Sitka Music Festival 2024: Celebrating 53 Seasons!

The Sitka Music Festival (SMF) was started in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal. This celebration of chamber music has evolved through the decades. “It’s been quite a journey,” says Festival Executive Director Alex Serio.

The Sitka Music Festival (SMF) was started in 1972 by violinist Paul Rosenthal. This celebration of chamber music has evolved through the decades. “It’s been quite a journey,” says Festival Executive Director Alex Serio.

Sitka Violin – Photo provided by Sitka Music Festival

Friday and Saturday concerts at Harrigan Centennial Hall are a familiar feature and are always being tweaked to create a better experience. There are visiting musicians from far-off places, new takes on favorite composers, and the addition of works new to many audiences. SMF’s four-week span (May 28 – June 23) will offer more music in intimate venues and outdoor settings.

“Mean Queen Café Concerts” on alternate Tuesdays are one way to get up-close and personal. Be forewarned, though, says Serio – MQ space is limited. Also in June are Wednesday events called “Mid-Week at Miner Music Center” – with music, artist insights and light fare. The Miner Music Center is located in the meticulously restored Stevenson Hall on the Sitka Fine Arts Campus. Also on campus are free Thursday noontime concerts known as “Bach’s Lunch.”

Artist-wise, this year’s festival has a “really exciting line-up,” says Serio.

The first concert at Harrigan Centennial Hall falls on Friday, May 31 and spotlights the Arianna String Quartet. The St. Louis, Missouri-based chamber group will perform with cellist – and longtime Festival Artistic Director – Zuill Bailey. This concert features Schubert, Tchaikovsky, and an “unusual” string quartet by Anton Arensky. “The Arensky Quartet is voiced for violin, viola, and two cellos, rather than the customary two violins, viola and one cello,” notes Serio.

Arianna String Quartet – Photo provided by Sitka Music Festival

Week two shifts to “Pianissimo!” – with returning pianists Awadagin Pratt and Natasha Paremski. Their Friday concert includes Baroque composer François Couperin, continues through Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, and Stravinsky, rounding off with mid-20th’s Phillip Glass and jazz-influenced composer Fred Hersch. Saturday night welcomes back violinist Benjamin Breen and violist Martin Scher, to continue “Pianissimo” with Brahms’ Piano Quartet #3.

Jasmin Arakawa – Provided by Sitka Music Festival

Unofficially called “Pop” Week, week three begins on Tuesday with “Simply Three” – a creative trio playing violin, viola and bass. They recorded part of their music video “Amazing Grace” in Sitka in 2022.  Friday evening there’s pianist Matt Herskowitz and his “Chopin Etudes en Jazz” recently seen on Herskowitz plays Chopin with jazz inflections, , with titles like “Boogie Woogie” and “Ragtime Butterfly.” Serio dubs this night “Chamber Music for People Who Didn’t Know They Liked Chamber Music.” Simply Three plays again Saturday night. Their program – to be announced from the stage, says Serio – will have “various crossover tunes from pop to hymns to classical crossover” and is expected to include transcriptions of pieces by One Republic and Lady Gaga.

Simply Three – Photo provided by Sitka Music Festival

Sunday June 16 is the traditional and memorable Community Crab Feed, a fundraiser for SMF. Bring your friends and the whole family to this buffet style event where you can go back for seconds or more. Yum!

The final week, “All in the Family,” has performances by Zuill Bailey and his sister Allison Bailey; pianist William Ransom and his wife violist Yinzi Kong; and other friends of Zuill, such as violinist Helen Kim and pianist Jasmin Arakawa. Arakawa reprises on Friday with Mozart, Schumann – and Gustav Mahler’s Piano Quartet in A Minor – one of his only surviving instrumental chamber works.

Awadagin Pratt – Photo provided by Sitka Music Festival

And, oh yes, the music festival is bringing back “Cookies” after the evening concerts!

Perhaps SMF’s newest gem is the “Sitka Violin” – handmade with wood sourced from Sitka (some from the rafters of Stevenson Hall) by luthier Daniel Graham. “Sitka Violin” was commissioned by Sitkans Marcel and Connie LaPerriere, in honor of Dirk and Trish White.

For the complete schedule of performances and info on how to get tickets, visit


The 2024 Sitka Summer Arts Guide is out on stands now!

Pick up your copy at one of our locations or check it out below.

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