Kent Blossom Celebrates 50 Years

Kent State University has partnered with The Cleveland Orchestra for half a century to offer professional training in music, art and theatre for promising students—and to entertain Northeast Ohio audiences each summer. 

Fifty years ago, Kent State University’s College of Fine and Professional Arts (now known as the College of the Arts) began a partnership with The Cleveland Orchestra’s Musical Arts Association to develop a triad of Kent Blossom programs that serve as professional training workshops in the visual and performing arts. 

Porthouse Theatre ConstructionThe Kent Blossom partnership, first known as the Blossom Festival School, was started in 1968 when The Cleveland Orchestra, which also celebrates its centennial this year, moved to a new summer home at Blossom Music Center, designed by Cleveland architect Peter van Dijk. 

A wide range of key individuals from the orchestra and from Kent State University came together and conceived of this unique and beneficial partnership. 

The Kent Blossom programs—which currently encompass Kent Blossom Music Festival, Kent Blossom Art Intensives and Porthouse Theatre—provide advanced summer study and professional training programs in music, art and theatre held in conjunction with The Cleveland Orchestra’s summer season at Blossom. Each program combines performance with education and joins working professionals with talented students to teach, explore and produce great art.

To this day, the Kent Blossom programs emphasize intensive, individualized study with prominent visiting master artists in music, visual arts and theatre. Visiting professionals have included successful artists from a variety of mediums and actors who have performed on impressive stages like Broadway and in major touring shows. 

From its inception, the Kent Blossom Music Festival has included principal members of The Cleveland Orchestra, who coach and rehearse students. This important relationship between a public university and a premier performing ensemble has served as an inspiring model for other collaborations.

Kent State faculty from the Schools of Music, Art, and Theatre and Dance add their expertise as teachers and coaches, and each program also features a public exhibition or performance component that community audiences can enjoy. 

Students are selected through national and international competitive auditions, interviews and portfolio reviews. Undergraduate and graduate credit is available in all areas of study and scholarships are provided to many participants. The students stay in dorms on the Kent Campus or in private homes hosted by Kent community members. Student participants may also attend open rehearsals and concerts of The Cleveland Orchestra at Blossom Music Center at no cost.

Kent Blossom Music Festival participants do most of their rehearsing and intensive instruction at the Kent Campus, where they also present faculty concerts and chamber music concerts in Ludwig Recital Hall in the School of Music. Student recitals take place on the Kent Campus, in addition to locations in Hudson and Ravenna, and students also perform at Blossom Music Center.

Kent Blossom Art Intensives are a series of two-week intensive art workshops for students and individual artists that are conducted each summer on the Kent Campus. Each workshop focuses on a specific medium, and visiting artists complement the instructional insights of resident faculty. Visiting artists also present public talks on their work, giving participants and the public an opportunity to learn more about contemporary issues and ideas in the visual arts.

Porthouse Theatre  sets are designed and built at Kent State, and much rehearsal takes place in the state-of-the-art facilities in the School of Theatre and Dance on the Kent Campus. During the week before the show opens (known as “tech week”) the actors, the band and the scenic, costume, lighting and sound designers head out to Porthouse to rehearse on the actual stage where they will perform.

Each summer, through the production of more than 100 concerts, performances, exhibitions and lectures, the students’ creative experiences are shared with eager audiences. Many Kent Blossom alumni have become significant contributors in the fields of music, art and theatre across the nation and around the world.

On the following pages, we celebrate Kent Blossom’s 50th anniversary as we remember its bold past and look forward to its bright future. And we include a list of events, so you can join in the festivities this summer!

The Emerson Sting Quartet

The world-renowned Emerson String Quartet appears on this year’s Kulas Visiting Artist concert, July 18, 2018, in KSU’s Ludwig Recital Hall. Pictured left to right: Eugene Drucker, Philip Setzer, Larry Dutton, Paul Watkins


Kent Blossom Music Festival (KBMF) is the result of a unique partnership between Kent State University, The Cleveland Orchestra and Blossom Music Center. For 50 years, the festival has worked closely with members from The Cleveland Orchestra, as well as other world-renowned artists, to teach, coach and perform alongside the future generations of classical musicians.

The festival, originally known as the Blossom Festival School, brings together musicians of all ages, ranging from talented high school conservatory students to post-doctoral professionals. 

Since its founding in 1968, more than 2,500 young artists and world class professionals have shared the nationally recognized Kent Blossom experience. 

“The experience I had at Kent Blossom not only prepared me well for college, it also led directly to my forming a string quartet a year later, which eventually became the Emerson String Quartet.”

—Philip Setzer, KBMF ’69, Violinist

Alumni of the program have become prominent contributors in the field of music, holding positions in major orchestras, opera companies and conservatories throughout the United States and the world. 

KBMF alumni perform for some of the world’s most impressive organizations, including The Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Atlanta Symphony, Boston Symphony and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, along with the Emerson, Euclid and Telegraph String Quartets, to name a few.

From July 1 to August 5, 2018, the Kent Blossom Music Festival will bring a select group of 43 young artists from around the globe together with principal members of The Cleveland Orchestra, KSU faculty and guest artists for five weeks of intensive chamber music study and performance at the professional level. 

