The SFCV Summer Music Festival Guide, 2017

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival | May 7 – Oct. 29

In San Francisco

Downtown San Francisco hosts any number of mini festivals: It’s like a never-ending party for 30-somethings. But the little patch of green that is the Yerba Buena Gardens is a dedicated space for hosting vibrant arts programming in all kinds of genres.

Some events to watch for this spring-fall: Brass Convergence II (Jazz Mafia’s Adam Theis brings together a large group of brass bands for a street celebration culminating in his and Teddy Raven’s piece for massed brass, Protest Brass – May 20, 1-3 p.m.), Axis Dance Company (July 1–2, 2:30–3:45), Ensemble Mik Nawooj (presenting their hip-hop oratorio Death Becomes Life, with dance, MCs, and a new score by Joo-Wan Kim — July 15, 1-2:30), SF Uke Jam Summer Uke-splosion (July 29, 1-2:30), Afro-Cuban vocalist Bobi Céspedes (Aug. 17, 6-7:30), Brooklyn Raga Massive with Classical Revolution (musicians on classical Indian instruments play Terry Riley’s In C with members of the S.F.-based string ensemble, Sept. 16, 1-2:30), and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra in excerpts from the YBGC-commissioned Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues.

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Mountain Play | May 21 – June 18

About an hour from San Francisco

Every year, the Cushing Amphitheatre atop Mt. Tamalpais plays host to a Broadway musical production on Sunday afternoons in May/June. This year it’s Beauty and the Beast, running May 21-June 18 (all matinees begin at 2 p.m.) The extra is a concert performance of Gerald Ragni, James Rado, and Galt MacDermott’s Hair (June 10). 

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San Francisco Opera Summer Season | May 31 – July 2

In San Francisco

While technically not a festival, SFO’s summer season does culminate with Opera at the Ballpark, and I think we can all agree you don’t get more summery than that. The operas on offer this summer: Verdi’s Rigoletto, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, and Puccini’s La Boheme. Three of the classical canon’s biggest, most enduring hits should take your mind off your troubles.

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Mainly Mozart | June 2–25

About 9 hours from San Francisco

New York has Mostly Mozart and San Diego has Mainly Mozart. Like its cousin this is a deep dive into the music of one of classical music’s most popular hitmakers, spiked with some related music by other composers. Hosted at the Balboa Theater in the heart of downtown, this year’s festival will also reach the Centro Cultural in Tijuana (on June 18) and several suburban locations with chamber concerts (La Jolla, Carlsbad, Rancho Santa Fe). Music Director Michael Francis hosts pianists Conrad Tao, Javier Perianes, and Jorge Federico Osorio, and violinist Augustin Hadelich, among other big names.

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Ojai Music Festival | June 8–11

About 7 hours from San Francisco

Located in a natural amphitheater an hour’s drive north of Los Angeles, Ojai has gorgeousness to spare. It’s a festival for new music and new ideas. It incubates novel performance and production ideas, it often juxtaposes genres, and it always features music from living composers. Ojai appoints a different music director every year to get different perspectives on things: This year, it’s jazz pianist Vijay Iyer, who’s joined by a wide variety of musicians including flutist Claire Chase, composer/percussionist Tyshawn Storey, Carnatic vocalist Aruna Sairam, percussionist Zakir Hussain, and trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith. Iyer gets things rolling with the world premiere of his Violin Concerto, with Jennifer Koh as soloist. A week later (June 15–17), the Bay Area gets to hear what the fuss is about with Ojai at Berkeley, courtesy of Cal Performances, though without the natural scenery.

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Switchboard Festival | June 10

In San Francisco

Hard to believe that the Switchboard Music Festival has reached its tenth iteration. I remember when they were just an itty, bitty, baby festival, and now look at them: the Kronos Quartet is headlining! But the festival’s artistic heads, Ryan Brown, Jeff Anderle, and Annie Phillips, are still determinedly scrappy: this year’s festival is at Z Space (450 Florida St., S.F.), so don’t expect teacakes at intermission. Not that there’s an intermission. One day, six hours. Eat a good breakfast. The original festival motto — “No genre is the new genre” — works for this edition, too: Billygoat is a two-man band that performs original scores to their own, stop-motion movies. Ramon and Jessica, a folk/pop songwriting duo present parts of Roses Are Blue, their adaptation of Gertrude Stein’s children’s book, The World is Round. Brown presents part of his “medical oratorio” Mortal Lessons (based on Richard Selzer’s book), and so it goes.

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Astoria Music Festival | June 11–25

Astoria, Oregon, a charming town of 10,000 at the mouth of the Columbia River, is an unlikely hub for world-class opera, symphonic and chamber music, but every June, the Astoria Music Festival presents two weeks of just that. Performances feature internationally acclaimed soloists and musicians from around the globe at the beautifully restored (and acoustically stunning) historic Liberty Theater in the charming small coastal town of Astoria, Oregon. Keith Clark is the artistic director.

