(February 2024) — In 2024, the Aspen Music Festival and School (AMFS) celebrates 75 years of presenting grand, intimate, experimental, and deeply personal performances, as well as 74 years of deep mentorship of young artists. The season’s theme is “Becoming Who You Are,” exploring Aspen’s impact on the musical and personal development of thousands of important musicians, while also honoring AMFS’s strengths in the present and future. As always, more than 450 young artists from around the world will join the artist-faculty – the latter drawn from all the major orchestras and music schools around the country – along with an array of guest artists, for almost 200 public events in eight weeks. From its beginnings, the AMFS has been renowned in the classical music world for its level of both artistry and camaraderie, and this special alchemy will be celebrated all 53 nights of the 2024 season.
 
Music Director Robert Spano leads five orchestral programs, including his first public performance of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony (July 28). He conducts the season’s opening Sunday Aspen Festival Orchestra (AFO) concert, featuring Renée Fleming singing a world premiere by composer and AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher (June 30), and he leads the closing Sunday AFO concert with Garrick Ohlsson playing Liszt’s Second Piano Concerto and a concert presentation of Act III from Wagner’s Die Walküre with Christine GoerkeGreer Grimsley and Aspen alumna Tamara Wilson (Aug 18). In addition, he helms a performance of Bach’s Mass in B Minor with Seraphic Fire (Aug 8) and an Aspen Chamber Symphony concert with Joyce Yang and Kelley O’Connor, featuring music of Gabriela Lena FrankPeter Lieberson and Manuel de Falla (July 12). He performs as a pianist in Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time alongside AMFS artist-faculty (July 18), partners with AMFS faculty members Robert Chen and Mark Sparks for sonatas by Brahms (July 13 & 20) and joins Lawrence Power for a new piano and viola work by Thomas Adès (Aug 10). He also makes a cameo four-hand appearance alongside Alan Fletcher in “An Evening of P.D.Q. Bach” (July 6). In addition to his performance activities, Spano continues his role as head of the Aspen Conducting Academy (ACA) where he will mentor ten emerging conductors who train with (and play in) a dedicated symphony orchestra.
 
Other highlights of the season include:Daniil Trifonov and Leonidas Kavakos in their first recital appearance together (Aug 17) New editions of Alisa Weilerstein’s FRAGMENTS project for solo cello (July 2, 3Conrad Tao performs Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue along with his own companion piece (July 16) Soprano Karen Slack performs “African Queens,” with works by Jessie MontgomeryShawn Okpebholo, and Joel Thompson (Aug 7) The Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS program, led by Aspen alumna Renée Fleming and conductor Patrick Summers, presents Hansel and Gretel (July 19), The Marriage of Figaro (Aug 12, 15, 17) and a concert production of Music for New Bodies, a new vocal cycle created by Matthew Aucoin and Peter Sellars and co-commissioned by the AMFS (July 1Pinchas Zukerman returns to Aspen after a long absence with the Zukerman Trio (July 31) AMFS spotlight on the legacy of Dorothy DeLay, who taught in Aspen from 1971 to 2001 (July 29–Aug 4)
Celebrated AMFS alumni, guest performers and visiting composers
Alumni spanning more than 50 years of the AMFS, along with a stellar array of guest artists, will be on hand this summer for a variety of performances and workshops. Included are the American Brass QuintetTeddy AbramsInon BarnatanJoshua BellYefim BronfmanJames ConlonRoderick CoxDanish String QuartetJeremy DenkSimone DinnersteinKevin John EduseiRenée FlemingZlatomir FungJames GaffiganJane GloverAugustin HadelichStephen HoughSharon IsbinLeonidas KavakosJennifer KohBruce LiuCristian MăcelaruAlexander MalofeevRobert McDuffieNicholas McGeganEdgar MeyerMidoriGarrick OhlssonDavid RobertsonGil ShahamLeonard SlatkinTakács QuartetConrad TaoChris ThileDaniil TrifonovAlisa WeilersteinJoyce YangHarmony Zhu, and the Zukerman Trio.
 
