action-packed lineup for families and friends.

Music by the Lake photo

There’s something glorious about the breathtaking natural beauty of Geneva Lake in Wisconsin. As an added bonus, the annual Music by the Lake concert series provides an unparalleled experience that keeps patrons coming back year after year.

The Music by the Lake annual summer concerts are held on the campus of George Williams College of Aurora University (GWC) in Williams Bay, Wis., a property that sits right along the waterfront. The popular festival is part of GWC’s ongoing commitment to provide a personal connection with the campus and its community.

This year’s exceptional talent lineup is sure to wow patrons. It follows the classic features of the past with a focus on classical music, musical theater and contemporary entertainment. Music by the Lake is carefully structured to be appealing for people of all ages who love the arts, music and dance.

Six dates from July 16 through Aug. 14 feature extraordinary entertainers, including the season’s kickoff on July 16 with American stage, screen and television actress and singer Kristin Chenoweth. She’s best known for award-winning performances in “Wicked,” “The West Wing,” “Pushing Daisies” and “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Chenoweth is followed by the Joffrey Academy of Dance’s “Rita Finds Home” on July 17. The 4 p.m. show is the Joffrey’s new family-friendly ballet for young audiences, and it’s done in collaboration with Miami City Ballet. The story follows Rita, a young artist who paints and dreams of one day living in the big city despite the lush, tropical island where she lives.

Up next, the Irish Tenors perform with the celebrated Chicago Philharmonic on July 24 at 4 p.m. The famed trio, always thrilling audiences worldwide with their enchanting Irish repertoire, team up with some of the highest-level classical musicians performing in the Chicago area.

Then, Michael Feinstein, the Ambassador of the Great American Songbook, pays tribute to the legendary Judy Garland on her 100th birthday year in his “Get Happy!” show on July 30, at 7:30 p.m.

Air Supply visits Williams Bay on Saturday, Aug. 6, at 7:30 p.m. Named by Australia’s Herald Sun newspaper as one of the Top 5 “Greatest Aussie Bands” of all time, this duo help to close out the summer with some of their biggest hits.

To conclude the dynamic 2022 season, the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of American Prize-winning conductor David Anderson, performs on Sunday, Aug. 14, at 4 p.m.

“Our lineup was officially announced on May 10 with public ticket sales beginning on May 31,” says Meg Howes, senior vice president for advancement at Aurora University. “We are especially looking forward to presenting a brand-new work by the Joffrey Academy of Dance this year.”

Getting together the artist lineups each year takes time and collaboration.

“The search for artists typically begins in the fall,” says Tom McReynolds, director of business operations at George Williams College. “We have a network of agents who work with us on artist availability and routing. It’s always a bit of a puzzle, but the lineup starts coming together after the holidays and in time for us to announce each spring.”

Between the high caliber of entertainment offered at Music by the Lake and the incredible amenities offered throughout, it’s a winning experience for anyone who attends the concerts. The venue has a variety of idyllic settings where patrons can enjoy entertainment. The open-air Ferro Pavilion is a traditional covered venue with reserved seating under shelter and a terrace that has physical seats but no cover. Concertgoers can also opt for the expansive lawn seating, where they can share a picnic and enjoy the overall atmosphere of the surroundings. Events are held rain or shine. A casual and tasteful dress code and comfy shoes fit the environment, which includes beautiful rolling hills.

Concertgoers can purchase snacks and bottled beverages at the concession booth, and alcohol may be consumed in designated areas.

Free parking for Music on the Lake is available at nearby Williams Bay High School with shuttle buses running between parking and the music venue. To make Music by the Lake a joyful occasion for everyone, wheelchair-accessible shuttles for those with special assistance are also available.

Like any other entertainment venue, it takes many people to help patrons have a wonderful experience at Music by the Lake.

“We couldn’t do Music by the Lake without our volunteers,” adds Howes. “We usually rely on more than 100 people at each event, mostly community members and university employees. They take tickets, drive golf carts and audience shuttles, help people find their seats, give directions and so much more.”

Music by the Lake traces its roots to 1950, when a group of community citizens formed the George Williams College Summer Music Association. From 1951 to 1969, a wide range of notable artists performed along Geneva Lake, including violinist Isaac Stern, trumpeter Doc Severinsen, John Denver, the New York City Opera and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

In 2001, Music by the Lake was revived with a new energy and a new pavilion tent space. Like a magnet, it continued to attract top entertainers and a large following of loyal patrons. More blockbusters performed, including such prestigious names as Ramsey Lewis Trio, Duke Ellington Orchestra, the 5th Dimension, and The Irish Tenors, to name a few.

Average attendance increased to more than 6,500 concertgoers, and that number continues to grow.

Donors have been the lifeblood of Music by the Lake. A leadership gift from the Ferro Family Foundation and contributions from more than 130 other individuals and groups were behind the Ferro Pavilion, which was dedicated in 2008. This outdoor performance space still provides patrons an up-close, open-air musical experience with awe-inspiring views of the water. Last summer saw the expansion of the Allyn Plaza to include the Suncast Patio. This new space offers a concession area with tables and chairs – and a great view of the waterfront.

The namesake of George Williams College of Aurora University is Sir George Williams, who founded the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in London, England, in 1844. The current George Williams College campus was the vision of I.E. Brown, William Lewis and Robert Weidensall, YMCA leaders commissioned to develop the movement in the western United States. Sitting before a campfire on the shores of Geneva Lake, the trio conceived of a permanent, professional YMCA training camp in 1886. With tremendous growth, the training camp expanded to Chicago in 1890 and George Williams College grew from these roots.

Today, the scenic campus is a permanent fixture in many families’ summer itineraries. It’s a go-to place for relaxing, making new memories and enjoying top-notch entertainment by the water.

To purchase tickets for Music by the Lake, visit or call (262) 245-8501.

“Since our revival in 2001, Music by the Lake has become a Geneva Lake summer tradition,” says McReynolds. “Whether sitting under the pavilion or picnicking on the lawn, patrons often describe attending a concert as a magical experience. Music lovers can find the best in live entertainment right here in Williams Bay without having to travel very far. We have numerous ticket buyers who have been attending since 2001 and are often some of the very first to call for tickets each year.”

This Year’s Performers
• Kristin Chenoweth
July 16, 7:30 p.m.
• Joffrey Academy of Dance: ‘Rita Finds Home’
July 17, 4 p.m.
• The Irish Tenors with Chicago Philharmonic
July 24, 4 p.m.
• Michael Feinstein: Get Happy!
July 30, 7:30 p.m.
• Air Supply
Aug. 6, 7:30 p.m.
• Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra
Aug. 14, 4 p.m.