Featured artists include:

  • Opera Superstar soprano Angela MeadeUkrainian violinist Solomiya Ivakhiv
  • Russian cellist Sergey Antonov, Tchaikovsky Competition Gold Medal
  • Russian pianist Ilya Kazantzev, Chopin Competition Gold Medal
  • Italian violinist Roberto Cani, Genoa International Paganini Competition Gold Medal
  • Metropolitan Opera soprano Deborah Mayer
  • Singer-songwriter Israel Nebeker
  • Baritone Richard Zeller
  • Classical world guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan
  • Violist Sarah Kwak, Oregon Symphony Concertmaster
  • Pianist Cary Lewis, Festival Chamber Music Director
  • Mexican baritone Luis Ledesma

Astoria Music Festival also excels at premiering new works, including world, regional and state premieres. Fifteenth Anniversary Celebration premieres will include:

  • Philip Glass’s Icarus at the Edge of Time
  • Elegy by American composer Todd Mason, commissioned to celebrate the Festival’s 15th Anniversary, performed by our Young Virtuosi String Quartet, four young artists selected from around the country to be in residence this summer.
  • Young Virtuosi String Quartet performing new arrangements of Israel Nebeker’s haunting songs.


Stern Grove | June 25–Aug. 27

One of San Francisco’s prominent, benevolent cultural institutions is becoming an octogenarian this summer: the free outdoor Stern Grove Music Festival will have its 80th season on Sunday afternoons between June 25 and Aug. 27.

Besides pop and jazz, the festival used to offer numerous concerts and ballet, providing free performances by both the San Francisco Opera and the Merola Program, with the opportunity for thousands of people to discover such artists as the mezzo-soprano diva Joyce DiDonato at the beginning of their careers. For several years now, opera has been absent from the Grove, but both the San Francisco Symphony (July 9) and the San Francisco Ballet (July 30) will be there.

Otherwise, the anniversary lineup features Kool & the Gang, Mavis Staples, Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, WAR, Fantastic Negrito, Amadou & Mariam, Eric Burdon and The Animals, Brazilian Girls, and Los Ángeles Azules. Additional acts support the headliners.

The festival also continues its education and outreach activities, such as KidStage, from noon to 1:30 before the 2 p.m. concerts; Kid Days of free interactive arts education programs for children ages 4–11; and Artist Talks with prominent performers at noon in the Grove’s Trocadero Clubhouse.

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Chamber Music Northwest | June 26 – July 30

About 10 hours from San Francisco 

Five weeks. Forty concerts. At Reed College in Southeast Portland. Since 1971. Under the direction of acclaimed clarinetist David Shifrin. Some performances at Portland State University.  Concerts on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, at 8 p.m. Many ticket packages available. Lower box seats, for example: $300, the top price for five nights. Three-concert packages range from $90-$180

This year, a focal point is women composers, and many will be on hand to talk about the works on the programs. Composers include Hannah Lash, Kari Agócs, Nokuthula Ngwenyama, Joan Tower, Ellen Taafe Zwilich, Julia Wolfe, Caroline Shaw, Gabriella Smith, and (from the not attending because dead ranks) Fanny Mendelssohn, Rebecca Clarke, and Hildegard von Bingen.

The musicians are stellar as always, and the ensembles include the Emerson String Quartet, returning with their award-winning proteges, the Calidore String Quartet; and the Imani Wind Quintet, two of whose members, flutist Valerie Coleman and hornist Jeff Scott, are also featured composers. The Brentano Quartet will be joined by violist by Hsin-Yung Huang for viola quintets by Mozart, Brahms, and Mendelssohn; the Claremont Trio arrive with a program stretching from the 19th to the 21st centuries.

There will again be a Tango night, with Tango for Musicians at Reed College. And there are opportunities to meet the composers; hear lectures, panel discussions, and master classes; and attend free, open rehearsals.

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Grand Teton Music Festival | July 3 – Aug. 20

About 14 hours from San Francisco

In Teton Village, Wyoming. Half a mile from the national park, six miles up from Jackson on the Moose-Wilson road. If you’ve never been, the beauty is humbling. Seven weeks, more than 40 concerts. Founded in 1962. Now under the direction of Donald Runnicles, who served as music director and principal conductor of the San Francisco Opera from 1992 to 2009.

Casual western attire is the norm. Festival includes “Patriotic Pops” on Independence Day; interactive music lectures; free family concerts, $10 open rehearsals, $25 chamber music concerts, and festival orchestra tickets to $55.

Artists include Yo-Yo Ma; pianists Yefim Bronfman, Garrick Ohlsson, and Denis Kozhukhin; violinists James Ehnes and Augustin Hadelich; vocalists Kelley O’Connor and Nikki Renee Daniels; Brooklyn Rider Quartet; and guest conductors Jeanette Sorrell, Cristian Macelaru, and Vasily Petrenko. Runnicles conducts Mahler Symphony No. 9 and Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, among the big, featured works.