A roster of visiting composers and composer-performers also joins composer-in-residence Christopher Theofanidis this summer, including Matthew AucoinIsabella GellisAnders HillborgWang LuSteven MackeyMissy Mazzoli (principal guest composer), Jessie MontgomeryNico MuhlyAdam SchoenbergSarah Kirkland SniderAugusta Read Thomas and Joel Thompson.
“Dorothy DeLay Week”
The legendary violin teacher Dorothy DeLay taught in Aspen for 30 years, from 1971 to 2001, and in her honor the sixth week of the festival (July 29–Aug 4) will feature two of her students, Gil Shaham and Midori, in performance. The rest of the week will be filled with open classes, competitions, and panels spotlighting the transformational mentorship that goes on every day in an Aspen summer.
Special Reminiscence Concerts
Four concerts in 2024 will offer special reminiscences by longtime Aspen alumni artists. Each participant created a bespoke program to share meaningful music and personal stories of their decades in Aspen – as students, as faculty, and as guest artists.American String Quartet (July 8): On the occasion of its 50th anniversary of performing in Aspen, the American String Quartet looks back on its own musical history and deep friendships at the festival. Violinists Gil Shaham and Adele Anthony (July 25): A student of Dorothy DeLay, Gil Shaham came to Aspen as a youth when his father participated as a physicist at the Aspen Center for Physics. Shaham and fellow violinist Adele Anthony have spent four decades together studying, performing, and teaching in Aspen.Classical guitarist Sharon Isbin (July 30): The Aspen alumna and director of Aspen’s classical guitar program looks back on 34 years in Aspen, starting with her years as a student of the great Oscar Ghiglia.Violinist Robert McDuffie (Aug 14): Another student of Miss DeLay’s, Robert McDuffie tells stories of being in the dorm, bringing his best for Miss DeLay, and his journey from student to performer to teacher and leader of his own educational institutions.
Premieres, Commissions, Composition
Aspen has a long history of fostering and performing contemporary works. The Schumann Center for Composition Studies is led by composer-in-residence Christopher Theofanidis, and its students are also taught by AMFS President and CEO Alan Fletcher, Music Director Robert Spano, and visiting composers (see above). The AMFS also participates in the growth and expansion of the art form by actively co-commissioning new works. AMFS co-commissions to be featured this summer are: June 28Joel Thompson’s To See the Sky (AMFS co-commission) (2023) June 30Alan Fletcher’s American Songs (world premiere, AMFS co-commission) (2024)July 1Matthew Aucoin’s Music for New Bodies (AMFS co-commission) (2023)July 6Jessie Montgomery’s new work (AMFS co-commission) (2024)July 10Isabella Gellis’s new work (AMFS commission, world premiere, 2023 Druckman Prize Winner)July 16Conrad Tao’s new work (AMFS co-commission)July 27Adam Schoenberg’s new work (AMFS co-commission)Aug 10Anders Hillborg’s Viola Concerto (AMFS co-commission)Aug 16Christopher Theofanidis’s Flute Concerto (AMFS co-commission) (2024)Aug 17Augusta Read Thomas’s ABRACADABRA (AMFS co-commission, world premiere) (2024)Fresh music is interwoven through the Aspen summer every year. The Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, led by Timothy Weiss, performs new works every Saturday, and new works are programmed on virtually every orchestra and recital program. This summer, on July 6, the AMFS pays tribute to its former student, the late Peter Schickele, with “An Evening of P.D.Q. Bach”; on July 29, the Aspen Percussion Ensemble presents an All-Zappa program with special permission from the Zappa family.
Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS
Superstar soprano Renée Fleming remembers her student years in the 1980s with deep affection. She particularly remembers her roles in Conrad Susa’s Transformations, based on the poems of Anne Sexton, and The Marriage of Figaro. In fact, it was in Aspen she first sang the role of Countess Almaviva, a role in which she later made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera. But as much as the opera, she remembers growing as a human: making connections, daily bike rides up to the Maroon Bells, and gathering with other students in the home of the great singer and teacher Jan DeGaetani.
 
In 2024, Fleming leads the fourth year of the Aspen Opera Theater and VocalARTS (AOTVA) program with co-artistic director Patrick Summers. This summer, AOTVA students present Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, semi-staged with full orchestra in the Klein Music Tent, conducted by Summers (July 19); The Marriage of Figaro, fully staged in the Wheeler Opera House, conducted by Matthew Aucoin (Aug 12, 15, 17); and Music for New Bodies, a concert production of a new song cycle (to be premiered in April in Houston, AMFS co-commission), created by Aucoin and director Peter Sellars (July 1).
AMFS History
The Aspen Music Festival and School started as a bold dream in June 1949, when Walter and Elizabeth Paepcke, with others from the University of Chicago, organized an event that brought leaders, artists, thinkers, and dreamers to the remote, dusty ex-mining mountain town of Aspen to discuss big ideas and, naturally, to listen to music that touched the soul. Their vision for the 1949 Goethe Bicentennial Convocation and Music Festival was to heal, hope and reach for the best in humanity in response to the devastation following World War II. More than 2,000 people made the trek to attend, as reported in the New York Times.
 
