- Mountain Play | May 21 – June 17
- Yerba Buena Gardens Festival | May 31 – Oct. 29
- Healdsburg Jazz Festival | June 1–10
- Mainly Mozart | June 1–24
- Berkeley Festival & Exhibition | June 3–10
- Ojai Music Festival | June 7–10
- Astoria Music Festival | June 11–25
- Britt Music Festival | June 12 - Sept. 14
- San Francisco Opera Summer Season | June 12 - July 1
- Stanford Jazz Festival | June 22 – Aug. 4
- Stern Grove | June 25 – Aug. 27
- Chamber Music Northwest | June 25 – July 29
- Grand Teton Music Festival | July 2 – Aug. 18
- San Francisco Symphony | July 3 – Aug. 3
- Mendocino Music Festival | July 7–21
- Classical Tahoe Music Festival | July 8 – Aug. 12
- [email protected] Festival | July 13 – Aug. 4
- Ventura Music Festival | July 13–23
- Carmel Bach Festival | July 14–28
- Valley of the Moon Festival | July 14–29
- Festival Mozaic | July 17–29
- Festival Napa Valley | July 20–29
- Bear Valley Music Festival | July 21 – Aug. 6
- Cabrillo Music Festival | July 29 – Aug. 12
- American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy | Aug. 3–12
- Napa Valley Chamber Music Festival (Music in the Vineyards) | Aug. 3–26
- La Jolla SummerFest | Aug. 4–25
- West Edge Opera Festival | Aug. 4–19
- Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival | Aug. 10–26
- Lake Tahoe Music Festival | Aug. 21–26
- Monterey Jazz Festival | Sept. 21–23
Mountain Play | May 21 – June 17
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 Mamma Mia!, running May 21-June 17 (all matinees begin at 2 p.m.) Abba lovers, your wish is granted.
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival | May 31 – Oct. 28
Downtown San Francisco
Yerba Buena Gardens Festival 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.
The 2018 festival, as usual, focuses on world music, with many local acts and frequent family-friendly events. Some events to watch for include: ChoreoFest (June 2), the second annual peek at the local dance scene, with nine participating companies showing their wares; Gamelan Sekar Jaya (June 9), the local orchestra of Balinese instruments accompanied by their dance troupe; Music of the Banned (June 30), organized by Dina Zarif as a musical response to President Trump’s travel ban; the SF UkeJam (July 14), dedicated to all things ukulele; Yosvanny Terry’s Afro-Cuban Sextet (July 28); David Hardiman’s All-Star Big Band (Aug. 4), playing a Duke Ellington/ Billie Holliday/ Ella Fitzgerald mix; Keith Terry’s Crosspulse (Aug. 24), a highlight of the kid’s show lineup for the summer; Vân Ánh Võ & The VA’V (Aug. 25), which features the Vietnamese dan tranh wizard backed by a string trio; and the Marcus Shelby Orchestra (Sept. 8) featuring a complete performance of the bassist/ composer’s 80-minute Blackball: The Negro League and the Blues, for narrator and jazz orchestra, a Yerba Buena Gardens Festival commission inspired by the uplifting and heartbreaking story of African-Americans and the national pastime during the Jim Crow era.
Healdsburg Jazz Festival | June 1–10
About an hour from San Francisco
The Healdsburg Jazz Festival rolls out its 20th season on the first of the month! Trios abound and tenor saxophonist and flutist Charles Lloyd plays a set on June 3. The Festival All-Stars concert on June 9 features an impressive assemblage of talent, with tickets between $45 and $75. The whole thing goes out in “New Orleans” fashion on Sunday evening with Dr. Michael White’s Original Liberty Jazz Band; general admission starts at $30.
Healdsburg is located on the northern edge of Sonoma County, and performances take place at the Raven and Jackson Theaters, among other locations. A handful of outdoor and gallery events do not require a cover charge.
