articles / Culture

Can’t-Miss Southern California Summer Music Festivals

Photo of Scott Yoo and Festival Mozaic musicians by Brian P. Lawler 

Hollywood Bowl
Runs through August 2023
Los Angeles, CA

No LA summer would be complete without a trip to the Hollywood Bowl! The summer home of the LA Philharmonic, the Bowl serves up a wide array of repertoire from classical to jazz, pop, reggae, and indie. The 2023 season has musical flavors for every palate: Prokofiev, Ellington, Gershwin, Elgar, Mozart, Disney film music, and more. On July 18, Gustavo Dudamel leads a rare performance of Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s ballet Estancia with Grupo Corpo as part of the Pan-American Music Initiative. Don’t miss Hélène Grimaud performing Mozart’s tragically beautiful Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor with the LA Phil on August 8. Pop and jazz headliners include Kool & the Gang, the Village People, Diana Krall, and an all-star 90th birthday celebration for Quincy Jones. The KCRW Festival series brings together the best in reggae and indie, featuring Beres Hammond and Cat Power, among others. Bring a picnic or enjoy delicious dining options by James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin and restauranteur Caroline Styne. Convenient Park & Ride options and the Bowl Shuttle make getting to the Bowl easier than ever. Still can’t make it? Head to their website, where you can check out loads of free audio and video content!

The Music Academy (formerly Music Academy of the West)
Runs through August 5, 2023
Santa Barbara, CA

The 2023 season boasts some of the most ambitious programming yet from the Music Academy, presenting such unusual pairings as Mozart and George Crumb, and Shostakovich alongside Psycho. While this will be Scott Reed’s last season as Executive Director after years of confident leadership, he’s certainly going out with a bang. The brilliant roster includes mezzo-soprano and festival alumna Isabel Leonard, along with clarinetist Anthony McGill, pianist Jeremy Denk, violinists Augustin Hadelich and Elena Urioste, the Takács Quartet, soprano Michelle Bradley, and the Sing! children’s chorus. Drawing talented students and teaching artists from around the world, the Music Academy hosts ample masterclasses and meet-the-conductor sessions in addition to its wonderful concerts. In a first for the annual piano competition, the winners will receive a new commission by today’s most distinguished composers, and the solo pianists will have the opportunity to present the premiere of Samuel Carl Adams’ etudes. Other unique offerings include a joint venture with the Santa Barbara Museum of Art featuring celebrated LA-based conceptual artist Awol Erizku and a Critics’ Roundtable hosted by Alex Ross, music critic for the New Yorker and author of the best-selling The Rest is Noise (2007), a history of 20th-Century European and American music. Now offering $10 Community Access tickets and free admission for children 7–17 for select concerts.

Festival Mozaic
July 22–July 29, 2023
San Luis Obispo County, CA

Set in the beautiful rolling hills of San Luis Obispo, Festival Mozaic showcases symphonic works, singer-songwriters, and chamber music. Perennial favorites include its iconic series of chamber concerts at Mission San Luis Obispo and Mission San Miguel, and the annual Baroque in the Vines concert at the picturesque Serra Chapel. Looking for something crowd-pleasing and family-friendly? Check out the Family Concert on July 22, featuring an early-bird 11:00am performance of Copland’s Appalachian Spring ballet with the San Luis Obispo Symphony. Come early to check out the Instrument Petting Zoo! The FM Presents series presents singer-songwriter Rachel Baiman, whose country-inflected melodies reflect on what it means to be a woman living in America today, and Lucia Micarelli, a violinist and singer whose repertoire ranges from classical to jazz, to Latin music and beyond. Enjoy screenings of movies for music-lovers, featuring Amadeus and Tár.

La Jolla Music Society SummerFest
July 28–August 6, 2023
La Jolla, CA

For the 55th anniversary season, Music Director Inon Barnatan has created a fascinating program around the theme of “The Great Unknown,” programming top talent across the performing and visual arts, from classical to jazz and beyond. Catch Alan Gilbert, principal conductor of Hamburg’s Elbephilharmonie and former music director of the New York Philharmonic, as he directs an unannounced opening night program of chamber and symphonic works, in keeping with the “Great Unknown” theme. Elsewhere at SummerFest, Gilbert performs as a violin soloist in the splendid Brahms Horn Trio alongside Stefan Dohr, Principal Horn of the Berlin Philharmoniker, and Barnatan on piano. Mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, composer-in-residence Thomas Adès, Late Show guitarist Louis Cato, and bandleader Vanisha Gould are just a handful of the others featured on this truly star-studded program. The repertoire runs the gamut from Brahms and Schubert to more obscure yet beautiful works by women composers Mel Bonis and Nadia Boulanger, to jazz standards and contemporary fare from Adès, Paul Wiancko, and celebrated young composer Jessie Montgomery.
Free Resource from LA Public Library

Need a free indoor solution? If you have an LA Public Library Card, let the classical music world come to you with, a leading online provider of classical music programming. With a catalog of over 1800 videos including concerts, ballets, operas, documentaries, and master classes from the world’s leading venues, you can get a front row seat to the Lucerne Festival, Verbier Festival, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, and more! Stream the Verbier Festival live from the Swiss Alps July 14–30, with appearances by Zubin Mehta, Yuja Wang, Joshua Bell, and more. will broadcast the opening night of the Lucerne Festival on August 11, with the Lucerne Festival Orchestra led by Ricardo Chailly. Simply login with your LAPL card here.

Ojai Music Festival “Live Stream Replays”

In case you missed the Ojai Music Festival in June, you can still experience the performances with their free Live Stream Replays. Featuring classical and contemporary works, the Ojai Music Festival represents some of the most adventurous programming today. 2023 Music Director Rhiannon Giddens, known for her revival of Black roots music and forward-thinking compositions, has received a prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Grant and recently won a Pulitzer Prize for her 2022 opera Omar, co-written with Michael Abels. She assembled a brilliant program that features plenty of contemporary works from Philip Glass, John Adams, Tan Dun, and Giddens herself alongside repertoire staples from Haydn and music from Senegal and the Carolinas. Featured artists include members of the Silkroad Ensemble; Seckou Keita, one of the foremost players of the kora; the acclaimed Attacca Quartet; and pipa virtuosa Wu Man.


Written by:
Holly Chung, Ph.D.
Holly Chung, Ph.D.
Published on 07.10.2023