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Yevgeny Kutik, Artistic Director

Violinist Yevgeny Kutik has captivated audiences worldwide with an old-world sound that communicates a modern intellect. Praised for his technical precision and virtuosity, he is also lauded for his poetic and imaginative interpretations of both standard works and newly composedrepertoire. A native of Minsk, Belarus, Kutik began violin studies with his mother, Alla Zernitskaya, and immigrated to the US with his family at the age of five. An advocate for the Jewish Federations of North America, the organization that assisted his family in coming to the US, he regularly speaks and performs across the country to promote the assistance of refugees from around the world. Kutik’s discography, all on Marquis Classics, includes The Death of Juliet and Other Tales (2021), Meditations on Family(Marquis Classics 2019), Words Fail (2016), Music from the Suitcase (2014), and Sounds of Defiance (2012).

In August 2022, Kutik gave the world premiere of Cântico, a work for solo violin by Andreia Pinto Correia, at the Tanglewood Music Festival. The work wasco-commissioned for Kutik by the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Yevgeny Kutik was a featured soloist in Joseph Schwantner’s The Poet’s Hour –Soliloquy for Violinon episode six of Gerard Schwarz’s All-Star Orchestra, a made-for-television classical music concert series released on DVD by Naxos and broadcast nationally on PBS. In 2021, Kutik made his debut with the Detroit Symphony Orchestra led by Leonard Slatkin, performing the world premiere of Schwantner’s Violin Concerto, an expansion of The Poet’s Hourwritten specifically for Kutik. In 2019, he made his debuts at the Kennedy Center, presented by Washington Performing Arts, and at the Ravinia Festival.

Kutik made his major orchestral debut in 2003 with Keith Lockhart and The Boston Pops as the First Prizerecipient of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Young Artists Competition. In 2006, he was awarded the Salon de Virtuosi Grant as well as the Tanglewood Music Center Jules Reiner Violin Prize. Kutik holds a bachelor’s degree from Boston University and a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory and currently resides in Boston. Kutik’s violin was crafted in Italy in 1915 by Stefano Scarampella.

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Rachel Barker, Executive Director

Rachel is an educator and writer with over a decade of experience working in public and international schools. Rachel currently writes about science and engineering for Harvard University.

Rachel has been awarded spots in writers workshops for both non-fiction and fiction, including the Key West Literary Seminar,  the Aspen Institute’s Aspen Summer Words, and multiple residencies with Write On, Door County. She has consulted and presented for a number of organizations throughout the country, including the Yale Council for African Studies, Flint Institute of Music, Boston University’s African Studies Center, Primary Source, and the Wayland/Weston Interfaith Council on Teaching Religion in Schools.

Rachel’s MEd. is from Boston College, where she graduated with a focus on social justice and teaching English language learners. Her undergraduate degree in Anthropology is from Boston University, and she currently studies Religion at Harvard University.

About the Name

The Birch Festival is named in honor of Sima Berezkina, whose last name means “birch tree” in Russian. Born in Rogachev, a small town in what is now known as Belarus, she immigrated to Pittsfield, MA with her family (including her grandson Yevgeny) in 1990, with the help and sponsorship of the Jewish Federation of the Berkshires.

Sima was the center of her community. She spent her days baking, hosting parties, playing cards with her friends, and holding court as the family storyteller and historian. The joy she found in hosting gatherings and promoting community is the same joy with which The Birch Festival was founded.

With significance in many global cultures, birch trees symbolize growth, resilience, and adaptability, qualities that Sima embodied. We welcome you to our festival and to the Berkshire community.

The Birch Festival in the News

Birch Festival’s inaugural weekend- The Berkshire Edge, Oct. 8, 2023

In 1990, the Jewish Federation helped Belarusian-Jewish refugee Yevgeny Kutik find a new home in Pittsfield. He was five years old and just beginning to learn the violin. More than three decades later, Kutik is a renowned concert violinist and recording artist who has asked himself, “What can I do to help benefit the community that has been there for me for so many years?” read more…

8 picks from the dozens of ArtWeek possibilities this weekend – Berkshires Week

 Part of the week-long Birch Festival, the folks involved are focused on connecting Berkshire musicians. The concert will be performed by Kinan Azmeh, clarinet, Renana Gutman, piano and Yevgeny Kutik on violin. The program includes Khachaturan, works by Bartók and Azmeh.


The Birch Festival was founded by Lenox-based husband and wife team Yevgeny Kutik, an internationally renowned violinist who serves as Artistic Director, and writer/educator Rachel Barker, who is the new non-profit organization’s Executive Director. The Birch Festival’s mission is to bring world-leading musicians for artist residencies in Berkshire County schools, and work in tandem with local business and cultural partnerships for two annual week-long music festivals. Events include the opening weekend celebration with music and refreshments at Sohn Fine Art; a free yoga class; an open rehearsal and a concert featuring Kinan Azmeh; pianist, Renana Gutman; and violinist, Yevgeny Kutik.

ArtWeek Berkshires- Two Featured Events

The Birch Festival Open Rehearsal and Artist Conversation: 

“Don’t Tap on the Glass” is an open dress rehearsal providing a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the musical process of creating a recital. Watch and listen as three world-leading musicians work through thorny passages and discuss their work. Stay after for a conversation with the musicians – audience members are free to ask questions.


The Birch Festival Concert: Concert: Bartók, Folk Music, and More:

Immerse yourself in the enchanting melodies of Bartók and a variety of captivating folk songs played by musicians Kinan Azmeh, clarinet; Renana Gutman, piano; Yevgeny Kutik, violin. Admission is $20/person; free for any Berkshire County K-12 student and their guardian.

Our Board of Directors

Basema Safa-Mallal
Erin Simmons Asbury
Rachel Barker
Yevgeny Kutik

Our Advisory Board

Shayok Misha Chowdhury
Michael Nock
Chelsea Beatty

Our Policies and Acknowledgements

The Birch Festival promotes a diverse, inclusive, and equitable workplace and community organization. We support and value employees and volunteers, inclusive of age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or any other status. We are committed to the advancement of art and culture, approaching this commitment without discrimination. We provide an equitable workplace environment and strive to model diversity and inclusion for the arts and the community. We respect and value diverse life experiences and assure that all voices are heard, considered, and valued.

The Birch Festival strives to embody the connection between our mission and diversity and inclusion. We lead with respect and tolerance, and expect the same from our employees and volunteers. We pursue cultural competency throughout our organization by creating substantive learning opportunities and formal, transparent policies.

As part of our mission, we pool resources and expand offerings for underrepresented constituents by connecting with other community organizations committed to diversity and inclusion efforts and we develop outreach on diversity, inclusion, and equity to provide information and resources internally, and to members, the community, and the arts industry.

We will continue to update our policies as we work to acknowledge and dismantle any inequities within our organization.

The Birch Festival is an equal opportunity organization and will not allow discrimination based upon age, ethnicity, ancestry, gender, national origin, disability, race, size, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, or any other status prohibited by applicable law.

With deep appreciation, The Birch Festival acknowledges the land of Berkshire County, the ancestral homeland of the Mohican community, indigenous stewards of this land.

The Mohican people were historically named the Muh-he-con­neok, the People of the Waters That are Never Still, and are now known as the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians.

The Birch Festival recognizes that we and the land are interconnected, and as visitors of Berkshire County, and as artists and storytellers, we have the honor to uphold the land and its history through our appreciation of the Mohican ancestors and of the Stockbridge-Munsee Community. Thank you.

Stockbridge-Munsee Community

Our Community Partners