Mainly Mozart | June 1–24
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, the festival also reaches the Centro Cultural in Tijuana (on June 18) and several suburban locations with chamber concerts (La Jolla, Carlsbad, Rancho Santa Fe). Celebrating its 30th anniversary this year the festival is offering its fourth annual Genius Weekend (June 8-10), showcasing artists on the autism spectrum. Music Director Michael Francis hosts a series of programs focused on music Mozart composed in his twenties, including the Sinfonia Concertante, the Haffner Symphony, and many concertos, plus, for good measure, Mendelssohn, Beethoven, and Prokofiev. Soloists include James Ehnes on violin, Anne-Marie McDermott on piano, and Johannes Moser on cello.
Berkeley Festival & Exhibition | June 3–10
About 30 minutes from San Francisco
The American early music world bounces back and forth between two biennial early music festivals in Boston and Berkeley. This year’s Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, maintained by San Francisco Early Music Society, is notable for being the last one that founder Robert Cole will program, and for the proliferation of “fringe” events that are really the heart of the festival.
For the first time, the BFE will include an Early Piano Competition and Berkeley Art Museum/ Pacific Film Archive are hosting an early music film festival (June 2-16), which, in addition to the unavoidable Amadeus, will also include Sergei Paradjanov’s tribute to the 18th-century Armenian poet and monk Sayat Nova in The Color of Pomegranates and staged operas by Monteverdi, Handel, and Mozart. The Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies will also sponsor a colloquy headed by UC Berkeley scholar Nicholas Mathew entitled Debussy as Early Music, which will feature performer-scholars long associated, in evolving ways, with the early music movement, George Barth (Stanford University), Rebecca Plack (SF Conservatory), Desmond Sheehan (UC Berkeley), and Daniel Seyfried (Greensboro, NC). That’s in addition to the Exhibition marketplace, which includes instrument makers, publishers, retailers, and performing and service organizations related to early music.
Meanwhile, on the main stage, Benjamin Bagby’s Sequentia presents “The Lost Songs Project,” a bold attempt at reconstructing ancient Latin songs referred to in the text of Boethius’s The Consolations of Philosophy. Vox Luminis returns to the festival with a concert of J.S. Bach’s motets; Voices of Music and the San Francisco Girls Chorus reimagine the performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas that took place at Josiah Priest’s School for Girls in 1688; Pacific Musicworks presents a concert of Latin American baroque music; the Valley of the Moon Festival musicians take Schubert and Schumann back to their roots; and the Dark Horse Consort unearths early brass music from Venice, among other offerings. The festival just goes to show how incredibly broad the early music movement has grown in its interests.
Ojai Music Festival | June 7–10
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, violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja got the call and is bringing in a number of her regular collaborators, including the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, the JACK Quartet, and pianist Markus Hinterhäuser. Composer Michael Hirsch is featured, with the world premiere of his I hope we get a chance to visit soon. JACK performs Georg Frederick Haas’s ninth string quartet, and the orchestra and Kopatchinskaja perform Bye Bye Beethoven, a staged concert, directed by Maria Ursprung, that “challenges the clichés and conventions of classical music … with bold juxtapositions and dramatic daring.” You have to hope that the real thing lives up to that billing.
A week later (June 14–18), the Bay Area gets to hear what the fuss is about with Ojai at Berkeley, courtesy of Cal Performances, though without the natural scenery.
Astoria Music Festival | June 15 – July 25
About 12 hours from San Francisco
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.
This year, Angela Brown (a Metropolitan artist) sings Tosca, Monica Huggett and her Portland Baroque Orchestra friends Adam LaMotte and Janet See play Bach, Chopin Competition gold medalist Ilya Kazantsev makes his festival recital debut, and Tchaikovsky Competition gold medalist Sergey Antonov plays the Saint Saens Cello Concerto with the Astoria Festival Orchestra, among other events.
Britt Music Festival | June 12 – Sept. 14
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, with concerts from July 25 through Aug. 11. 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 2018 orchestra season include bassist Edgar Meyer, soprano Measha Brueggergosman, Anthony Marwood on violin, mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, and pianist Jonathan Biss.
Program themes include “Pines of Rome,” “Appalachian Spring,” “Bernstein Centennieal,” and, you guessed it, “Classics at the Movies.”
