Pack A Picnic And Go See Some Classical Music This Summer

Photo: DSO Performs at Bravo Vail
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra performs at the Bravo! Vail Music Festival

In-demand musicians perform at Colorado venues each summer, and several  festivals across Colorado emphasize education. The next generation of classical musicians work with some of the world’s best professionals and give impressive performances of their own in Aspen, Breckenridge, Colorado Springs and at other, smaller festivals.

Check out upcoming festival highlights and where to find them. You can get additional concert details on CPR Classical's events calendar to help plan your music adventure around Colorado.

Aspen Music Festival and School

Photo: Aspen Music Festival orchestra
The festival orchestra performs at Aspen Music Festival & School. 

AMFS is one of the oldest and renowned festivals in Colorado. Under Music Director Robert Spano, its international reputation rests on a procession of star musicians lasting eight weeks, and over 400 events featuring performances by many alumni of its prestigious music school. The school is unmatched among the world’s summer festivals in size and scope, with more than 650 students ages 10-37 (average age is 22) and 130 artist-faculty who hail from our nation’s finest music schools and conservatories.

Highlights: This year marks the Aspen Music Festival’s 70th season. Opera diva Renee Fleming and the Emerson String Quartet are among those teaching and performing. This year’s theme, “Being American,” features music by greats like George Gershwin and Aaron Copland, as well as contemporary composers. The opera school presents Stephen Sondheim’s “A Little Night Music” and the premiere of a new chamber opera by rising composer Missy Mazzoli.  

Bravo! Vail 

Bravo! Vail Music Festival brings more top-flight orchestras to one destination in the summer than anywhere in the country. The New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra and Dallas Symphony each gives several performances at the Gerald Ford Amphitheater in July. The festival’s own Artistic Director, Anne-Marie McDermott, doubles as a world-class pianist and features prominently. In addition to the big name orchestras, Bravo’s! chamber music concerts always bring a fun twist to the season.

Highlights: The Vienna-Berlin Ensemble made its North American debut in Vail on June 20. The chamber orchestra is the brainchild of conductor Simon Rattle, who wanted to bring together the finest from two European giants of music: the Vienna Philharmonic and Berlin Philharmonic. Celebrated violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter joined them Sunday. In July, “it” conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin leads his Philadelphians and a top-notch cast in two performances of Puccini’s “Tosca.” Expect full costumes and an extension of the Ford Amphitheater stage -- a first for Bravo! Vail.

Central City Opera

Photo: Central City Opera House exterior
The Central City Opera House

Highlights: After 10 years of planning, Central City Opera presents a Colorado premiere: “Billy Budd” by Benjamin Britten. It’s based on the final novella by “Moby-Dick” author Herman Melville, born 200 years ago. This wrenching tragedy of innocence provides a new lens on moral, ethical and social justice issues of our own time. CCO always balances out new with beloved. This year, the hit is Giacomo Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly.”  

Colorado Music Festival

With performances at the historic Chautauqua Auditorium and other nearby Boulder venues, Colorado Music Festival presents works for orchestral and chamber ensembles and impressive featured soloists. Professional orchestra musicians descend upon the beautiful Flatirons from all over the country to take part in the orchestra.

Highlights: Newly appointed CMF Music Director Peter Oundjian will conduct much of the season, including opening weekend at the end of June with pianist Natasha Paremski. Pianists Jon Kimura Parker and Gabriela Montero and violinists James Ehnes and Robert McDuffie are part of the lineup of stars. Renowned author, writer and scholar Jan Swafford speaks on July 31. Gustav Mahler, a popular season-ender these days, rounds out the summer as Oundjian leads Mahler's Third Symphony with Colorado’s own St. Martin’s Festival Singers and the Boulder Children’s Chorale.  

