CAROGA LAKE – A chance encounter on an airplane five years ago led actress and singer Alyson Stoner to agree to appear at the third annual Caroga Lake Music Festival.
The festival’s founder and Artistic Director Kyle Barrett Price, 21, was a high school senior when he met Stoner, known for her roles in “Cheaper By the Dozen” and Disney Channel film series “Camp Rock” and “Step Up,” on an plane ride from Phoenix, Ariz., to Burbank, Calif. Price, a native of Worthington, Ohio, was headed to L.A. for four weeks for an internship program through his high school.
“I was getting on the plane, and I didn’t really understand – it was really early in the morning – what was going on, but there was flashes all around me, people taking pictures,” Price said recently, while taking a break from festival rehearsals at the Caroga Chapel. “And I happened to be the only one on the plane with [these] celebrity softball teams that just got out of this event in Phoenix.”
Price ended up sitting next to Stoner, although he didn’t recognize her at first. He struck up a conversation when he saw Stoner working on her laptop in Garageband, a Mac-based music recording program.
“I was really struggling with Garageband, because I was trying to figure out the most basic things,” Price said. “And so I kind of just put my computer over on her, and I was like, ‘Can you help me?'”
From that conversation, Price performed cello on the song “Almost Home” on Stoner’s 2011 EP “Beat the System.” When Price told Stoner about his chamber music festival in Caroga Lake, Stoner was “intrigued.” She’s scheduled to sing at Caroga Chapel on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 8, alongside the festival’s string players.
The festival was scheduled to kick off Saturday at the chapel with featured vocalist and former “American Idol” contestant Cara Samantha. Other dates include Aug. 13 at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Johnstown, where the musicians will perform a requiem Price composed for his aunt, Connie Barrett, who died in December; and Aug. 15 at the chapel, where faculty from Cleveland Institute of Music and Iowa State University will be featured. The festival will conclude with two performances Aug. 16 and 17 at a location to be determined in New York City. All the shows are free.
Price, who this spring graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Music, has spent his summers with his family at his grandmother Joyce Barrett’s West Caroga Lake house since his birth. The Barretts were originally from Burnt Hills, Saratoga County, where Price’s grandfather, Richard Barrett, was a priest at Calvary Episcopal Church.
“We’d always played either chamber music or bridge at our house,” said Deborah Price, Kyle’s mother, who plays viola and runs a program in Ohio called Chamber Music Connection for young musicians. “My brother’s now a professional bridge player, and we’re a bunch of professional chamber musicians.”
Kyle and his sister, Stephanie, who also plays viola, were introduced to chamber and classical music early on, traveling to music festivals in Saratoga Springs. The two naturally picked up instruments and began performing at church services in the area during their summer vacations.
About a year before the first Caroga Lake Music Festival in 2012, Kyle began thinking of a way to get his musician friends together from around the world to experience the lake. He had performed at Caroga Chapel before, and obtained permission from its manager, Jack DeWeese, to hold a concert.
“Kyle and I were like, this place is some – there’s something here when you’re practicing, with the lake,” Stephanie said. “There’s a different energy and it’s really amazing, and basically, Kyle was like, ‘What if we got our friends here?'”
The first year the festival consisted of one show at the chapel, along with a New York City performance. About 60 people attended that first performance, according to Kyle. Last year, Kyle organized two shows at the chapel.
“So the last concert at Caroga, which is the one I remember the most, there was like 190 people in this little place,” Kyle said. “… We opened up the windows, opened the doors, and people were watching from outside. People were literally putting their heads in the windows and watching. It was crazy.”
Counting the Prices, this year’s festival will feature 35 instrumentalists, along with Stoner, Samantha and guest singer Hannah Fentriss. The musicians hail from places across the country – New York City, Long Island, Los Angeles, Illinois, Massachusetts and Florida are all represented, among other locations. One performer is even flying in from Japan, while another hails from South Korea.
“I would just text [Kyle] a couple weeks prior to coming here, asking a bunch of questions, because I still wasn’t really sure what was going to happen,” said Ken Kubota, 23, a cellist who lives in Iowa and is playing for the first time at the festival. “But yeah, I get here and it’s much nicer than I anticipated. The lake is so beautiful.”
Cellist Zachary Preucil, 23, of Chicago, has known Kyle for two years. He’s also performing at the festival for the first time. He said the experience rehearsing and the lake atmosphere have been great so far.
“I feel it’s almost conducive to productivity that way, because when you’re at school, if you want to take a break, you’re stuck in some smelly city block sometimes,” Preucil said. “And here, you can just go out on the dock and whatever, and that actually, I think, is helpful, and it’s more refreshing.”
The musicians, who will stay anywhere from one week to the full three weeks of the festival, are sharing homes with some local residents. Most are staying with Kyle at Joyce Barrett’s house on the lake.
“The first year, there were eight people, and I thought, ‘Wow.’ The second, there were 14,” Barrett said with a laugh. “And this year, they tell me, there could be as many as 24 the third week, and even 26.”
Barrett said she is happy to open her home to her grandchildren’s friends during the festival.
“I admire what they’re doing,” Barrett said. “In all, I’m amazed that my children have attained such success. It’s amazing, and they’re good people, they’re not just successful in what they do. … And that pleases me very much.”