Other summer artists include Ziggy Marley, Michael Franti and Spearhed, Violent Femmes, Chris Isaak, and Trampled by Turtles.
Ticket prices vary for lawn or reserved seating, with discounts for children and students. Prices are typically higher for the pop, rock, and jazz shows.
San Francisco Opera Summer Season | June 12 – July 1
In San Francisco
Usually, the S.F. Opera summer season is not really a festival, but this year it is, because the company (as you’ve no doubt heard) is rolling out its production of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Nibelung’s Ring), June 12 – July 1. It’s got a great cast headed by Irene Theorin (Brünnhilde), Greer Grimsley (Wotan), Daniel Brenna (Siegfried), and Falk Struckmann (Alberich). But the S.F. Opera is also sponsoring Ring festival events such as symposia and forums, a screening of Jon Else’s documentary, Sing Faster: The Stagehands’ Ring Cycle, and a Wagner chorus concert (June 14, 21, 28), since the chorus doesn’t have much to do in the Ring.
Stanford Jazz Festival | June 22 – Aug. 4
Less than an hour from San Francisco
An expansive jazz series from the Stanford Jazz Workshop unfolds leisurely across the entire summer. Highlighted acts include Christian McBride on June 30, Regina Carter and Xavier Davis on July 21, and the Andreas Motis Quintet with Wycliffe Gordon on Aug. 4 — the festival finale. SJW’s educational offerings feature prominently and encompass more than a dozen summer programs for middle schoolers, high schoolers, and adults alike.
Bing Concert Hall, Bing Studio, Dinkelspiel Auditorium, and Campbell Recital Hall serve as the venues around Stanford’s campus.
Stern Grove | June 24 – Aug. 19
In San Francisco
The Stern Grove Festival goes from strength to strength this summer. Considering that the concerts are free, you owe it to yourself to brave the uncertain sunshine and fog and grab a patch of grass for the concerts.
The season opens with Ziggy Marley (June 24), but don’t miss the opening act, Flavia Coelho, a Brazilian singer who synthesizes a lot of styles in her music. After that, Anoushka Shankar puts in an appearance (July 15) performing music from her latest album, Land of Gold. Femi Kuti and Sol Development bring in Afrobeat on Aug. 5, and the season closes with The Revolution, the band that backed Prince, and S.F.’s own Big Blu Soul Revue (Aug. 19).
Besides pop and jazz, the festival continues to present the San Francisco Symphony (July 22) and the San Francisco Ballet (July 29).
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.
Chamber Music Northwest | June 25 – July 29
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.
Beyond the Cultural Revolution is a miniseries within the festival that honors the contributions of composers who met the outside world after 1979. Bright Sheng and David Henry Hwang’s The Silver River, and Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera are highlights along with local premieres by Vivian Fung and Xiaogang Ye. The festival celebrates the centenary of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale with a performance of the suite; rising star composer Andy Akiho curates an evening of his own music; and the Imani Wind Quintet returns with Jeff Scott’s Passion for Bach and Fantasy on 1967, Valerie Coleman’s Shotgun Houses, and a variety of arrangements of classic jazz standards.
The musicians are stellar as always and, beyond the Imani Quartet, the ensembles include the Dover String Quartet, Miró Quartet, Harlem Quartet, and Daedalus Quartet. Pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Daniel Hsu, flutists Ransom Wilson and Tara Helen O’Connor, violinists Cho Liang Lin, Ida and Ani Kavafian, and Alexander Sitkovetsky, and pipa virtuoso Wu Man, are only some of the solo artists that grace the festival over its run.
Grand Teton Music Festival | July 2 – August 18
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.
In a lineup they’ve dubbed “Star Spangled Season” the festival closes with a fully cast concert production of Bernstein’s West Side Story; Audra MacDonald flies in for a gala performance; Kirill Gerstein plays Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue; Leila Josefowicz solos in John Adams’ Scheherezade 2; and Daniil Trifonov plays Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in a concert that includes Copland’s Lincoln Portrait and Allen Jay Kernis’s Invisible Music III. There are several jazz events as well, including performances by pianists Diane Schuur and Aaron Diehl.