Students give free concerts at Kent State University and other community venues. They also perform on their own at Blossom Music Center, followed by a side-by-side concert with The Cleveland Orchestra that same evening. 

This year’s Kulas Visiting Artist concert will feature the award-winning Emerson String Quartet and Jerry Grossman, principal cellist of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. In addition, five faculty concerts will feature alumni of the program for this 50th season. —Ricardo Sepulveda, BM ’05, director of the Kent Blossom Music Festival

Visit for concert pricing, dates and locations.

Dick Marquis, 1981

Visiting artist Dick Marquis, a pioneer of American contemporary glass art, teaches a Kent Blossom Art summer intensive workshop in 1981. One of the first Americans to work in a Venetian glass factory, he is a master of Venetian cane and murrine techniques.


Kent State University’s Kent Blossom Art Intensives program has a rich history as a pioneering and immersive visual art experience for students. Founded and directed by Harold Kitner, then professor of art and art history, the program was initially called the Blossom-Kent Art Program and was part of the Blossom Festival School, an intensive arts education initiative that included visual arts, music and theatre. 

Since the inception of the program in 1968, resident School of Art faculty and an exciting array of visiting artists have conducted several intensive art workshops and public lectures on campus each summer, alternating between these disciplines: ceramics, drawing/painting, jewelry/metals/enameling, glass, sculpture, printmaking and textiles. 

Artists specializing in cinematography, graphic design, illustration, performance, papermaking, computer art and book arts, as well as art historians and critics, also participated in the program during its fifty-year legacy. 

Before a permanent space was built, art exhibitions were held in tents and outdoor sculptures were displayed on the Blossom grounds. A gallery space, Eells Gallery, was built at Blossom Music Center in 1974, designed by architect Peter van Dijk. It was made possible through gifts from William H. Eells, one of the founders of Blossom Music Center and the first chairman of its Board of Governors, and the Ford Motor Co. 

Eells Gallery exhibited artwork from the visiting artists who participated in the Kent Blossom Art program, and it also hosted artist talks throughout the summer.

“I attended Blossom twice and taught at Blossom twice. I will never forget a conversation at a party with Alex Katz that inspired me. . . . I often refer to Blossom when I speak publicly as the place where I learned the significance of the social aspect of the arts.”

—Kevin Hogan, attended KSU 1977–1979, printmaker

Over the years, the School of Art Galleries and Collection acquired numerous artworks from these visiting artists for the collection. 

Although some aspects of the program have changed over the years, many of the core values remain intact. The main objectives being “to provide for the infusion of new ideas and attitudes through the introduction of major visiting artists as teachers and to increase art exposure and motivation of the Kent students” in diverse classes of undergraduate, graduate and a selected group of non-Kent students and artists. —Roza Maille, BFA ’06 

Visit for more information.

Terri Kent, 2011

Terri Kent, artistic director of Porthouse Theatre since 2001, performs in Hello, Dolly in 2011.


Founded in 1968, Porthouse Theatre is Northeast Ohio’s premiere professional summer outdoor theatre. 

Through the Kent Blossom Theatre program, Kent State University envisioned an education program, national in scope, that would provide professional-level training for actors, designers, technicians and managers in the context of a professional producing theatre—and high caliber cultural experiences for local audiences.

Within a 12-week period, students create a production season alongside equity actors and professional guest directors, designers and technicians at the Porthouse Theatre Company. 

The recipient of many awards for excellence in theatre, Porthouse Theatre receives support through Ohio Arts Council sustainability grants and generous patrons. 

Under the direction of founding theatre professors William Zucchero, BA ’52, and Louis Erdmann, MA ’58, Porthouse Theatre debuted in 1969 as an Elizabethan-style band of players that strolled the grounds of the new Blossom Music Center during intermissions of Cleveland Orchestra concerts.

The theatre company offered its first season of full-length productions in 1970. The performances were held in a tent in the parking lot of the construction site that would become Porthouse Theatre.

Thanks to major challenge gifts from Cyril and Roberta Porthouse and Gerald and Victoria Read, the 500-seat Porthouse Theatre and the adjacent Read Pavilion were dedicated in 1971.

Neighbors James and Betty Hudkins donated their 95-acre adjoining farm to Kent State in 1980, allowing expansion of Porthouse Theatre to its present 127 acres.

The Victoria Anne and Carlton Forrest Thornbury Entertainment Pavilion was added in 2001, thanks to the Read family. The Hackett Family Pavilion was added in 2011, through a generous contribution from the Gregory Hackett Family Foundation. New ceiling fans were installed in the theatre in 2013 to ensure the comfort of the more than 20,000 guests who come every summer.

Currently under the guidance of Terri Kent, producing artistic director, and Eric van Baars, executive producer, this 50th anniversary season also marks the end of a $1 million capital campaign, initiated by the Gregory Hackett Family Foundation. 

Over four years, generous donors have made possible a new box office building, a sign wall, expanded restroom facilities, a new drainage system, better audience seating and expanded and improved parking area. —Joni Koneval

Visit for tickets and performance dates.

“One of my most memorable summers was spent working at Porthouse Theatre. For someone who was not yet a professional, it was really challenging, but a great experience.”

Alice Ripley, BFA ’86, 2009 Tony Award winner, Next to Normal


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Updated: Tuesday, March 14, 2023 06:06 AM