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San Francisco Symphony | July 4–29

In San Francisco

Beginning after the July 4 fireworks spectacular at Shoreline Amphitheater, the S.F. Symphony gets down to the pops business. This year opens with another iteration of film music by John Williams, conducted by Edwin Outwater. One week later, the orchestra plays the soundtrack to Jaws, accompanying a live screening of the film. And there is Pixar in Concert, a trademarked fiesta that includes clips from the animation studio’s big hits.

And speaking of fiestas, the Jalisco Symphony Orchestra visits the city on July 16, with percussion ensemble Tambuco, playing Silvestre Revueltas’ Suite from Redes, Aaron Copland’s El Salon Mexico, and Arturo Marquez’s Danzon No. 2, among other hits. Vocalist/ songwriters Rhiannon Giddens and Ben Folds appear in separate concerts with the S.F. Symphony and the grand finale features Mussorgsky/ Ravel’s Pictures at an Exhibition.

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Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival | July 6 – Aug. 20

About 6.5 hours from San Francisco

Concerts will begin July 6 in Hyampom, California, the home of the festival's retreat center. With a dozen scheduled concerts in all, the festival will also perform in Weaverville, Redding, and Eureka, the seats of Trinity, Shasta, and Humboldt Counties, respectively. The festival is also expanding northward, with three concerts scheduled in Oregon. Musicians will visit the Willamette Valley cities of Portland and Salem, as well as the beautiful southern coastal town of Langlois.

Founded in 2011 by pianist Ian Scarfe and violinist Ellen McGehee, this festival fills both the role of a wilderness retreat for musicians and a community arts organization. It has grown since, becoming one of the premiere presenters of classical chamber music in North State California. With dozens of performances each year, including seasonal programs, tours of local schools, family concerts, and this annual summer series, this festival will mark the organization's 200th public event.

With an ever-expanding roster of professionals, the festival will welcome 18 musicians from around the United States this summer. Regulars include Scarfe and McGehee, as well as clarinettist Karla Avila, bassist Jacob Johnson, violinists Ellen Flanagan, Rachel Patrick, and Daniel Rouslin, violist Stephen Fine, and cellists Charles Akert and James Jaffe. New faces this year: soprano Jaime-Rose Guarrine, cellist Karl Knapp, violinist Andie Springer, violist Alex Volonts,  clarinettist Matthew Boyles, and violinist and fiddler Philip Brezina.

Highlights this year will combine Classical and Romantic masterpieces, as well as contemporary works. Highlights will likely include Mozart's Concert Aria K. 505 “Ch’io mi scordi di te?”, works by Samuel Barber including the Adagio for Strings and Knoxville, Summer of 1915, Felix Mendelssohn’s virtuoso Piano Trio in D Minor, Op. 49, Edward Elgar's lyrical Serenade for Strings, and a new work by California composer Noah Luna.

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Mendocino Music Festival | July 8–22

About 3.5 hours from San Francisco

At one of Northern California’s most treasured rivieras. Festival has run since 1986. Main venue is Tent Concert Hall on Main Street. Sixteen days: evening concerts include big band, chamber music ensembles, blues, jazz, world, folk, bluegrass. Daytime concerts feature lectures/recitals, a performance by those in the Emerging Artists Program, and small concerts in intimate sites in both Mendocino and Fort Bragg (15 minutes’ drive to the north). Tickets to $47.

Fourteen classical music events. Highlights include a concert performance of Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, the Verdi Requiem on the last night of the festival, and guest appearances by the Calder Quartet and the ZOFO duo (“20-finger orchestra” pianists Keisuke Nakagoshi and Eva-Marie Zimmermann.)

The classical theme of the festival is “Understanding Schubert.” Multimedia lecture by festival co-founder Susan Waterfall, and chamber music including the Moments musicaux, the Octet, and lieder with soprano Julie Kierstine and pianist Daniel Lockert.

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Ventura Music Festival | July 13–23

About 6.5 hours from San Francisco

Otherwise known as Buenaventura, the town is 40 minutes south of Santa Barbara; human remains found here go back 10,000 years. In 1994, the city decided to upgrade its arts infrastructure; the festival was born. Most performances are at the 400-seat Ventura College Performing Arts Center. Tickets to $35.

The nine-concert series revolves around the theme “An American Season”, tying together several genres of American music. Local classical fans should make plans to see the terrific piano duo Anderson and Roe, who, despite being a piano duo, really know how to put on a show. Michael Feinstein reviews the great American song book, with an exam to follow (not really.) Simply Three, a string trio not to be confused with Time for Three, genre-hops from Puccini to Gershwin to Michael Jackson and Coldplay. And Festival Director Nuvi Mehta brings some of his classical friends together for a program of Samuel Barber, Aaron Copland, and local composer John Biggs, on July 16.