San Francisco Symphony | July 3 – Aug. 3
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 features another iteration of film music by John Williams, with the orchestra playing the soundtracks of the original Star Wars trilogy live. Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jose Hernandez returns, and the orchestra screens and plays Disney’s The Little Mermaid. Young phenom conductor Alexander Prior leads the orchestra in Rachmaninoff’s Symphony No. 2 and Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, with William Hagan in the solo role.
Mendocino Music Festival | July 7–21
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).
Fourteen classical music events. Highlights include a concert performance of Domenico Cimarosa’s lightweight The Secret Marriage, John Rutter’s Magnificat together with Edward Elgar’s Enigma Variations on the last night of the festival, and guest appearances by the Calder Quartet, Lucia Micarelli, bluesman Eric Bibb, Clairdee, Perla Batalla (singing Leonard Cohen songs), and the Pine Leaf Boys.
The classical theme of the festival is “Chopin: Dreams and Memories of a Lost Homeland.” Multimedia lecture by festival co-founder Susan Waterfall, and piano recitals by John Novacek and Spencer Myer, as well as the Cello Sonata with David Kadarauch, cello and Miles Graber, piano.
Classical Tahoe Music Festival | July 8 – Aug. 12
About 4 hours from San Francisco
Now in its seventh 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 include pianist Simone Dinnerstein, clarinetist Daniel Gilbert, pianist Leonel Morales, mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk, violinist Jaime Laredo, violinist Laura Hamilton, cellist Sharon Robinson, saxophonist Branford Marsalis, pianist Peter Dugan, and the Brubeck Brothers Quartet.
Concert themes include “Made in America,” “French Romance,” “From the Opera House to the Concert Hall,” “East Meets West,” and “Russian and French Nights.”
Look for a gala opening, meet-the-musicians events, and movies with live music. An “All About Rhythm” family concert is free.
[email protected] | July 13 – Aug. 4
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: “Creative Capitals.” 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.
From 14th-century Florence to fin-de-siècle Paris and the Harlem Renaissance, Western civilization's greatest artistic triumphs have emerged from thriving cities. [email protected]'s 16th festival celebrates seven of these flourishing artistic capitals — London, Paris, St. Petersburg, Leipzig, and Berlin. With 46 internationally-renowned artists featured, and an ambitious three weeks of concerts and events, Creative Capitals will be a thrilling tour of chamber music masterpieces from around the world.
[email protected] 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 Carte Blanche artist-programmed recitals are often some of the most interesting things at the Festival. 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.
Ventura Music Festival | July 13–23
About 6.5 hours from San Francisco
Eclectic musical offerings comprise the nine-concert lineup at this annual festival located northwest of Los Angeles. Reed quintet Akropolis and piano trio Trio Céleste provide the most traditional chamber music fare, and the Festival Brass Quintet presents an Anglophilic afternoon of Tea and Trumpets on July 13. Veritable non-classical ensembles, including the John Jorgensen Quintet and Pink Martini, dominate the series, which concludes on Sunday afternoon with a Malashock Dance production.
Concerts take place around the cities of Ventura and Oxnard, with tickets priced between $15 and $50 and several free outdoor performances.
Carmel Bach Festival | July 15–29
About 2.5 hours from San Francisco
Now celebrating its 81st 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. Discounts available for students, active and retired military, and families.
Major concert events include:
O Fortuna! (July 14, 21 at 7:30 p.m) Bach’s Orchestral Suire No. 1 and Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana.
St. Matthew Passion (July 15, 22 at 3 p.m.)
Eight Seasons (July 16, 23 at 7:30 p.m.) Baroque meets tango with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons juxtaposed with the music of Astor Piazzolla.
A Night at the Opera (July 17, 24 at 7:30 p.m.) Selections spanning nearly 200 years including theatrical masterpieces from Germanic masters such as Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, and Strauss II as well as Leonard Bernstein.