Participants included novelist Thornton Wilder, Spanish philosopher José Ortega y Gasset, Italian literature professor Giuseppe Antonio Borgese, Israeli theologian Martin Buber, and doctor, humanitarian, and music scholar Albert Schweitzer on his first and only trip to the United States. Musicians included pianist Arthur Rubinstein, Dimitri Mitropoulos, and the entire Minnesota Symphony Orchestra.
 
The experience was both profound and joyful, and the following year the musicians returned. They brought their students, their ideals, and their hiking boots. Walter Paepcke asked singer Mack Harrell (father of cellist Lynn Harrell) to form a school. And just like that, an annual music festival and school was born.
 
Over seven decades, Aspen’s magic has been in this combination of seasoned professionals and youth as colleagues and co-inspiring forces. Musicians don’t just come to Aspen to perform, they come to connect with other musicians, mentor and be mentored, find their best selves and share them authentically. Aspen students fill every corner of the music world today – performing in orchestras or as soloists, singing, composing, conducting and teaching. Alumni include conductors Leonard Slatkin and James Conlon, violinists Gil Shaham and Midori, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and bassist Edgar Meyer. Even former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice took a turn in Aspen before giving up piano for politics.
 
From the beginning, Aspen has had the feeling of a “retreat,” a place to create and experiment, a tradition that is continued today. In 1950, Igor Stravinsky conducted his own works in the Music Tent, paving the way for so many composers to visit, study, and teach in Aspen, including Darius Milhaud – who led the contemporary music charge in Aspen from 1952-1968 – Aaron Copland, Elliott Carter, Virgil Thomson, George Crumb, Jacob Druckman, William Schuman, Olivier Messiaen, Peter Maxwell Davies, David Lang, David del Tredici, Philip Glass, Peter Schickele, and, more recently, Augusta Read Thomas, George Tsontakis, Christopher Rouse, Rufus Wainwright, Kaija Saariaho, Missy Mazzoli, Anthony Davis, John Luther Adams, and Nico Muhly.
 
Today Aspen continues to create, educate, and inspire. In 2024, more than 450 students will participate in orchestra, opera, chamber music, piano, classical guitar, composition, and conducting studies. It is the largest summer training program of its caliber – larger than all its peers combined.
About Music Director Robert Spano
Robert Spano, conductor, pianist, composer, and teacher, is known worldwide for the intensity of his artistry and distinctive communicative abilities, creating a sense of inclusion and warmth among musicians and audiences that is unique among American orchestras. After twenty seasons as Music Director, he continues his association with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra as Music Director Laureate. An avid mentor to rising artists, he is responsible for nurturing the careers of numerous celebrated composers, conductors, and performers. As Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School since 2011, he oversees the programming of more than 300 events and educational programs for 630 students and young performers. Principal Guest Conductor of the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra since 2019, Spano began his tenure as Music Director in August 2022, and will continue there through the 2027-2028 season. Spano was recently appointed Principal Conductor of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra & Music School and most recently, Music Director of the Washington National Opera, beginning in the 2025–2026 season. 
About the Aspen Music Festival and School
The AMFS is the United States’ premier classical music center for performance and education, presenting more than 200 musical events during its eight-week summer season in Aspen. The organization draws top classical musicians from around the world for a rich combination of orchestral performances, opera, chamber music, recitals, contemporary music, works by new or previously unrecognized voices, popular genres, family events, talks, competitions, and classes.
 
More than 450 music students from 40 U.S. states and 40 countries come each summer to play in four orchestras, sing, conduct, compose and study. The more than 100 artist-faculty members come from the orchestras of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, and the Metropolitan Opera, as well as leading conservatories and music schools like the Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, and the Colburn School. Students represent the field’s best talent; many have already begun their professional careers, and others are on the cusp.
 
The AMFS is deeply committed to community, and many events are free. Seating outside the Music Tent on the David Karetsky Music Lawn and in the Kaye Music Garden is always free. Regular livestreams are free anywhere in the world. The AMFS also runs popular in-school and after-school music programs at most schools in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley.
Event and Ticket information

The full summer schedule is now available. Tickets go on sale to the public April 24.
Online: www.aspenmusicfestival.com
Phone: 970-925-9042
Email: tickets@aspenmusic.org