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Festival Napa Valley | July 14–23

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

Formerly Festival Del Sole: nine days of music concerts, jazz, dance, and other events, including vintner tastings, dinners, lunches and brunches, and after parties. Venues include many local wineries. The festival offers several free concerts, and tickets to some individual events start as low as $39. Packages and passports encouraged. Weekend pass, $3000 or trade in your tickets to Hamilton. Full patron access to all festival events, including concerts and meals, still just $10,000. 

Clothing note: “To complete every daytime outfit, guests should wear sunglasses and a stylish hat. For evenings, a jacket for him and a wrap for her, as temperatures can drop. Practical shoes are strongly recommended, as many events take place in outdoor settings.”

Soprano Danielle de Niese headlines the opening concert, followed by the slightly more famous Gloria Estefan backed by the Napa Festival Orchestra. Joshua Bell leads pianist Aldo Lopez-Gavilan, soprano Larisa Martinez, and the youthful Havana Chamber Orchestra at Far Niente at the same time as Estefan, so you’ll have to pick. Comic actor Bill Murray and cellist Jan Vogler join forces for an evening of music and literature, with Murray reading various poems and texts interspersed with instrumental pieces by Bach, Ravel and Piazzolla and classic songs by the Gershwins, Bernstein and Stephen Foster. The San Francisco Ballet is back for another festival performance on July 21. And for the finale, on July 22, soprano Angel Blue and baritone Lester Lynch join the Festival Orchestra for highlights from Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess

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Music@Menlo | July 14 – Aug. 5

About 1 hour from San Francisco

This well-loved local festival offers seven theme-oriented concerts plus recitals, lectures, master classes, and more. This year’s theme: “The Glorious Violin.” Performances are at the Center for the Performing Arts Menlo-Atherton, and Martin Family Hall at the Menlo School. Tickets to $80, with discounts available. Many free events.

Music@Menlo takes its themes seriously, and they set the subjects of the “Encounter” lecture series, as well as programs for concerts of astonishing breadth and interest. The concert series opens with “The Path to Bach,” beginning with the generation before J. S. Bach, showing how through the ingenuity of such composer-virtuosi as Carlo Farina, Marco Uccellini, and Pietro Antonio Locatelli, the violin evolved from the modest fiddle. Other concerts in the series celebrate the violin in the context of “The Classical Style,” “German Virtuosity,” “French Luminaries,” and “The Age of Expression.” 

The Carte Blanche artist-programmed recitals are often some of the most interesting things at the Festival: take for example, violinist Sean Lee’s program, “Paganini’s Incomporable Caprices,” in which Lee will perform the entire cycle of 24 challenging caprices, accompanied by pianist Peter Dugan. Other titles in this series focus on works for the solo violin, string quartet, and a tribute to Fritz Kreisler.

Artists at the festival include the Esher String Quartet, pianists Gloria Chien, Peter Dugan, Hyeyeon Park, and Wu Han, violinists Ivan Chan, Chad Hoopes, Jessica Lee, Sean Lee, and Amy Schwartz Moretti, violists Roberto Díaz, Hsin-Yun Huang, and Paul Neubauer, and cellists Dmitri Atapine, Nicholas Canellakis, and David Finckel. For the complete lineup, visit the artist roster.

The “Encounters” sessions this year trace the development of the violin from its earliest days through the classical tradition into the virtuoso period, the age of expression, and finally to violin today. Topics mesh with the music performed in the formal concerts and recitals.

Each weekday of the festival, at 11:45 a.m. on the campus of Menlo School, the public is invited to free events, including either a master class with the Chamber Music Institute’s young artists or a “Café Conversation”, in which artists and distinguished guests discuss issues of the day in classical music.  Other free events include Prelude Performances and Koret Young Performers Concerts.

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Carmel Bach Festival | July 15–29

About 2.5 hours from San Francisco

Now celebrating its 80th season, the festival spans three weeks and comprises 40 events including concerts, recitals, master classes, lectures, and open rehearsals. Everything J. S. Bach, but extending all over the classical map, with orchestra, chorus, and solo recitals. Under the direction of Artistic Director and Principal Conductor Paul Goodwin. The ten venues include the Sunset Center Theater, Carmel Mission Basilica, Church in the Forest, San Carlos Cathedral, and Monterey Museum of Art. Tickets to $112, but most much less, with discounts available for students, active and retired military, and families.

Guest musicians and vocal soloists this year include Mhairi Lawson, Meg Bragle, Thomas Cooley, and the return of bass-baritone Dashon Burton. The opening night concert features Bach’s Ascension Oratorio, Phillip Glass’s Concerto Grosso, Purcell’s Birthday ode for Queen Mary, and the last choruses from Handel’s iconic Messiah. Also look for three pre-fest chamber concerts featuring the Diderot String Quartet, the Bach Festival’s Circle of Strings Faculty Quartet, and organist Andrew Arthur at three locations around the Monterey Peninsula.  