Medieval Hymn (July 18, 25 at 8:30 p.m.) Dieterich Buxtehude’s cantata cycle Membra Jesu nostri, composed in 1680.
Amazing Grace (July 19 at 7:30 p.m.) Edwin Huizinga, violin and William Coulter, guitar with Ashley Broder, mandolin, and other members of the Festival Orchestra and Chorale for an evening of American classics and folk songs.
I Hear America Singing (July 26 at 7:30 p.m.) The Carmel Bach Festival Chorale takes the Sunset Center stage for an evening of American folk songs, spirituals, hymns and show tunes.
Heroic Symphony (July 20, 27 at 7:30 p.m.) Leonard Bernstein’s On the Town, Copland's Appalachian Spring, Beethoven’s Third Symphony
Best of the Fest (July 28 at 7:30 p.m.) Favorite selections from the festival plus a celebratory reception.
Other events include a wide range of chamber concerts, recitals, a masterclass showcase, a family concert, and a cottage tour.
Valley of the Moon Music Festival | July 14–29
About 1.5 hours from San Francisco
Founded by Tanya Tomkins and Eric Zivian, the festival is in its fourth season. Noted for chamber music on period instruments, extending into the 19th Century. The theme for 2018 is Vienna in Transition: From the Enlightenment to the Dawn of Modernism. Over the course of six concerts, the festival will explore some of the most influential music composed in Vienna: from a lesser-known Oboe Quartet by Vanhal (1771), through the chamber music of Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, all the way to Schoenberg’s Second String Quartet (1908). This year the festival introduces the new Blattner Lecture Series, featuring a fantastic lineup of star lecturers to guide listeners through this Viennese musical journey.
Enjoy a picnic on the patio of the Hanna Boys Center before attending a concert, and stay to enjoy a glass of wine while mingling with the artists afterwards. Each reception will feature a different local winery pouring their finest for you to taste.
Faculty artists include Elizabeth Blumenstock, Monica Huggett, Tanya Tomkins, and Eric Zivian. Festival artists include Nikki Einfeld, Eric Hoeprich, Sadie Glass, Kate van Orden, Anthony Manzo, Andrew Gonzalez, Owen Dalby, Rachell Wong, Toma Iliev, and Katherine Kyme, among others.
Festival Mozaic | July 17–29
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 30 events in 19 different venues, Festival Mozaic programs fall into four series: Chamber, Orchestra, UnClassical, 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 “American Music,” “Classical Reflections,” “Mozart to Modernity,” and “Scott Yoo and Friends.”
Orchestral highlight include “Baroque in the Vines,” “Baroque in the Mission,” “Mozart in Mission San Miguel,” and “Music Without Border.”
The more laid-back UnClassical series features cellist Kristina Reiko Cooper, Harpeth Rising, 9 Horses Trio, and Christopher O’Riley.
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.
Ticket prices vary dramatically with events, depending on the venue and whether music is paired with food and/or drink.
Festival Napa Valley | July 20–29
About 1.5 hours from San Francisco
Ten days of classical music, jazz, dance, and other events, including vintner tastings, dinners, lunches and brunches, and afterparties. Kristin Chenoweth headlines this year’s July 22 gala concert, accompanied by the young musicians enrolled in the festival’s summer orchestral program. Violinst Joshua Bell, tenor Michael Fabiano, and flutist Maxim Rubtsov make big solo turns, and the San Francisco Ballet returns for its annual “Dance Gala” engagement.
Etiquette note: “‘Napa Style’ casual elegance for luncheons, dinners, and concerts alike.” To complete every daytime outfit, guests should wear sunglasses and a stylish hat.
A number of concerts are free and open to the Napa public. Concert passes start as low as $69, and dining and lodging options are extensive.
Bear Valley Music Festival | July 21 – Aug. 6
About 4 hours from San Francisco
Oakland Symphony Music Director Michael Morgan leads the festival in its 50th anniversary season. At 7000 feet elevation, the stakes are high, with big orchestral productions like Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Rachmaninoff’s Second Piano Concerto, and a David Conte world premiere. Bay Area string quartet Thalea, pop/rock band Pablo Cruise, and Tom Petty cover band Petty Theft also make appearances. Located in the Sierra Nevada mountains on the eastern edge of the state, the festival partners with a variety of area businesses and offers a compact list of dining and lodging options on its website.
Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music | July 29 – Aug. 12
About 1.5 hours from San Francisco
Cristian Măcelaru returns for his second season as music director and brings with him a jam-packed roster of guest artists. As always, living composers take on an especially prominent role; the festival features one of the highest concentrations of composers-in-residence per square foot known to man and music-kind. This year, William Bolcom, Anna Clyne, John Corigliano, Gabriela Lena Frank, Michael Gandolfi, and Missy Mazzoli are slated to make appearances, among many others. Soloists include pianist Simon Trpčeski, soprano Mary Mackenzie, violinst Philippe Quint, and the Kronos Quartet, who have an entire Aug. 5 concert to themselves. A dozen premieres of every kind — world, U.S., and West Coast — cap off the busy lineup.
On the educational front, the festival continues its tradition of hosting open rehearsals, panel discussions, pre-concert talks, and its flagship Conductors/Composers Workshop, a training program focused on the creation and performance of new music by young professionals.
Festival tickets range from $30-$65, with a handful of events free and open to the public. Mainstage concerts are held at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium.
American Bach Soloists Festival and Academy | Aug. 4–13
A Baroque break from summer pops. Concerts in 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 “The Glorious Court of Dresden.” The court was known for the extraordinary quality of music that was composed for the electors and kings of Saxony, who upheld the highest artistic and cultural standards for their subjects. A distinguished roster of performers and composers made it one of Europe’s most important musical capitals.
Music is presented in five concerts plus two performances of Bach’s B Minor Mass, which is always the climax of an ABS Festival.
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.
Napa Valley Chamber Music Festival | Aug. 3–26
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 in its 24th season, the festival offers a wide range of listening, quaffing, and dining opportunities, from the free open rehearsals to a variety of concerts to the deluxe Esterhazy Concert and Dinner benefit for the Gail and Harry Adams Resident Musicians’ Fund. Concert programs range from classics of the chamber repertoire to more contemporary compositions and arrangements.
Confirmed ensembles include the Escher String Quartet, the Miró Quartet, the Pacific Quartet, and the Trio Machiavelli. Among the highlights: the premiere of an MITV commission from the pianist and big band leader Maria Schneider, two concerts featuring chamber music with guitar, and rare gems by Gustav Mahler and Franz Liszt. They’ll feature some great “enders,” like Schumann’s piano quintet, a piano quartet by Brahms (his “love letter” to Clara!) and the earthy string sextet by a young Dvorak. The festival will once again feature its own musicians’ compositions with works by guitarist David Leisner, violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama and pianist Michael Brown.
La Jolla SummerFest | Aug. 3–25
About 8 hours from San Francisco
From the La Jolla Music Society, under the direction of Cho-Liang “Jimmy” Lin in his 18th and final year as music director. 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.
Highlights include “An Evening with Yefim Bronfman,” “An Afternoon with the Emerson String Quartet,” “The Glory of Cremona,” An Evening with Adele Anthony and Gil Shaham,” “Late Night with Leonard Bernstein,” and more.
Most performances are at the UC San Diego Department of Music’s Conrad Prebys Concert Hall. Concert tickets to $80; subscription packages available. For more information and reservations, contact LJMS Box Office at (858) 459-3728 or [email protected]. Download a the brochure with the full program here.
West Edge Opera Festival | Aug. 4–19
About 45 minutes from San Francisco
Now approaching its 37th season, West Edge Opera remains one of the truly indispensable small opera companies in the Bay Area. They have a fascinating new waterfront venue this year at the Craneway Pavilion — formerly a Ford assembly plant — in the Richmond Marina. West Edge has presented over 90 complete operas by more than 50 different composers. Repertoire includes new and unusual works as well as both favorite and lesser-known works by well-known composers. West Edge opera has presented world, American, and west coast opera premieres, and commissioned two new operas and several new translations and adaptations of classic works. This summer’s offerings continue the tradition.
