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Maine Artist of the Year wants to create a major arts festival in Portland - Portland Press Herald

“In Emily Isaacson’s grand vision, Portland would create something akin to Spoleto in Charleston, South Carolina, a sprawling, multi-week festival with music, dance and theater that generates about $42 million in economic activity over a couple of weeks each spring.”

“Isaacson, 36, wants to build on the momentum of being named the first-ever Maine Artist of the Year by the Maine Arts Commission last fall to begin a community discussion about the arts in Portland and the role of a festival in branding Portland’s image as a destination for arts tourism.”

Striking a cord - ZEST Magazine

“Breaking down barriers. Surprising words coming from an artist whose main focus is music of the Baroque and Classical periods. But Isaacson believes great music has the power to move all people. And intertwined with her passion for making music is her drive to make it accessible.”

“New York City-based mezzo-soprano Kate Maroney, who has soloed with Oratorio and Portland Bach Experience, praises Isaacson for her ability to command authority while ‘still being open to other musicians’ ideas.’ Among conductors, she finds that duality wonderful and rare.”

50 Mainers Balancing Heritage and Progress- Emily Isaacson - Maine Magazine

“[Isaacson] always wanted to return to Maine, though, and she got her wish in 2013 when she became the artistic director for the Oratorio Chorale and Maine Chamber Ensemble. Since then, Isaacson has launched the Portland Bach Experience, a nonprofit that presents world-class classical music events throughout the city through a series of festivals.”

“‘I resist the sterile way in which we experience classical music in the twentieth and twenty-first century. I want to return classical music to its natural habitat, which is social and weaved in to people’s everyday life,’ Isaacson says. Another goal of the festival is to draw people to Portland who will boost the local economy. ‘Entrepreneurship is a core part of the Maine spirit, and it’s in the arts, too,’ she says. ‘You just need to work really hard and have a great idea.’”

Concert Review: Portland Bach Experience features lively pieces, strong ensemble - Portland Press Herald

"The Orchestral Suite offered a good opportunity to focus on the new ensemble, which seems admirably experienced in the niceties of Baroque performance practice."

"[Isaacson] let the string melody sing, without overemphasizing it, and her brisk readings of the remaining dance movements ...were vigorous, tightly unified and carefully accented."

"... the trumpet trio commanded the attention in the opening movement, and at various points in the work where Bach wanted to evoke the glory and power of heaven, the choir produced a lovely, flexible sound."

"The soloists...all delivered shapely, focused performances."

Bachanalia: A Portland Bach Experience - 207

"You don't need to go to all of them, but if you bump into Emily, you may end up staying through each piece, going to all the after parties and wondering how you signed up for singing lessons of the baroque style. Really, her passion is that contagious."


"Isaacson sees the festival as a celebration of the music of the Baroque era in traditional and progressive formats, to help listeners 'bridge the musical traditions of the past with the experience of the 21st century.'"

"'Part of my goal is to bring this world-class music into experiences that are meaningful and accessible to different people at different stages in life. So you can listen to this music while doing yoga, while drinking a beer, and while your kids dance along. I’m trying to bring this music back into people’s lives, rather than ask them to pause their lives to go hear music.'"

Out & About: New musical experiences debut- The Forecaster

"The PBE’s general concept is to re-imagine presentations of the music of Baroque composer Johann Sebastian Bach and others of his time – the first half of the 18th century – in ways that better relate to today’s audiences."

"The artistic director is Emily Isaacson, an up-and-coming musical mover and shaker who’s currently best known for her impressive leadership of the Oratorio Chorale."


 "...a modern festival rooted in old-world traditions."

" 'We live in a world where the top music award, the Pulitzer Prize, was given by unanimous decision to a rapper, Kendrick Lamar. To treat this music the same way it has been presented for the last 50 years is a recipe for extinction. I am interested in giving this music life in the digital age.'”

"With events like Bach in a Bowling Alley [and] Bach & Beer, [Emily Isaacson is] trying to return classical music to its natural habitat. 'I am also interested in bringing to Portland the cutting edge of music in America. My generation thinks that the classifications "jazz," "classical," "pop," are unnecessary. Music is a giant, interconnected ecosystem, and we are interested in mining all of its expressive qualities.' "

Artistic differences lead to dueling Bach festivals - Portland Press Herald 

"The emergence of two festivals reflects Portland’s changing demographics, as well as the different ways classical music can be presented and appreciated, said Alice Kornhauser, executive director of the Portland Chamber Music Festival."

"Bach wrote some of his music with the intention that it would be performed in formal, religious settings, but much of what he wrote was meant to be played in the private homes and courts of dukes and duchesses. The Portland Bach Experience will reflect the spirit of the music as it was originally written and performed, which also reflects 'what is going on with my generation of musicians in small pods and in small moments all over the country,' said Isaacson, 35."

Classical Music Today- Maine Calling

"This is a community of intelligent, cultured people who are seeking to experience new opportunities to enrich themselves and to grow every minute of their life and I think that music provides a lot of opportunities for that. And [as part of the Portland Bach Experience, the goal is to create listening but also learning and participating opportunities] and to bring some out-of-staters in to be a part of that.” - Emily Isaacson

"One of my missions in life as a musician is to create listening opportunities so that people can experience music on that really sort of primitive, spiritual level. I think that there are moments where the concert experience is totally appropriate…But I think there are other moments where creating an atmosphere…where you can feel it as more of your holistic being. It helps people bring it back to that soul spirit part of music." - Emily Isaacson

Portland Bach Experience presents classical music for the modern world in the seaside town of Portland, Maine. Eat award-winning food, drink locally craft beers, and then wander down the street and see some of the best musicians in the world playing music. There's a little bit of Bach for everyone.