Other events include:

  • Three pre-fest chamber concerts featuring the Diderot String Quartet, The Bach Festival’s Circle of Strings Faculty Quartet, and organist Andrew Arthur at three locations around the Monterey Peninsula.

  • Sunday performances of Mozart’s C Minor Mass, performed at 4 p.m. on July 17 and 24. Associate conductor Andrew Megill conducting Tuesday night concerts with repertoire ranging from Bach (BWV 21) to Barber (Adagio for Strings) to Bernstein (Chichester Psalms).

  • Wednesday evening concerts, Monteverdi’s Vespers, at the magnificent Carmel Mission Basilica, featuring the Festival Orchestra and Chorale.

  • Friday night orchestral concerts featuring Beethoven’s epic Ninth Symphony.  

  • Different programs on Thursdays during the Festival including Folk and “Barolk” highlighting the individual talents of the Bach Festival orchestra and chorale produced by violinist Edwin Huizinga and guitarist William Coulter, and “Going to California: An Intimate Journey from Beethoven to Broadway and Beyond," on July 27, with the Bach Festival vocal soloists performing repertoire by Beethoven, Schubert, Cole Porter, Lerner and Lowe and even Led Zeppelin! 

  • A wide array of chamber concerts including foyer concerts at the Sunset Center, and an array of performances from a range of repertoire at Carmel Presbyterian Church on Ocean Avenue, and All Saints Church on Dolores Street.

  • A special family concert is scheduled on Saturday, July 23 at 11 a.m. at the Sunset Center Theater featuring Leonard and Rasmus: Expedition to the Moon!

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Valley of the Moon Music Festival | July 15–30       

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

Sonoma. Still summer nights; an occasional cricket. Founded by Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian, the festival is in its third season. Noted for chamber music on period instruments, extending into the 19th Century. Theme for 2017: “Schumann's World: His Music And The Music He Loved — Bach, Beethoven, Chopin And Others.” 

Concerts juxtapose Schumann’s own compositions with chamber works by composers he idolized and championed.  By performing on period instruments with attention to historical practices, the musicians aspire to present Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet or Chopin’s Cello Sonata as Schumann might have heard these works during his lifetime.

The program for July 22, for example, combines songs and arias by Schumann and Chopin with Bach’s Chaconne for solo violin and keyboard works by Bach, Chopin, and Liszt. On July 30, the roster is the Paganini Caprice No. 24 in A Minor for Solo Violin matched with solo keyboard works by Liszt and Schumann, and the Brahms Piano Quintet in F Minor.

Faculty artists are Elizabeth Blumenstock, Monica Huggett, Tanya Tomkins, and Eric Zivian. Festival artists include Liana Bérubé, Nikki Einfeld, Jennifer Frautschi, Cynthia Freivogel, Jeffrey Ladeur, Eric Hoeprich, Carla Moore, Holly Piccoli, and Kyle Stegall.

The festival is tied closely to the local wineries that “partner” each concert. The protocol suggested is to picnic on the patio of the Hanna Boys Center before the concert, and then afterwards catch a complimentary glass of wine while schmoozing with the artists.
Founders’ circle concert at the Spreckles Mansion. Otherwise, performances at the Hanna Boys Center. Tickets to $45.

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Festival Mozaic | July 19–30

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Each summer since its beginnings in 1971, Festival Mozaic transforms the Central Coast of California into a hotbed of classical music culture for a couple weeks in July. This year, Music Director Scott Yoo will lead a group of more than 50 visiting artists gathered from top orchestras and chamber ensembles from around the world in performances in scenic venues all over picturesque San Luis Obispo County. With 28 events in 16 different venues, Festival Mozaic programs fall into four series: Chamber, Orchestra, Fringe, and Notable Encounters.

The chamber-music ensembles are drawn from the pool of festival musicians and include members of St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, American Contemporary Music Ensemble, Ensemble Connect, and others. Program highlights include an evening of Beethoven quartets; violinist Scott Yoo and friends performing works by Britten, Ravel, Vaughan Williams, and Dvořák; “Winds of Change,” a evening of music for various wind ensembles.

Orchestral highlight include “Baroque in the Vines,” with orchestral music from Scarlatti, W.F. Bach, Albinoni, and Vivaldi; “Eight Seasons,” pairing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires; and “Metamorphosis and Reformation,” with Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 5, op. 107 (“Reformation”), and Metamorphosen from Richard Strauss.

The more laid-back Fringe artists include violin/cello/bass trio Simply Three; guitar/fiddle duo Fire & Grace; and The Jazz Age, with pianist Stephen Prutsman and violinist Steven Copes providing music for silent-film classics including The Cameraman’s Revenge and Mighty Like a Moose.