August 4, 12, 17: Pelléas and Mélisande, Claude Debussy’s only complete opera. Director and choreographer Keturah Stickan makes her West Edge debut with this production, with David Blalock and Kendra Bloom in the title roles. The adaptation for chamber ensemble is by West Edge Music Director Jonathan Khuner. The opera will be performed in the original French with English supertitles.
August 5, 10, 18: Mata Hari, about the archetypal “Femme Fatale” and historic exotic dancer, courtesan, and spy, who was executed for espionage during World War I. The opera premiered at New York’s Prototype Festival in January of 2017, and his production retains many elements of the original production, including actress and dancer Tina Mitchell in the title role and librettist Paul Peers directing. Bay Area conductor Emily Senturia leads a combination of instruments that includes accordion and electric guitar.
August 11, 16, 19: Quartet by Luca Francesconi and directed by Elkhanah Pulitzer, based on the play by Heiner Muller. Characters from Les Liasons dangereuses: The Marquise de Merteuil and the Viscount de Valmont are trapped in a salon having renounced all sense of love. They play seductive mind games taking on the roles of the lovers Tourvel and Volanges themselves, hence the title. Francesconi describes the piece as a challenge to our ideas of opera, of society, of the dominance of Western thinking: “Don’t dare to come if you can't accept that you need to analyze what you do and who you are. This piece is violent, it’s sex, it’s blasphemy, it’s the absence of mercy.” The score features two orchestras: a live chamber orchestra with electronics and a recorded full orchestra and chorus created for the La Scala premiere.
Trinity Alps Chamber Music Festival | Aug. 20–26
About 6.5 hours from San Francisco
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.
With a dozen scheduled concerts in all, the festival will be held in Hyampom, California, the home of the festival's retreat center, with performances in Weaverville, Redding, and Eureka, the seats of Trinity, Shasta, and Humboldt Counties, respectively. This year there are three outdoor concerts at Trailhead Pizza in Coffee Creek, Bar 717 Camp Trinity in Hayfork, and China Creek Amphitheater in Willow Creek.
Lake Tahoe Music Festival | August 21–26
About 4 hours from San Francisco
The Lake Tahoe Music Festival has been running for over 30 years now. The 20-piece Academy Orchestra includes elite student musicians from across the United States under the direction of Maestro Timm Rolek. Joining the orchestra this year is clarinet soloist Daniel Gilbert. 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. Picnics encouraged. Alcohol permitted, along with deck chairs. Tickets $30 to $75.
Dates and venues:
August 21 at the Tahoe Maritime Museum in Tahoe City: Family and Youth open rehearsal plus interactive time with the musicians.
August 22 at the West Shore Café in Homewood: Highlights include an Italian opera with music by Rossini, Mozart, and Verdi, featuring clarinetist Daniel Gilbert, plus a new “Italian” work by local composer and Festival board member David Nelson.
August 23 at Sugar Pine Point Park near Tahoma: Shakespeare meets music in Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Ballet plus Bard-inspired selections from Beethoven, Elgar, and Korngold.
August 24 at the West End Beach, Donner Lake, Truckee: See Shakespeare program above.
August 25 at Skylandia Start Park and Beach, Tahoe City: Mozart's Clarinet Concerto featuring Daniel Gilbert, Mozart’s overture to Così fan tutte, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8.
August 26 at PJ’s at Gray’s Crossing in Truckee: Dinner buffet with same program as Aug. 25.
Monterey Jazz Festival | Sept. 21–23
About 2 hours from San Francisco
The biggest of the big for serious jazzers and committed festivalgoers alike. Star power names, including Norah Jones, Wynton Marsalis, Dianne Reeves, Jon Batiste and the Dap-Kings, Cécile McLorin Salvant, and countless others, pack the three days of the festival full. You won’t be able to see every single one, but just one of these acts alone is reason enough to go.
Single day and weekend passes are available, and vary widely in accessibility and price.