Q&A with Rachel Potter

Are you as excited as we are for the Deer Valley® Music Festival? This year we’re starting off in fiery fashion with Patriotic Celebration starring Rachel Potter. Our guest artist is an actress, singer, and songwriter who has been everywhere from Broadway to The X Factor, and now she’s coming to the mountains of Deer Valley. We asked her a few questions about the upcoming concert, and this is what she had to say:

What do you do to keep your life balanced on the road?

I have a toddler who is 1 1/2 years old named Jude, so I try to look at going out on the road as a vacation! Since I don’t usually travel but once a month, I treat it as my opportunity to get to sleep in while my husband takes the lead at home. I try to eat as healthy as I can when I am traveling, and on occasion, get a massage and relax. FaceTime is a lifesaver so that my family and I don’t miss each other too much. I love to visit the local favorites whenever I am in a new city and make the most of my time away from home.

What are some of your favorite patriotic songs and why?

I absolutely love Ray Charle’s version of America the Beautiful, and we just so happen to be doing it at the concert! It was in the film The Sandlot, (which I recently learned was filmed in Salt Lake City!) and I love that movie. I was a kid when it came out, and I would guess where I heard it for the first time. That song, for me, is very nostalgic, and he sings it with such passion. I hope I can do it justice this weekend!

I also am very partial to Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA. It’s such a powerful song – whenever I have performed it live, or seen it done live, it always brings people to their feet. It’s a lovely tribute to the freedom we all share and reminds us of the sacrifice our military men and women make for us daily.

What are your family’s 4th of July traditions?

When I was growing up, we usually spent our 4th of July in Alabama with my mom’s family. It was probably a similar story to most small-town Americans… we would go to a park with the rest of the town, eat hot dogs, listen to patriotic songs, and watch a fireworks show. Even after seeing the fireworks show in NYC, Nashville and even Disney World (which are all amazing, by the way), I still look on my summers in Alabama most fondly. And of course, they blasted Sweet Home Alabama every year!

You initially got your degree in public relations and advertising—what drew you to start a singing career instead?

Actually, it was more the other way around. I began my recording artist career at 15 and had been performing professionally at Disney World for 2 years by the time I chose that major. I was considering musical theater but felt it would be wise to get a degree I could fall back on. Luckily, I have not had to use it yet!

What TV series are you obsessed with right now?

I am currently watching Ken Burns documentary on The Vietnam War. My stepdad suffers from severe PTSD, having served in Vietnam at only 18 years old. My husband and I wanted to familiarize ourselves with the war so that we could be more sympathetic to all that he went through. He holds a Purple Heart from the army.

What’s your dream musical theater role and why?

I would absolutely love to have the chance to play Elphaba in Wicked. I have already had the tremendous honor to play Glinda, but it would be a dream come true to get to check that role off my bucket list, and be one of the only women to ever play both parts!

Did you love this? Get your tickets for Patriotic Celebration starring Rachel Potter here. 

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5 things to enjoy in Park City during the Deer Valley® Music Festival

Park City is one of Utah’s hidden jewels. The people are friendly, the streets are historic, and there is always some fun event going on! Are you attending the Deer Valley® Music Festival and want to explore the city beforehand or do you want to stay and play after the concert? Here is a list of fun things to do during your Deer Valley® Music Festival weekend excursion.

#1 Enjoy the great outdoors

Park City is home to many incredible hiking and biking trails. You can take guided historical hikes, walk to scenic viewpoints, or push yourself to the limits with mountain peak trails. The Deer Valley Resort, alone, has 70 miles of biking trails that spread over 6 mountains! Come to explore the outdoors and then spend an evening relaxing at the Deer Valley® Music Festival.

#2 Relax at outdoor concerts

Park City’s music scene is thriving, with performances fitting every budget and preference. The Deer Valley® Music Festival is the summer home of Utah Symphony |Utah Opera (USUO). Escape into the music with Utah Symphony and world-renowned guest artists for a magical night on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort. You might even see us around town. This summer we’re hosting free pop-up community concerts featuring Utah Symphony ensembles, our Utah Opera Resident artists and more.

#3 Savor some fine dining

Park City has many food and wine events throughout the year. Summer is one of the best times to explore food-related activities the city has to offer. There are food tours of Historic Main Street, culinary classes, and wine tastings with Fox School of Wine, Park City Wine Club, and Utah Wine Tours. One popular local event is the Mines & Wines tour that explores artisan wines and local mining history every Saturday during the summer. Not to mention, Park City is home to some amazing restaurants. Spend the afternoon tasting and exploring history before enjoying an evening under the stars.

