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20 Summer Music Festivals for 2021

Mark Gresham | 31 MAY 2021

Today is Memorial Day, a federal holiday for remembering and honoring American military personnel who have died in the performance of their duties while serving in the Armed Forces of the United states. Originally known Decoration Day, it is observed on the last Monday of May, although common practice is to set aside the entire weekend before it for civic, cultural, community and family events.

Memorial Day weekend is also the civic and cultural beginning of summer for Americans despite the fact that the astronomical Summer Solstice doesn’t take place until late in June. As COVID-19 pandemic restrictions begin to ease (more or less, depending on what state you are in), many people are anxious to get back to “normal” and even travel, with some of them seeking to attend summer music festivals which feature classical music and or opera.

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While I’m not going to tell you how to decide about your personal and family health and safety, I do find it worthwhile to offer a list of twenty such festivals taking place this year in twenty different states, in which the stated span of concert dates do not begin until after today is over. (That’s why Spoleto Festival USA is not in this list, as it has already begun.)

One of the festivals listed remains virtual only this year. All others are live and intend to follow Center for Disease Control guidelines for pandemic safety, and some have additional guideline beyond that which they will follow.

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Each listing includes festival name, city and state, artistic director(s), date span and website link. Some are famous, others not, some have deep connections to Atlanta and some of its musicians who participate in them. They are spread out across the nation, again only one chosen per state, and only 20 states represented.

Obviously not comprehensive, but never intended to be. A few very well-known festivals are clearly missing, due to the one-per-state criteria. (Thus some people states like in New York, Ohio and California may bristle at some of the omissions, but there is also a majority of other states which are absent entirely. As with all such lists, no one will be entirely happy.)

Here they are, my chosen 20, for your consideration, listed alphabetically by state:


Sitka Music Festival
Sitka, AK
Zuill Bailey, artistic director
June 11 – June 26, 2021

Ojai Music Festival
Libbey Bowl, Ojai, California
Ara Guzelimian, artistic director
September 16 – September 19, 2021

Aspen Music Festival and School
Aspen, Colorado
Robert Spano, artistic director
July 1 – August 22, 2021

Norfolk Chamber Music Festival
Norfolk, Connecticut
Melvin Chen, artistic director
June 17 – August 8, 2021

Serafin Summer Music
Wilmington, DE
Kate Ransom, artistic director
June 4 – 19, 2021

Sun Valley Music Festival
Sun Valley, ID
Alasdair Neale, artistic director
July 26 – August 19, 2021

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park, IL
Marin Alsop, chief conductor and curator
July 1 – September 30, 2021

Zenith Chamber Music Festival
Des Moines, IA (virtual only in 2021)
Ashley Sandor Sidon, artistic director

Bowdoin International Music Festival
Brunswick, Maine
David Ying & Phillip Ying, artistic directors
June 6 – August 7, 2021

Tanglewood Music Festival
Lenox, MA
Andris Nelsons, artistic director
July 9 – August 16, 2021

Mizzou International Composers Festival
Columbia, Missouri
Stefan Freund, artistic director
July 26 – July 31, 2021

Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe, NM
Robert K. Meya, general director; Alexander Neef, artistic director; Harry Bicket, music director
July 10 – August 27, 2021

The Glimmerglass Festival
Cooperstown, NY
Francesca Zambello, artistic & general director
Joseph Colaneri, music director
July 15 – August 17, 2021

Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival
Highlands & Cashiers, NC
William Ransom, artistic director
July 5 – August 8, 2021

Blossom Music Festival
Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio
Franz Welser-Möst
July 2 – September 5, 2021

Deer Valley Music Festival
Park City, UT
Anthony Tolokan, artistic director
July 2 – August 7, 2021

Marlboro Music Festival
Marlboro, VT
Mitsuko Uchida & Jonathan Biss, artistic directors
July 17 – August 15, 2021

Wolf Trap
Vienna, Virginia
June 18 – September 24, 2021

Bellingham Festival of Music
Bellingham, WA
Michael Palmer, artistic director
July 10 – 18, 2021

Grand Teton Music Festival
Teton Village, Jackson Hole, WY
Sir Donald Runnicles, artistic director
July 2 – August 21, 2021

Mark Gresham is publisher and principal writer for EarRelevant. He has been a music journalist for over 30 years, and a composer of music for much longer than that.