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5 National Summer Music Festivals Not to Miss

Summer is practically here, which means it's time to enjoy some of the best music festivals! If you're feeling super ambitious, you might think about volunteering at a festival. But if you want to relax and just enjoy the atmosphere and performances, that's perfect. Here are some of this summer's best music festivals to check out.

1. Ravinia Festival (June 1 – September 16)
The Ravinia Festival in Chicago’s Highland Park, is the oldest outdoor festival in the United States. It is also one of the most musically diverse, presenting over 140 different events throughout the summer. These concerts run the gamut from Yo-Yo Ma to John Legend to the annual summer residency of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The 36-acre park is nestled in a gently wooded area that makes it an enchanting place to experience music. Guests can bring their own picnics or eat at one of the many park restaurants. Children up to age 15, high school, and college students are admitted free to the lawn for classical performances.

There are many highlights to the Festival, which you can view here, but don’t miss

  • Lindsey Sterling in concert with Evanescence on July 10
  • Pinchas Zukerman Trio playing Brahms on July 11
  • Joshua Bell playing Bernstein’s Serenade on July 12
  • The Chicago Symphony Orchestra performing an all-Tchaikovsky program on July 21 and 22, including the 1812 Overture with cannons!
  • Ray Chen on July 25

It's always a treat at the Ravinia Festival to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra accompany a film on the famous Lawn Screen. On August 1 you can catch E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and on August 2, Raiders of the Lost Ark, both with live orchestra. Now that’s some serious family fun!

2. Sitka Summer Music Festival (June 5 – July 1, 2017): This summer music festival is located in Sitka, Alaska. They also sponsor Autumn and Winter Classics, but if Alaska will be a new experience for you, perhaps summer is best. The town is on an island and has a unique mix of Tlingit, American, and Russian cultural influences.

It's music all day, every day at this festival, including numerous free daytime concerts as part of their Wednesday’s Café Concerts and Thursday’s Bach’s Lunch. Tuesday evenings is a preview of the music for the coming week with educator Susan Reed leading an informal discussion.  Fridays and Saturdays formal evening concerts are presented, and special events take place on Sundays. This year's festival includes cellist Zuill Bailey and many others. Get all the info here.

3. Aspen Music Festival (June 28 – August 19): The Aspen Music Festival and School’s 2018 season will be a summer of celebration and enlightenment, focused around Paris, City of Light. Concerts throughout the season will allow patrons to delve into works by Parisian composers and inspired by the French capital. Three mini-festivals will also illuminate distinct creative threads: Impressionism in Music, focusing on the period between 1860 and 1910, the Diaghilev Ballet Russes Composers from 1909 to 1929, and the American Composition Students of Nadia Boulanger.

Other highlights include a recital July 11 by the Emerson Quartet playing Beethoven, and an August recital with violinist Gil Shaham playing Bach, Debussy and Brahms.  Don’t miss the violin competition, string showcase, and the Conducting Academy. See the full schedule here.

4. Tanglewood Festival (July 6 – August 26): The Tanglewood Music Festival is held every summer on the Tanglewood estate in Stockbridge and Lenox in the Berkshire Hills in western Massachusetts. It has also been the summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, it’s known as much for its focus on students and their musical development, as it is for the amazing schedule of artists

Like Ravinia, the venue has a great mix of classical and popular performances, but the classical component of the festival begins July 6. This year’s theme is the Leonard Bernstein Centennial, culminating on August 25 with a slew of celebrities including Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald, and conductors Michael Tilson Thomas and John Williams.  Other highlights include a full-staged version of Bernstein’s Candide, Joshua Bell playing Prokofiev, an all-Mozart program with Pamela Frank on Violin, and much more. Schedule and tickets here.

5. Grand Teton Music Festival (July 2 – August 18): Located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming set amidst the Grand Teton Mountains, the Grand Teton Music Festival welcomes top talent from world-renowned symphonies to their Summer Festival each year. This festival began in 1962, and the current director is Maestro Donald Runnicles, whose musical identity, according to the festival website, is "strongly centered in grand romantic opera and symphonic repertory of the late 19th and 20th centuries."

Before each concert engaging hosts provide insights into musical works surrounding each evening’s theme. This year you can hear star violinist Leila Josefowiczw playing chamber music and Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Also featured are bassist Edgar Meyer, cellist Johannes Moser, and violinist Benjamin Beilman, with pianist Orion Weiss, performs violin sonatas from Mozart and Beethoven as well as Demons, a critically acclaimed showpiece written for Beilman. Events calendar and tickets here

Summer is a great time to be outdoors, hear wonderful music and be inspired.  If the above festivals aren’t near you, or you aren’t traveling, check out what’s happening locally and get out and enjoy!

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