The annual Savannah Music Festival beginning March 22 is fast approaching.
Tickets are already on sale as the city gears up for the 17-day festival.
Highlights this year include a number of festival debuts, as well as distinctive collaborations, such as L’Arte Del Mondo alongside violinist Daniel Hope.
Some groups will be new to the scene, such as Portland’s Pink Martini and the acclaimed Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt, who will perform an unplugged show.
The festival began in 2003, stemming from an organization called the Savannah Onstage International Arts Festival, a multi-disciplinary regional event. Since then it has grown immensely on its own, reaching ticket sales in the millions.
“We’ve grown each year,” said Ryan McMaken, the festival’s director of communications and operations. “It’s a good place for us to be and it seems like the right amount for the local community and for the tourists.”
The festival is now Georgia’s largest musical festival featuring just over a hundred acts.
This year however, the SMF is not just holding concerts. The festival launched new programming to include a year-round concert series called SMF Live that will broadcast via public radio networks across the country.
“It’s all live recordings from previous music festivals, and NPR music will air concerts and stream them during the festival,” said McMaken. “Radio’s really important to us.”
McMaken said that many of the venues are on the smaller end, with the largest venue being the Johnny Mercer Theater at 2400 seats. He notes that this is because “intimacy is crucial,” and people should be close to the music and the artists.
SMF also offers supplemental music education programs. Artists visit participating Chatham County schools and a master workshop with professionals is hosted for participants chosen from schools and camps that auditioned and submitted tapes. There is also a jazz competition workshop called Swing Central that allows students from high school jazz bands to compete for cash awards that go back into their music programs.
In fact, one of the free shows will showcase small combos of students from each of the competing jazz bands. The first show is March 29 on River Street, from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and another in Reynolds Square on March 30 from 3:30-6:30 p.m.
The educational angle is only one of a number of features, the festival has added over the years. A few schedule can be found on the official website.
But most of all, the festival hopes to continue focusing on distinct traditions of music.
“It is all about musical traditions and it’s about the experience of live music,” McMaken said. “We focus on great artistry and we’re hoping we have gateway artists. We always hope that people will try something new out when they come.”Contact Erin Caputo.