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Natalie B. Kampen Fund of the Kingston Chamber Music Festival
By Jean Cohoon / October 20, 2015 /   Loading Disqus...

Through the efforts of a small, but dedicated and enthusiastic corps of volunteers, the Kingston Chamber Music Festival fulfills its mission to present outstanding chamber music concerts at affordable prices and provide outreach in schools and the community. “It’s the only way it works,” Harold Bibb, Festival treasurer, says of the group’s commitment.

Founded in 1989 by violinist David Kim, who served as the Festival’s artistic director until 2008, the event initially consisted of three concerts presented over seven days; today, it is a seven concert, two-week festival.

And now, thanks to a generous bequest the Festival received from former University of Rhode Island professor Natalie Kampen, Festival board members have even bigger plans. “We feel we need to be good stewards of this gift, and we want to ensure that the Festival goes on,” says Michelle Little, board president.

Brian Mitchell, managing director, continues, “It means so much to the Festival because of who she was and that she was a long-time fan. It makes Natalie (Zhu, artistic director since 2009) want to do something really special to honor her memory.”

Natalie Kampen taught art history at URI between 1969 and 1988 and helped found the university’s women’s studies program. Her career took her to Barnard College, Columbia University, and around the world as she studied, wrote, and mentored students. But she returned to her home in Wakefield each summer until her death in 2012.

"This feels like a validation of what we do,” Brian notes proudly, explaining that the group is considering options for the additional funding that the endowment will provide. Expanded outreach programs, additional master classes for local music students, and a special celebration for the Festival’s 30th anniversary all are being discussed.

“We want the gift to have a lasting effect. When it was suggested we use it for an endowment, everyone was on board immediately,” states Harold, with Michelle adding, “The Rhode Island Foundation has a lot of credibility. We know your work, what you do, and the impact you have on the community.”

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