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Top 11 Music Events You Shouldn't Miss This Summer

Summer is around the corner, which means time to enjoy some of the world's 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 alright, too.  Here are some of this summer's best music events to check out.

Let's start with the ol' reliables 

You know you can't go wrong planning a trip to attend either of these great summer venues: 

  1. Ravinia Festival (July 11- August 20, 2017): Started in 1904, Ravinia is the United State's oldest music festival. Nestled in the leafy suburbs of Chicago, Ravinia offers a seated pavilion and a huge lawn. The schedule is always a mix of classical and popular music. On this summer's schedule, you'll find the Julliard String Quartet and Joshua Bell, as well as Aretha Franklin and John Mellencamp. Of particular note is the August 9 performance where Pinchas Zuckerman plays and conducts with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Lawn seats are cheaper and arguably better. Arrive early because the lawn floods early with picnic blankets where people are enjoying their dinner. Some have brought fast food; some will have small tables with tablecloths and candles. 
  1. Tanglewood Festival (June 18 – September 4, 2017): Summer home to the Boston Symphony Orchestra since 1937, its known as much for its focus on students and their musical development, as it is for its schedule. Like Ravinia, the venue has a great mix of classical and popular performances. The BSO will have its first performance of the summer there on July 7, performing Mahler's Symphony No. 2 Resurrection. 

Great festivals west of the Mississippi 

Chicago and Boston may have the summer music history, but if you want to head (or stay) west, you have some great options as well. 

  1. Aspen Music Festival (June 29 – August 20, 2017): This year’s headliner is Yefim Bronfman performing Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto on July 9. But the whole schedule is enchanting, as per the festival’s official theme this year. Thus the schedule is filled with mythical and wondrous creatures in works such as Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade, Zemlinsky’s The Mermaid, and Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. 
  1. Grand Teton Music Festival (July 3 – August 20, 2017): Located in Jackson Hole, Wyoming set amidst the Grand Teton Mountains. This festival began in 1962. 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." Yo-Yo Ma will be there (more on Ma's summer schedule below), as will the Brooklyn Rider string quartet and a wide variety of string performers, pianists and vocalists. 
  1. Sitka Summer Music Festival (June 6 – July 2, 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 Tingit, American, and Russian cultural influences. It's music all day at this festival, including numerous free, daytime concerts. This year's festival includes a weekly free lunchtime concert of Bach's works. Scheduled performers include The Attaca Quartet and cellists Zuill Bailey and Wendy Sutter. 

Going global 

Time and budget permitting, a music festival is a great way to anchor a longer trip abroad. 

  1. Tuckamore Chamber Music Festival (August 7-20, 2017): Held not too far away from the States, in Newfoundland, Canada. The Rolston String Quartet, winner of the 2016 Banff International String Quartet Competition, perform early in the festival, on August 9, 2017. The quartet will be joined by a variety of other performers on August 11 for the festival's Brahms Extravaganza. 
  1. The Salzburg Music Festival (July 21-August 30, 2017): For opera lovers, this year's festival is for you, with classics like Monteverdi's Orfeo and Verdi's Aida being performed. There are plenty of concerts as well, including some conducted by Riccardo Muti and Daniel Barenboim. This year's theme is "Panoply of Power." 
  1. Shanghai, July 2-July 8, 2017: This isn't a festival per se, but the New York Philharmonic will be in China this summer. During this week-long residency, the orchestra is performing works from Brahms, Mahler, and Dvorak at Shanghai Symphony Hall.

Making it personal 

If you want to make sure you see a favorite artist, here's the summer schedules for a few performers who are always worth seeing: 

  1. Jean Luc Ponty (May 30 – June 25, 2017): This legendary French violinist is touring the United States this summer, bringing his unique jazz and rock style and his band with him. The tour starts in Portland, Oregon and ends in New York City. If you're interested in playing different styles of music on your violin, Ponty is the virtuoso. 
  1. Hilary Hahn: While the Frenchman tours the United States, this American-born violinist will be in Europe this summer. You can find her in Austria and Germany this June, so it might be a nice appetizer if you plan to attend the Salzburg Festival in July. 
  1. Yo-Yo Ma: He'll be at Tanglewood for a week, but here's the rest of his summer schedule. 

One last note…

If you’re in or near New York City this summer, keep in mind that the Caramoor festival is now under new leadership and has opened to a wide variety of musical genres. Located on a gorgeous 90 acre estate, this summer’s artists-in-residence are soprano Angela Reade and classical guitarist Jason Vieaux. There will be a full variety of quartets and even a “A Chamber Feast in Three Courses,” as well as an American Roots Music Festival. Located in Katonah, in northern Westchester County, the site is a great spot of green and music just a short drive or train ride north of the city.

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