#4 Take an art stroll

Many art strolls and art festivals take place during the summer in Park City. The Last Friday Gallery Stroll is a fun and free event that takes place the last Friday of every month during the summer. At this event, you can walk through art galleries and experience the local art scene without breaking the bank. The Kimball Arts Festival is held the first weekend in August. This event includes kids’ art classes, “make it and take it” activities, vendors, displays, and more. Come to the Kimball Arts Festival and then enjoy a concert that night!

#5 Make some memories with your family

Many activities that take place in Park City are family friendly. One of the local favorites is the Park Silly Sunday Market that takes place every Sunday of the summer season. Main street is sectioned off for the event, food trucks and vendors sell wares, families, and children explore booths and activities, and Utah Symphony ensembles will perform on the outdoor stage. Experiencing the Utah Olympic Park is another way to thrill families of all ages. It’s a great place to enjoy exhilarating tubing, a high ropes course, zip lining, outdoor bobsledding, tour the Olympic facilities and museums, and more. Exploring the Utah Olympic Park is a family-friendly way to pass the time before your concert that evening.

With many activities and events to keep you busy, I’m sure your Deer Valley® Music Festival weekend excursion will be a big hit! Check out our concert schedule here.

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Musicians of the Utah Symphony in Haiti

You may be aware that the Musicians of the Utah Symphony have recently started a new educational outreach effort in Haiti. The origin story of the Haitian National Orchestra Institute (HNOI) has to do with the longtime friendship between Utah Symphony cellist John Eckstein, and BLUME Haiti (Building Leaders Using Music Education) president Janet Anthony. In short, 17 Musicians of the Utah Symphony and Maestro Thierry Fischer traveled to Cap Haitien in late March 2018 for the second annual HNOI.

One hundred of the most advanced musicians from throughout Haiti were selected by audition to form an orchestra, and experience an intense week filled with private and group lessons, sectionals and full orchestra rehearsals. The Institute culminated in an inspired performance of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 led by our very own Maestro Fischer. This year, in an effort to chronicle our project, we brought a film crew.

Working with our students, who mainly speak Haitian Creole and French, we used all of our nonverbal communication skills. Our HNOI students, often the music teachers in their own communities, were very hungry to learn. Meeting other music students from other regions of Haiti for the first time, they seemed to thrive on the excitement and creative energy all around them. The students also realized the significance of working with a conductor of international stature, and professional orchestral musicians working directly with small groups. But the learning occurred both ways. It opened our eyes on so many levels, and the Utah Symphony musicians who participated have kept in touch with their new friends in Haiti via social media, and look forward to the next time we can work together.

I’m constantly amazed at what an astounding organism an orchestra is. Sometimes the violin section (my point of view) seems like a school of fish that can change direction with a collective mind of its own. The nonverbal communication between conductor and orchestra, and among musicians, feels almost like magic. Stand partners (two violinists who share one music stand) because of our proximity, can pick up on each other’s energy and at the same time feel the intention coming from all points of the stage. The more advanced the orchestra, the clearer our communication. I’m sure that some of our audience members amuse themselves by watching all of the complex interactions occurring during a performance. It is a wonderful thing when a large group of people can come together with a common purpose, perhaps a metaphor for society.

In Haiti, a place so near and yet so far removed from the comforts we take for granted, we were moved by the joyful, eager, and talented students. This effort has become a passion for John and myself, and we feel very fortunate to be able to bring together these dedicated Haitian students with our outstanding friends and colleagues in the Utah Symphony. Recruiting our colleagues was extremely easy both years, even though they volunteer their time and pay most of their own travel expenses. Upon hearing of our plan to create an outreach effort in Haiti, Maestro Thierry Fischer immediately volunteered to come and conduct. Suddenly everything had fallen into place better than we could have ever imagined. Much planning and fundraising led to the first-ever HNOI, which took place in March 2017 in the seaside town of Jacmel. Its resounding success has been enough to fuel our continued passion for this initiative.

Maestro Fischer put it well when being interviewed about the significance of the Haiti project, pointing out that “involvement in the arts makes life better and worth living, and music has as much of a place in a struggling rural village as in a thriving cultural city… it gives us the chance to see the beauty of the collective and to move away from being just an individual even for a moment.” I wholeheartedly agree. Sharing music, whether it be at Abravanel Hall, or in some unexpected environment such as Dinosaur National Monument, or Haiti is vital and miraculous.

Violinist Yuki MacQueen joined the Utah Symphony in June 2000. When not playing in the symphony or volunteering in Haiti, she enjoys playing chamber music, baking sweets, and traveling the world.

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