SLO’s close proximity to California’s agricultural epicenter and adjacent award-winning wineries plays a big part in the Festival’s events. At the Notable Encounters series, attendees learn more about the music via interactive performances set in architecturally interesting venues. Messiaen’s transformative Quartet for the End of Time will be performed — and discussed — in the sun-drenched Tolosa winery. Audiences will hear Beethoven in a beautiful barn in the middle of an avocado, lavender, and olive oil estate, while Ravel will be offered over brunch at the grounds of Dallidet Adobe, a California State Historical Landmark.

Ticket prices vary dramatically with events, depending on the venue and whether music is paired with food and  drink. 

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Bear Valley Music Festival | July 21 – Aug. 6

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Opened in 1967. Off Rte. 4, due East of Sacramento, in the Stanislaus National Forest above Angels Camp. One tradition of the festival has been that many of the musicians come to hang out for the summer. Originally, classical music only; in the mid 1980s opera and Broadway show tunes were added, along with some jazz, rock, and bluegrass. So a syncretism: from a Tribute to Queen to Beethoven’s “Emperor” Concerto. Tickets to about $55.

The festival is now the work place of Michael Morgan, music director of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Sacramento Philharmonic, and one of the genuine visionaries in the world of classical music in California.

Festival highlights include a matinee with the Thalea String Quartet, Hal Ketchum’s Country Trio, An evening of symphonies from Beethoven and Britten, Louis Spohr’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra, Fleetwood Mac and Queen tribute bands, a pops orchestra concert of movie themes with pianist Richard Glazier, and a celebration of the great American songbook with jazz vocalist Kalil Wilson. 

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Britt Music Festival | July 28–Aug. 13

About 6 hours from San Francisco

Set in a natural amphitheater in Jacksonville, Oregon, located on the hillside estate of a 19th-century photographer named Peter Britt. This is about a 15-mile drive north of Ashland, Oregon. Actually the festival runs all summer and includes jazz, rock, country, world music and more, but the orchestra is in residence for three weeks. The Britt Orchestra performs under the baton of Teddy Abrams, the wunderkind composer, conductor, pianist, clarinetist, social disruptor, and music director of the Louisville Orchestra.

Featured soloists during the 2017 orchestra season include cellist Joshua Roman, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, Noah Bendix Balgley on violin, mezzo-soprano Tamara Mumford with tenor Richard Cox, and pianist Jeffrey Kahane.

Program themes include “West Coast Composer Celebration,” “Voyage of Discovery,” “Symphonic Exploration,” “Eastern Inspiration,” and, you guessed it, “Magic at the Movies.”

Other summer artists include blues legends Taj Mahal and Keb’ Mo, the Temptations with the Four Tops, the Avett Brothers, Diana Krall, the Decemberists, and Joan Jett and the Blackhearts.

Tickets for orchestra concerts range from $25 for lawn seats to $49 for reserved seating, with discounts for children and students. Prices are typically higher for the pop, rock, and jazz shows.

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Classical Tahoe Music Festival | July 28 – Aug. 12

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Now offering its sixth season, this well regarded festival was founded by Madylon Meiling, a business executive, as part of a regional effort to develop a cultural foundation for the arts. Under the leadership of Artistic Director and Conductor Joel Revzen, Classical Tahoe has assembled a virtuoso orchestra of musicians from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus, Seattle and Dallas Symphonies, LA Phil and Reno Phil and other exceptional orchestras throughout the world.

Classical Tahoe features six full orchestra concerts, three chamber music programs, a free family concert and a pre-K Music and Movement class during the three-week festival held on the campus of Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village, Nevada.

Featured soloists this year are Cuban pianist/composer Aldo López-Gavilán, Adler Fellows from the San Francisco Opera, Israeli violinist Itamar Zorman, Whitney Crockett on bassoon, and violinist Kaia Selden.

Concert highlights include “Made in America,” featuring music by American composers; Wynton Marsalis’s A Fiddler’s Tale; an evening of semistaged scenes from Mozart operas; and a world premiere of López-Gavilán’s Emporium for Solo Piano and Orchestra.

Tickets run $25–$100 for most concerts and $250–$2,500 for the White Nights Gala and $150 for a cocktail brunch and concert. An “All About the Violin” family concert is free.

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Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music | July 30 – Aug. 12  


About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

Last year the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music bid farewell to Marin Alsop, festival founder and longtime music director and conductor. America’s longest running festival of new orchestral music now celebrates the arrival of Cristian Măcelaru in that role with a sensational series of commissioned works that continue the Festival’s forward-looking tradition. Măcelaru, the Romanian-born Conductor-in-Residence at the Philadelphia Orchestra, begins his Festival tenure with premiere-filled programs of new works and fresh re-orchestrations by an esteemed group of composers.

Among this season’s highlights are seven world premieres, one U.S. premiere and three West Coast premieres. The Festival commemorates two significant anniversaries: the centenary of Lou Harrison will be celebrated with a tribute composed by David T. Little; and John Adams’ 70th birthday will be celebrated with a tribute composed by Gabriella Smith.

