Bringing chamber music to San Juan Island

For three nights in September, San Juan Islanders can enjoy world-class chamber music without leaving the island. The Archipelago Collective will serenade audiences at multiple venues throughout Friday Harbor Sept. 6-8.

“I grew up spending a lot of time in Friday Harbor and on San Juan Island. … I spent summers up [here], sort of running feral around the island having a great time,” Archipelago Collective founder Sophie Baird-Daniel said. “I wanted to give back to the community.”

Next month is the fifth anniversary of the Archipelago Collective’s chamber music festival. The group’s schedule includes three concerts at Brickworks, as well as a visit to the library, museum and schools. The three Brickwork performances require tickets and are $20 for adults or $50 for all three performances; students and children are admitted for free. Tickets are available at

“I think it’s very social, you collaborate so tightly. You can really discuss stuff,” Baird-Daniel said about why she loves chamber music. “It allows for so much creativity and really interesting sounds and collaborations.”

Baird-Daniel said she sees the event as an opportunity to gather her performer friends from across the country, stuff them inside of a small cabin near Roche Harbor and provide rest, relaxation and artistic creativity, accompanied by several local performances.

“I wanted to give something to my colleagues. Something where they have artistic control, they have some say over what they’re doing,” Baird-Daniel explained. She plays harp for the San Francisco Ballet and Seattle Symphony. Her co-founder, Dana Jackson is a bassoonist who performs with the Seattle Symphony.

“We have to pinch ourselves sometimes [because of] how lucky we are to have these heavy-hitter musicians come up and play with us,” Baird-Daniel said. “We’re so lucky that they come to perform here. It makes for really incredible concerts.”

Musicians travel from as far away as large East Coast cities like New York City, Philadelphia and Boston to interact with and perform for the residents of the San Juan Islands.

An escape from the perceived pretentiousness of a normal orchestra performance, the chamber music festival allows people who could otherwise not experience live classical and contemporary instrumental performances to enjoy professional musicians in a more relaxed setting.

“We don’t just silently walk on stage and play. We spend on time on stage talking about the piece we are performing,” Baird-Daniel said. “It becomes a lot more approachable and a lot less intimidating.”

Concerts in this year’s festival include Piano at the Museum, at noon on Friday, Sept. 6, at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art. At this free event, audience members can enjoy Liz Dorman and Michael Smith playing four-handed piano works on the museum’s new baby grand piano as they peruse the images on display in the museum’s “Deep Dive” exhibit.

“It’s a beautiful space,” Baird-Daniel said. “That should be actually pretty special.”

Friday evening, at 7:30 the group will perform works by Heitor Villa Lobos, Megan Bledsoe-Ward, Claude Debussy and Franz Shubert at the first of three chamber music performances at Brickworks. This show will feature a world premiere performance of a composition written specifically for this festival.

The following day, noon, on Saturday, Sept. 7, at the San Juan Island Library, co-founders Baird-Daniel and Jackson will unite as their ensemble BARP for a bassoon and harp concert. This family-friendly event is free.

“That’ll be great and that’ll be sort of geared toward kids,” Baird-Daniel said.

Then, at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday evening at Brickworks, four more musicians take to the stage. These performances include works by Samuel Magrill, R. Murray Schafer, Reinhold Gliere and Dmitry Shostakovich.

Finally, at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 8, at Brickworks, the festival concludes with a concert featuring pieces by André Jolivet, Miguel de Aguilda and Antonín Dvorák.

“It’s really intimate. … You’re feet away from the people performing,” Baird-Daniel said. “You can really connect to your audience that way.”

For more information and to purchase tickets to the chamber performances at Brickworks, visit