Aspen Music Festival And School

About the AMFS

Founded in 1949, the Aspen Music Festival and School is regarded as one of the top classical music festivals in the United States, noted both for its concert programming and its musical training of mostly young-adult music students. The typical eight-week summer season includes more than 300 classical music events—including concerts by five orchestras, solo and chamber music performances, fully staged opera productions, master classes, lectures, and children’s programming—and brings in 70,000 audience members. In the winter, the AMFS presents a small series of recitals and Metropolitan Opera Live in HD screenings.

 

2016 Summer Festival Season

The 2016 Aspen Music Festival and School season will explore the uses of dance form in music. Invitation to Dance points to the use of dance elements in musical works over many centuries. Music and dance both have been used for ceremonial events in all cultures. Whether it’s through the music of Bach or Ravel or Corigliano, the 2016 Aspen Music Festival and School season will explore the uses of dance form in music. In addition to the overarching theme, the season will also include three “mini festivals” on the music of mid-twentieth-century American symphonists; Shakespeare in music, recognizing the Bard’s anniversary; and the music from the Nordic region in a set of concerts “White Nights.”

The Aspen Opera Center will produce Puccini’s La bohème, William Bolcom’s A Wedding, and Berlioz’s Béatrice et Bénédict.

The summer of 2016 will also include highlights of stellar orchestral repertoire, including the music of Beethoven, Debussy, Dvořák, Berlioz, Ginastera, Janáček, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schubert, Schumann, Stravinsky, Wagner, Weber, and Tchaikovsky.

Kaija Saariaho’s L’Amour de Loin will be the centerpiece of the summer. Conducted by Robert Spano and directed by AOC director Edward Berkeley, the semi-staged performance will take place in the Benedict Music Tent with an international cast of singers and chorus.

In addition to our artist-faculty and Music Director Robert Spano, guest artists invited to the 2016 season include violinists Daniel Hope, Leila Josefowicz, William Hagen, Augustin Hadelich, Gil Shaham, Simone Porter, Sarah Chang, Jennifer Koh, and Robert McDuffie; pianists Inon Barnatan, Yefim Bronfman, Jeremy Denk, Jean-Yves Thibaudet, Conrad Tao, Vladimir Feltsman, Wu Han, Jan Lisiecki, Simone Dinnerstein, Jonathan Biss, Vadym Kholodenko, Orli Shaham, and Joyce Yang; bassist Edgar Meyer; cellists Lynn Harrell, Alisa Weilerstein, and David Finckel; singers Sasha Cooke, Susanna Phillips, and Eric Owens; and conductors Robert Spano, Ludovic Morlot, Nicholas McGegan, Andres Orozco-Estrada, Vasily Petrenko, Hugh Wolff, David Robertson, Jane Glover, Jun Maerkl, Patrick Summers, Johannes Debus, Osmo Vänskä, and Hannu Lintu, among many others.

Ensembles-in- residence include the Takács Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, Emerson String Quartet, the American String Quartet, and the American Brass Quintet, with Steven Stucky, Sydney Hodkinson, and George Tsontakis as composers-in-residence.

Another hallmark of the Festival has been a wide variety of lectures and enrichment events, as well as collaborations with organizations such as the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, the Aspen Institute, Jazz Aspen Snowmass, the Aspen Art Museum, and the Anderson Ranch Arts Center.

Baroque music has elicited a tremendously positive reaction in recent years, so another evening of Baroque music will once again feature guest artists and artist-faculty, side by side with several of our 2016 students.

Festival History

The Aspen Music Festival and School was originally founded in 1949 by Chicago businessman Walter Paepcke and Elizabeth Paepcke as a two-week bicentennial celebration of the 18th-century German writer Johann Wolgang von Goethe.  The event, which included both intellectual forums and musical performances, was such a success that it led to the formation of both the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music Festival and School.

In the summers that followed, the participating musicians returned, bringing their music students, and the foundation was set for the AMFS as it is known today. In 1951, the School enrolled its first official class, with 183 music students.  That same year, Igor Stravinsky became the first conductor to present his own works with the Festival.

Early founding musicians included baritone Mac Harrell (father of cellist Lynn Harrell) and violinist Roman Totenberg (father of NPR legal correspondent Nina Totenberg). Early performance highlights include then-student James Levine conducted the Benjamin Britten opera Albert Herring in 1964, coinciding with Britten’s visit to Aspen that summer to accept an award from the Aspen Institute.  In 1965, Duke Ellington and his orchestra came to the AMFS to perform a benefit concert.  In 1971, Dorothy DeLay joined the AMFS strings artist-faculty  and attracted more than 200 students a summer to her program. In 1975, Aaron Copland came to Aspen as a composer-in-residence  on the occasion of his 75th birthday. In 1980, John Denver performed with the Aspen Festival Orchestra for his TV special Music and the Mountains, which aired the following year on ABC.  Multiple artist-faculty members have also recorded albums while in Aspen, including the Emerson String Quartet, which recorded the Shostakovich: The String Quartets 5-disc set from AMFS venue Harris Concert Hall  and won the 2000 Grammy Award for Best Classical Album.

Programs of Study

The Aspen Music Festival and School offers musicians a choice of twelve programs of study: Orchestra, Brass Quintet Studies, the Finckel-Wu Han Chamber Music Studio, Solo Piano, Collaborative Piano, Opera Coaching, the Aspen Opera Center, the Aspen Conducting Academy, the Susan and Ford Schumann Center for Composition Studies, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, the Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, and Classical Guitar.

Facilities

The Benedict Music Tent, which opened in 2000, is the Festival’s primary concert venue and seats 2050.  The tent replaced an earlier tent designed by Herbert Bayer, which in 1965 replaced the original smaller tent designed by Eero Saarinen.  Concerts are held in the Benedict Music Tent on a nearly daily basis during the summer, and seating on the lawn just outside the Tent, where many choose to picnic during events, is always free.  The design has open sides; the curving roof is made of Teflon-coated fiberglass, a hard material also used by the Denver International Airport.

The 500-seat Joan and Irving Harris Concert Hall is located next door to the Benedict Music Tent, and was opened in 1993 at a cost of $7 million.  The Wheeler Opera House—a Victorian-era venue owned by the City of Aspen—is the home to Aspen Opera Center productions in the summer and the AMFS’s Metropolitan Opera Live in HD screenings in the winter.

Renowned Alumni

VIOLINISTS Joshua Bell, David Chan, Sarah Chang, Ray Chen, Robert Chen, Karen Gomyo, Midori Goto, David Halen, Sirena Huang, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Gil Shaham, Elena Urioste, Andrew Wan; PIANISTS Jeremy Denk, Ingrid Fliter, Orli Shaham, Conrad Tao, Yuja Wang, Wu Han, Joyce Yang; CONDUCTORS Marin Alsop, Mei-Ann Chen, James Conlon, James Feddeck, James Gaffigan, James Levine, Tomas Netopil, Peter Oundjian, Larry Rachleff, Leonard Slatkin, Joshua Weilerstein, Hugh Wolff; COMPOSERS Andy Akiho, Mason Bates, William Bolcom, Philip Glass, David Lang, Hannah Lash, Eric Nathan, Clint Needham, Andrew Norman, Augusta Read Thomas, Adam Schoenberg, Bright Sheng, Sean Sheperd, Joan Tower; VOCALISTS Jamie Barton, Liam Bonner, Danielle de Niese, Sasha Cooke, Ying Fang, Renée Fleming, Haeran Hong, Isabel Leonard, Ryan McKinny, Russell Thomas, Dawn Upshaw, Jennifer Zetlan; ENSEMBLES Calder Quartet, Escher String Quartet, Jupiter String Quartet, Pacifica Quartet, Ying Quartet, CELLISTS Lynn Harrell, David Requiro, Joshua Roman, Alisa Weilerstein; GUITARIST Sharon Isbin; PERFORMER Peter Schickele; BASSIST Edgar Meyer

 

Robert Spano, Music Director

Alan Fletcher, President and CEO