Colorado Symphony Summer Season 

This is technically not a festival, but Colorado’s biggest professional orchestra has a schedule of summer spectacles. This year they backed tenor Andrea Boccelli at the Pepsi Center on June 21. They return to the Arvada Center for "Mozart Under Moonlight" on July 11. They also celebrate the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing of Apollo 11 on July 20 at Boettcher Concert Hall in Denver, playing music by John Williams live to historic film footage. At Red Rocks, they back popular acts like John Prine, Tenacious D, “Weird Al” Yankovic, One Republic and Josh Groban.  

Colorado College Summer Music Festival

This festival gives audiences the opportunity to hear impressive performances, and gives 54 students the opportunity to work with seasoned professionals. Advanced students in the Colorado College summer program work under the direction of Susan Grace, Scott Yoo and Virginia Barron. The festival puts on three weeks of more than two dozen orchestra and chamber concerts from these young musicians in Colorado Springs on the Colorado College campus.

This early-bird festival is here and gone by the time most other festivals get underway but CPR Classical brings you highlights throughout SummerFest on air. 

National Repertory Orchestra

Photo: National Repertory Orchestra handout
The National Repertory Orchestra performs each summer in Breckenridge.

Off the Hook Summer Festival

This Fort Collins festival highlights the intersection of art and science through music performances, workshops and art exhibitions. This year's festival theme is “Perception. Deception. Illusion. Confusion,” exploring how creative play and manipulation in the arts can play tricks on the mind. 

Strings in the Mountains

Steamboat Springs plays host to this festival, which presents a variety of performances. The classical lineup incorporates orchestral and chamber music as well as small recitals. Strings also hosts big names across genres. This year includes trumpeter Chris Botti, ukulele whiz Jake Shibamukuro and saxophonist Branford Marsalis.  

Music in the Mountains

There’s a wide breadth of family-friendly concerts as well as orchestral and chamber performances for attendees of this Durango-based festival. Young musicians in southwestern Colorado also have the opportunity to study music through the festival conservatory.

Crested Butte Music Festival

The Crested Butte Music Festival offers a diverse lineup of performances, both indoors and out. From chamber and symphonic music to opera, jazz, world and folk concerts, this festival offers great music in gorgeous surroundings.

Flatirons Chamber Music Festival

Photo: Benjamin Park Flatirons Chamber Music Festival
A performance at the Flatirons Chamber Music Festival in Boulder, Colorado.

Opera Steamboat

Based in Steamboat Springs, Opera Steamboat presents a diverse collection of opera performances, from contemporary works to the classics. Up-and-coming opera singers can also attend their Opera Artist Institute for master classes and training. This year’s operas include Dvorak’s Rusalka and Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel.

Telluride Chamber Music Festival

This intimate three-day weekend festival started over 45 years ago. The event brings small-ensemble classical performances to the mountain town.

San Juan Chamber Music Festival

This week-long festival hosts concerts along the Western Slope in Montrose, Ridgway and Ouray. The relaxed, intimate concerts include chamber music and a free children’s concert.

Salida-Aspen Concerts

There’s an intimate feel to this small festival in Chaffee County. It hosts musicians from the Aspen Music Festival and School for six weeks of performances in Salida through July and August.

Rocky Ridge Music Center

Rocky Ridge Music Center in Estes Park offers music instruction to students along the Front Range. Their summer “Music in the Mountains” series features solo and chamber music performances by students and faculty in a cozy cabin setting.

Snake River Music Chamber Festival

Founded over 20 years ago, performances in Dillon, Silverthorne and Keystone take place each July and August. Festival goers can expect small-ensemble music and beautiful mountain scenery.

Denver Chamber Music Festival  

DCMF enjoyed its debut this year, founded by husband-and-wife cellists Matt Zalkind and Alice Yoo. It launched with only four performances, but they hope to expand next summer.  Performances took place at the Newman Center and less traditional Ramble Hotel in Five Points.

Did we miss your favorite classical festival in Colorado? Let us know in the comments section below.