The 11 composers in residence this season are Karim Al-Zand, Clarice Assad, Gerald Barry, Michael Gandolfi, Jake Heggie, Aaron Jay Kernis, David T. Little, Cindy McTee, Christopher Rountree, Gabriella Smith, and James Stephenson.

Special guest artists include Dame Evelyn Glennie (percussion), Jennifer Frautschi (violin), Gemma New (conductor), Clarice Assad (piano/vocals), Keita Ogawa (percussion), Jason Hardink (piano), and Jonathan Lemalu (bass-baritone).

In addition to the featured evening concerts, the Festival continues its tradition of hosting open rehearsals, pre-rehearsal talks, and the Conductors/Composers Workshop, a professional training program focusing on the creation and performance of new music.

Festival tickets range from $30–$65 with many events free and open to the public. All concerts will be held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium at 307 Church Street in Santa Cruz, with the exception of Music in the Mountains held at Nestldown in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

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American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy | Aug. 4–13

In San Francisco

A Baroque break from summer pops. San Francisco Conservatory of Music and St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, San Francisco. The ABS stalwarts perform with young Academy participants on several occasions. This year’s theme is “English Majesty.” Highlights include a celebration of the 300th anniversary of George Frideric Handel’s Water Music; Henry Purcell’s five-act, semi-opera, King Arthur (or “The British Worthy); Orpheus in Britannia, featuring works by some of the greatest composers of the English Baroque; and the ABS annual performance of Bach’s B Minor Mass, which is not English, but is always the climax of an ABS Festival. Another decidedly non-English event features flauto traverse soloist Sandra Miller in a program titled “Bach & Sons.”

In addition, there is an Academy-in-Action “Baroque Marathon,” a “Public Colloquia” series, lectures on festival, and public master classes.

The cast of musicians under the baton of Jeffrey Thomas will be familiar to ABS fans, and of course there is the nonpareil ABS Chorus. The Academy participants are budding virtuosi themselves and many of their performances — including the Baroque Marathon concert series — as well as all master classes and lectures are completely free to the public.

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La Jolla SummerFest | Aug. 4–25

About 8 hours from San Francisco

From the La Jolla Music Society, under the direction of music director, Cho-Liang Lin. Festival includes some free concerts; open rehearsals; coaching workshops; and special “encounters,” which in the past have explored music history and theory with composers-in-residence, along with presentations on developing a successful career in music. Concert tickets to $80.

Highlights include Pinchas Zukerman with the Zukerman Trio; piano duo sensations — and twin sisters — Christina and Michelle Naughton in a program of Eastern European favorites; Finish piano genius Olli Mustonen playing his own compositions interspersed with Beethoven sonatas; an evening with the Regina Carter Quartet; cellist Alisa Weilerstein with pianist Ino Barnatan and clarinetist Anthony McGill; and a 40th-anniversary concert by the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio.

The festival offers “restaurant nights” with live music by festival performers. The restaurants are yet to be named, but according to organizers, these dinners will be both fun and “affordable.” For more information and reservations, contact LJMS Box Office at (858) 459-3728 or [email protected].

Performances are at the UC San Diego Department of Music’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall. Coaching workshops are at La Jolla Riford Library, open rehearsals are at MCASD Sherwood Auditorium, and encounter programs are the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library.

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Napa Valley Chamber Music Festival | Aug. 4–27

About 1.5 hours from San Francisco

In the Vineyards, literally. Venues include some of America’s greatest wineries as well as the refurbished Lincoln Theater. Now the festival’s 23nd season. Final calendar, programs, and ticket information TBA. (We will update the listing as information becomes available.)

Confirmed ensembles include the Pacifica Quartet, the Chiara Quartet, and the Escher Quartet. Soloist include flutist Lorna McGhee, conductor/clarinetist Osmo Vanska, violinists Erin Keefe, Ara Gregorian, Hye-Jin Kim, and Violaine Melancon, violist David Harding, cellist Nicholas Canellakis, pianists Wei-Yi Yang and Michael Brown, and festival favorite, violinist Axel Strauss.

A festival gala celebrating La Belle Époque on Aug. 12 at the Charles Krug Winery will include gourmet French dining and a live auction, with a concert by the Pacifica Quartet and café dansant music by the Baguette Quartette.

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West Edge Opera Festival | Aug. 5–20

Out of the many small opera companies in the Bay Area, a couple are really indispensable, and one of these is West Edge Opera. It’s not just repertory, although last summer’s festival — Thomas Ades’ Powder Her Face, Janacek’s Cunning Little Vixen, and Monteverdi’s Return of Ulysses — showed a broad-minded curiosity about the corners of the traditional rep. It’s the fact that West Edge made all three of these works, so different in inspiration and musical style, into vivid, theatrically profound experiences with rock-solid musical values. You may have to pick your way over broken pavement to get into the old West Oakland train station (which has unexpectedly great acoustics, by the way), but once there you get a show that would be hard to better.

