Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival

The Birth of Brevard

When Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival began in 1936, I’m not sure even the founder could have foreseen what a cultural treasure the program would become. Now, 79 years later, Brevard is a hub for quality music education and performance, and WDAV gladly returns each summer to share the experience with our listeners. But this 180-acre camp nestled in the North Carolina Mountains didn’t always exist in the form we know and love today. It actually began in WDAV’s own (future) backyard!

Dr. James Christian Pfohl conducting

Dr. James Christian Pfohl

Brevard was the brainchild of Dr. James Christian Pfohl, Davidson College Director of Music circa late 1930s. Originally named the Davidson College Music School Camp, the program’s first summer had fifty male high-school instrumentalists.

The music camp remained at Davidson until 1943, when – fun college fact – the army repurposed the campus as a training ground. After a summer spent becoming co-ed at Queens College in Charlotte, NC, the program came to rest at its final home:  an abandoned boys’ camp in Brevard, NC.

Pfohl wasted no time in expanding “Transylvania Music Camp.” And no, the new name isn’t as odd as it sounds. Brevard is in Transylvania county. Takes some of mystique out of it, right?

Just two years after the big move, Pfohl tacked on a three week music festival to the end of the six week camp. The festival featured high-quality concerts by students, faculty, and guest artists, much like we see today. Ten years passed before the camp’s name was officially changed to Brevard Music Center.

Today, the Brevard Music Center and Summer Festival trains, houses, and feeds over 400 students, age 14 to post-college, each year. During the seven week intensive camp, more than 80 concerts are presented, featuring everything from symphonic classics and chamber music to opera and movie scores.

Sound like a magical, musical summer you would like to experience for yourself? That’s where WDAV comes in! We’ll be presenting concert highlights each week on Open Air Brevard, beginning July 4. Tune in Saturdays at 3pm and Thursdays at 9pm to hear renowned soloists and conductor, dedicated faculty from leading orchestra, and talented students from across the country do what they love most – perform!


Check out this short 1937 clip of the Davidson College Music School Camp, provided by longtime supporter and listener Bill Vinson, who is hidden in there somewhere playing the cornet: