This post on annual Santa Fe summer music events was first published in June 2013 and updated and republished 6’6’2015. The updated content was taken from our June Santa Fe Travelers Newsletter about Santa Fe summer music You can subscribe to our newsletter here.
Santa Fe is a musical city. The Santa Fe summer music scene includes some beloved annual events that are part of what makes summer in The City Different. special. It’s amazing that a city as small as this (about 82,000 people) has such a big and diverse music scene. Summer brings a series of outdoor musical events along with indoor ones.
The city is home of two world-class summer music events; The Santa Fe Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival. Both attract musicians from both the USA and around the world. Some love it here and stay. Because of these two groups and the pull of this high-desert city, there is a great talent-pool of world-class musicians.
While there’s great music year round, the Santa Fe summer music scene stands out with a range of genres from opera and chamber music to country and jazz and just about everything you can think of in between.
Santa Fe summer music for 2016
Events are listed in chronological order.
Music on the Hill™
The 2016 season of Music on the Hill™ , a series sponsored by St. John’s College, starts on Wednesday, June 15th and continues through Wednesday, July 27th (no concert on July 6th). All concerts are from 6 to 8pm. For the first nine years, concerts were exclusively jazz. The 2016 season brings change; music now covers a range of genres including blues, soul and folk (as well as jazz). The concerts, held at the school’s athletic field, bring out an enthusiastic crowd. People arrive early to stake out their spots carrying lawn chairs, picnic dinners, Frisbees and other accoutrements that make being outside fun. If you don’t want to bring your own food, there’s food for sale. Parking is limited; free shuttle service from Museum Hill runs every 15 minutes from 5:30 to 8:30pm. Admission is free. A complete concert schedule is on their website.
Santa Fe Opera
The Santa Fe Opera is a destination for opera lovers from around the world. It consistently serves up world-class opera. This year marks the company’s 60th anniversary. The opera sits on a hill, its unique silhouette visible from US 84/285. Often productions are avant-garde, bringing classic operas into more contemporary times. Every season, the opera mounts five productions. This season’s offerings are Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Strauss’ Capriccio, and Menotti’s Vanessa. The season opens on Friday, July 1, with La Fanciulla. By the end of July, the entire season repertoire has premiered. Real opera buffs who want to see the entire season’s offerings wait until August when they can attend all five operas in one week.
Tailgating is a popular tradition at the Santa Fe Opera, especially on the season’s opening night. Here are a few photos from last year’s extravaganza. Meals can run from something as simple as a sandwich or salad eaten on camp chairs to an elaborate candlelit dinner with wine, china, linen and even flowers. Want to have dinner at the opera but don’t want to bring your own? There’s a nightly Preview Buffet (reserve early, seating is limited) or you can reserve a meal from local caterer Bon Appétit through the opera box office at least 48 hours in advance. Dress at the opera ranges from blue jeans to black tie with everything in between. The thing to remember is although there is a roof and partial walls, it can get chilly. Layers are a great way to dress. The front orchestra with open sides tends to be cooler than the back part of the orchestra or the balcony. If you’re not an opera aficionado, pick one of the shorter, lighter offerings. Libretto readers on a rail in front of your seat will allow you to follow along with the plot. Don’t want to drive? The opera offers shuttle service from downtown Santa Fe.
If you want to know what goes on behind the scenes at the opera, backstage tours are offered Monday through Friday at 9am. The earlier in the season you go, the more you’ll see as the various departments will be in full work mode getting ready to launch each opera. After the last opening night things slow down. There is a charge for the tours.
Santa Fe Bandstand
Austin’s Derailers at Santa Fe Bandstand 2012
Santa Fe Bandstand has been offering free evening concerts on the historic Santa Fe Plaza since 2003. The free concerts are a joint effort of the City of Santa Fe and Outside In Productions. The 2016 season kicks off on Tuesday, July 5th and runs through August 26th. Concerts take place nightly from Tuesday through Saturday. Start times are usually 6pm but can vary. Many nights bring double bills. During festival weekends such as Spanish and Indian Markets, which take place on the Plaza, there are no Friday night concerts and Saturday night concerts are held in the courtyard between Plaza Southside Café and Pizza Centro at San Isidro Plaza on Zaferano Drive. Check the schedule on their website for full concert details. Santa Fe Bandstand presents a wide range of music genres including blues, Latin, Native, northern New Mexican, country, rock, reggae, R & B, jazz, bluegrass and folk performed by both nationally-known and local musicians. This summer’s roster includes performances by Grammy Award-winners including bluegrass great Tim O’Brien and Zydeco master Terrance Simien. Come early to grab your spot and sample a bit of food from carts and food trucks around the Plaza. Want a bird’s eye view of the festivities? Snag a table at one of the restaurant balconies overlooking the Plaza.
Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Brahms G Minor Piano Quartet played live at the 2009 Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has been presenting chamber music concerts in Santa Fe during July and August since 1973. Their 2016 season opens on Sunday, July 17th. The diverse season offers concerts that range from works by baroque composers to those by contemporary composers. The Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival has a reputation for presenting new works. Many of the concerts take place in the St. Francis Auditorium at the New Mexico Museum of Art with its wonderful Pueblo Revival architecture. They also offer concerts in Albuquerque. Others take place at the Lensic Performing Arts Center. This year’s artist in residence is renowned pianist Peter Serkin. He’ll be offering a solo concert (which is already sold out) and will also take part in four other concerts (including one with the prestigious Orion String Quartet), which still have tickets available. Open rehearsals, which are free, are open to the public. The festival offers recitals, master classes, and youth concerts. The schedule is posted in both the New Mexico Museum of Art and the Lensic Lobbies or can be accessed by calling the festival at (505) 983-2075 extension 3. Concerts are generally held in the early evening. If you plan well, you can attend a chamber music concert and an opera on the same day. Some lunch time concerts are scheduled as well. The full season schedule is on their website.
New Mexico Jazz Festival
Sonny Rollins at the 2007 New Mexico Jazz Festival
The New Mexico Jazz Festival has been presenting concerts the last two weeks in July since 2006. The jazz extravaganza, a collaboration of Albuquerque’s Outpost Performance Space and Santa Fe’s Lensic Performing Arts Center, features performances in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque, bringing both national and local names to the stage. The 2016 festival opens in Albuquerque on Thursday, July 14th and in Santa Fe on Wednesday, July 20th. Highlights of the Santa Fe concerts are the Dave Holland Trio with Kevin Eubanks (formerly of the Tonight Show in the Jay Leno days) and Obed Calvaire plus special guest Chris Potter on July 24th and the Charles Lloyd New Quartet on the 29th. This year brings two free concerts. On Wednesday, July 20th, Cuban-born drummer Pedrito Martinez brings his Afro-Cuban sounds to Music on the Hill™ at 6pm. On Tuesday, July 26th at 6pm, Santa Fe Bandstand features GINKGOA which according to presenters is where “vintage Paris chic meets New York cool and swinging electro-beats.” John Maestas’ NEOSPECTRIC shares the bill. A full concert schedule is available on their website.
Santa Fe Blue Grass and Old Time Festival
Sandia Hots performing at the Southwest Pickers annual festival, August 2008
The annual Santa Fe Bluegrass and Old Time Festival, presented by Southwest Pickers, always takes place on the weekend before Labor Day Weekend. Begun in 1973, this festival, attracting blue grass and old timey music lovers from around the area and afa,r offers performances, workshops, jam sessions and more. There’s literally music 24 hours a day. You’ll hear both local and national acts. What is “old timey” music, you may ask? According to festival promoters, it’s traditional music, encompassing eastern/Appalachian, and Celtic music and anything “folk.” Saturday nights usually bring contra dancing. Good news in the hot desert, the main concert hall is air-conditioned. Grab your banjo, mandolin, dulcimer, spoons or just your ears and come on over to the Rodeo Grounds for this rousing festival. Southwest Pickers also presents concerts throughout the year. You can sign up for their mailing list on their website.
Besides these annual summer music events, Santa Fe has a lot of other music happening throughout the summer from free outdoor concerts in the Railyard to events at the Lensic Performing Arts Center and other concert venues around town. There’s also live music at local bars and clubs. In Santa Fe the hills are alive with summer music. Come hear for yourself.
From June through August each year the hills are alive with the hills are alive with the sounds of Santa Fe summer music.
What’s your favorite Santa Fe summer music event?
Besides all the annual events, there are one-of concerts all summer, in concert venues and bars.