The lineup this year is hardly less adventurous. First up is Ambroise Thomas’ Hamlet, a French opera that premiered only a year after Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette and has drawn a number of high-profile productions in the last couple of decades. Edward Nelson, who was Malatesta in last year’s S.F. Opera Don Pasquale, takes the title role; Emma McNairy is Ophelie; Susanne Mentzer, a longtime Metropolitan Opera stalwart who recently joined the voice faculty at S.F Conservatory, is Gertrude, and bass-baritone Philip Skinner is Claudius. Jonathan Khuner conducts, Aria Umezawa directs. (Aug. 5, 13, 19).

Just as well cast is Vicente Martin y Soler’s The Chastity Tree with a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, a writer who worked with all the big composers in 1780s Vienna, including Soler, Antonio Salieri (Axur; The Faithful Shepherd), and, uh, … that other guy. This is actually one of his best librettos, and has a lot in common with Cosi fan tutte. It’s unfortunate that Soler is so forgotten that we never get to see it. In the cast are Nikki Einfeld (Diana), Christine Brandes (Cupid), and Maya Kherani (Britomarte). Robert Mollicone conducts, Mark Streshinsky directs. (Aug. 6, 12, 19).

Last on the docket is Libby Larsen’s Frankenstein. Larsen is an excellent composer whose work doesn’t seem to make it to the coasts often enough. Commissioned by Minnesota Opera for their 1990 season, this is Larsen’s fourth opera, but her first full-out, big opera. And she got it right. Samuel Levine, Chelsea Hollow, and Ryan Bradford star, Khuner conducts, Matthew Ozawa directs. (Aug. 12, 17, 20).

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Lake Tahoe Music Festival | August 15–20

About 4 hours from San Francisco

Five “sunset serenade” concerts plus an open rehearsal in six days, complete with summer-at-the-lake ambiance at west shore venues in Tahoma, Tahoe City, Homewood, and Truckee.  At 6 p.m., before the gloaming. For more than 30 years.  Picnics encouraged.  Alcohol permitted, along with deck chairs. Tickets are $25–$35, except on the last night when they are $65, including dinner. Children under 12, free. Parking fee: $10.

Performed by the Festival's 20-piece Academy Orchestra, which includes recent graduates of such schools as Juilliard, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, and the Manhattan School of Music. Featured soloists include the Amaranth Quartet, violin soloist Michael Sutton, the Lake Tahoe Dance Collective, and Conductor David Wendell Nelson. Program:

August 15 at Sugar Pine Point Park in Tahoma: all Haydn, beginning with his Cello Concerto in D Mozart Violin Concerto and serenade for string quartet and Orchestra, Haydn Symphony 91.

August 16 at the Tahoe Maritime Museum in Tahoe City: Family and Youth open rehearsal plus interactive time with the musicians.

August 17 at the West Shore Café in Homewood: Schubert Rondo for Violin and Quartet, a composition written by David Nelson for the Lake Tahoe Music Festival, with solos by Academy Orchestra Members.

August 18 at the West End Beach, Donner Lake, Truckee: Beethoven Romance for Violin, Ysaÿe concerto for string quartet and orchestra, Haydn Symphony 85, and Lake Tahoe Dance Collective Ballet Performance with music by Bach, Barber, and Mozart.

August 19 at the Gatekeeper’s Museum in Tahoe City: Beethoven Romance for Violin, Ysaÿe concerto for string quartet and orchestra, Haydn Symphony 20, and Lake Tahoe Dance Collective Ballet Performance with music by Bach, Barber, and Mozart.

August 20, 5 p.m. at PJ’s Bar & Grill at Gray’s Crossing in Truckee: Mozart Violin Concerto and serenade for string quartet and Orchestra, Haydn Symphony 91. 

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Philip Glass Days & Nights Festival at Big Sur | Sept. 29 – Oct. 8

About 3 hours from San Francisco

In Big Sur. At the Henry Miller Library, and environs. Founded by Philip Glass in 2011 as a footprint for the Philip Glass Center — a place, yet to be built, for leaders in the fields of art, science, and the environment to focus on the future “quality of human existence.” An eccentric festival pitched to locals as well as tourists. Under the redwoods. Music, film. And then open mic, poetry jams at after hours parties ’til 2 a.m.

Dramatic fires, flooding, and infrastructure damage in Big Sur have delayed plans as Caltrans scrambles to reopen Hwy. 101, but General Manager Jim Woodard at the Phil Glass Center is very upbeat about the festival, and says that Laurie Anderson, Ira Glass, and the Philip Glass Ensemble are all on tap for 2017.

Final roster of performers, programs, and ticket prices: TBA. (We will update the listing as information becomes available.) 

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