With a lineup of renowned performers in an electrifying atmosphere, this beloved summer series immerses listeners in a sensory journey. Find a preview of what to expect on Williams Bay this summer.
If you’re looking for an unforgettable outdoor summer experience, look no further than Music by the Lake. Nestled against the stunning backdrop of Wisconsin’s Geneva Lake, this outdoor music series weaves together a tapestry of engaging events and breathtaking natural beauty, offering an unparalleled summer experience.
Set in the open-air Ferro Pavilion, Music by the Lake takes patrons on a sensory journey, enveloping them in an electrifying atmosphere that leaves them wanting more. Featuring an eclectic lineup of big bands, classical music, musical theater, family programming and contemporary entertainment, this summer concert series on the campus of George Williams College (GWC) of Aurora University is part of the institution’s ongoing commitment to cultural presentations that connect campus and community.
“For the past 22 years, it’s been a summer tradition,” says Tom McReynolds, assistant vice president of GWC. “It’s really a part of the social calendar of the lake. We have people who plan their summers and weekends around it and have been coming since the beginning, so we’re happy that we’ve become that big a presence around here.”
This year’s lineup features entertainers who are sure to knock patrons’ socks off. From Broadway sensations to rock and country legends, this series appeals to music enthusiasts of all ages – including children, who get their own special performance.
The fun spans six dates from June 17 to July 29 and features extraordinary performers.
Kicking off the season on June 17 is the award-winning performer Linda Eder, who stole the show in Broadway’s 1997 run of the musical “Jekyll & Hyde.” Eder’s stop at Music by the Lake includes jazz piano virtuoso Billy Stritch, who served as Liza Minnelli’s musical director and confidant for many years.
Eder and Stritch are followed on June 25 by five-time Grammy nominee Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players. A new face to Music by the Lake, Roberts brings two decades of experience in this special afternoon appearance that’s dedicated to children and their families. The author of three children’s books has made a hallmark of his catchy melodies and thought-provoking lyrics.
Up next, Williams Bay welcomes award-winning country music icon Martina McBride on July 8. With more than 23 million album sales, 20 Top 10 singles and six chart-topping No. 1 hits, McBride brings with her a performance patrons won’t soon forget.
Then, the Lake Geneva Symphony Orchestra returns for its annual summertime concert on July 16. Under the direction of The American Prize-winning conductor David Anderson, the hometown favorite immerses listeners in a musical journey through the United States. Anderson plans to take the audience from Broadway’s “Chicago” to Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” with additional musical stops in Oklahoma, California and other favorites spots.
Classic rock band The Guess Who takes the stage on July 22. Best known for their 1970 album “American Woman,” the legendary Canadian band promises a mix of early hits and newer tunes, all of them emotionally charged and highly engaging.
Finally, as the summer season closes, step back in time with BritBeat, a Beatles tribute band that brings a powerful and immersive concert experience on July 29. The group’s stunning attention to detail, multiple costume changes and exceptional musicianship transport audiences back to the musical zenith of Paul, John, George and Ringo.
This summer series has long been loved for its top-notch entertainment, but concertgoers also enjoy the fact that there are multiple picturesque settings where they can enjoy the show in style. The centerpiece of the venue is Ferro Pavilion, where there’s a stage and reserved seating under a permanent roof. Just outside is the terrace, for those who want a little open sky with their show. Beyond that is the lawn seating, where many patrons soak up the atmosphere with a bring-your-own picnic.
Not only does Music by the Lake provide a stunning backdrop with rolling hills and a casual dress code, but it also offers a variety of refreshments right on site. Concession stands offer snacks, ice cream and bottled drinks, while designated areas allow for alcohol consumption.
Parking is a breeze, with free spots available at nearby Williams Bay High School and shuttle buses providing easy transportation. Wheelchair-accessible options are available for those who need them.
To purchase tickets for Music by the Lake, visit musicbythelake.com or call (262) 245-8501.
Music by the Lake traces its roots to the early 1900s when families gathered at GWC’s Lewis Auditorium for live music during the summer. It became an enshrined tradition in 1951, when the newly formed George Williams College Summer Music Association launched a formal music series. For 19 seasons, the college showcased distinguished acts like Isaac Stern, John Denver and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, but rising costs forced it to go quiet after the 1969 season.
Then, in 2001, GWC revived Music by the Lake in a new pavilion tent gifted by the Allyn Foundation. The Allyn Pavilion showcased acts like The Irish Tenors and Ramsey Lewis Trio as audiences flocked to the shores of Geneva Lake. The permanent Ferro Pavilion was dedicated in 2008 with the help of contributions from more than 130 individuals and groups.
Today, Music by the Lake continues to offer a diverse range of performances, including recent appearances by the likes of Kenny Loggins, Michael Bolton and the Beach Boys.
McReynolds credits Music by the Lake’s continued success and growth to the unwavering support of its hundreds of volunteers, loyal sponsors, supporters and fans.
For McReynolds, who’s been with Music by the Lake since its revival in 2001, this concert series’ uniqueness lies within its natural surroundings and the opportunity to get up close and personal with world-renowned performers.
“It’s a very intimate venue and you get that proximity to the action that you wouldn’t get in a huge arena or theater,” he says. “And you can’t beat the setting. If all the stars align and the weather and music are good, it’s quite magical.”