When Solbong Kim, an enterprising young composer from New York, was scouting locations for a summer music festival in 2008, he happened upon Colby College in Waterville and considered it the ideal spot. He established the Atlantic Music Festival there the following year. On Saturday, the festival presented the first concert of its eighth season with an impressive orchestral program at Colby’s Lorimer Chapel.

Like most of this country’s festivals, this one attracts student performers who are serious enough to want to continue honing their skills during the summer, and master musicians who want to escape urban hubs and spend a few summer weeks teaching in a quieter, less stressful setting. This year the students come from 20 countries. Apart from instrumental lessons and master classes, the festival offers specialized training for budding composers, conductors and opera singers.

For the musicians, Kim said, the training programs are important, but the performance opportunities are the real draw. And for the public, they are an act of largesse: Admission is free to all of the festival’s orchestral and chamber concerts, as well as to potentially fascinating lecture-performances, like the Future Music Lab programs that composer-violinist Mari Kimura has directed since 2013.

This summer’s festival actually opened on June 29, which gave the musicians three days to rehearse for the concert Saturday. David Amado, who directs the festival’s conducting program – and who is the music director of the Delaware Symphony Orchestra during the concert season – was on the podium.

The program was fairly short. Amado began with “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a new arrangement by Sheridan Seyfried, a composer born in 1984 and based in Philadelphia. Seyfried offers a fairly traditional take, with a few quirky flourishes that offer a couple of surprises and keep it from sounding generic, though nothing as radical as the version the Kronos Quartet sometimes performs, based on Jimi Hendrix’s picturesque Woodstock performance of the anthem.

The first half of the program was otherwise devoted to Ravel’s “Ma Mere L’Oye” (“Mother Goose”), a five-movement suite composed in 1910 as a piano duet, but heard more frequently now in its 1911 orchestration and its 1912 expansion as a ballet. Its combination of gentle string hues, shapely wind lines and variegated percussion, which combine to create characters and scenes from “Sleeping Beauty,” “Tom Thumb,” “Beauty and the Beast” and other children’s tales, make his suite an enduring concert favorite.

But those effects don’t come easily. Ravel demands considerable nuance of both the players and the conductor, who must alternate between gauzy textures and vivid pictorialism. That Amado was able to draw such a supple, enveloping performance from musicians who had assembled from all over the globe only a few days earlier was stunning. And it says a lot about the quality of musicianship that young players bring to their work today.

Equally striking was the starkness of the stylistic shift that Amado and the orchestra accomplished as they moved from Ravel’s early 20th century Impressionism to Mozart’s late 18th century Classicism. In Mozart’s final symphony, the 41st, textures were crisp and transparent, dynamic contrasts were sharp and powerful, and the ensemble’s tone was a superb compromise between the warmth of the modern instruments the players were using, and the astringency one hears in period instrument playing.

Mostly, Amado’s brisk tempos and unerring sense of balance made this familiar symphony sound fresh and vital, and it was a joy to watch the ensemble’s players moving to the shapes of their lines as if they were in a jazz band.

The concert did offer a sign of the times that some concertgoers may find alarming. Traditionally, reading your cellphone during a performance has been frowned upon, but in his opening comments, Kim encouraged listeners to find the program listing on the festival’s website, instead of taking what the festival regards as a paper-wasting single page typed program available at the door (but only if you asked for it).

Allan Kozinn is a former music critic and culture writer for The New York Times who lives in Portland. He can be contacted at:

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