Savannah, Georgia: you might think of historic architecture, Civil War stories, southern food, river front shopping, a thriving visual arts community. Also think music: Savannah hosts one of the top music festivals in the world, a gathering known for innovative, creative collaborations which honor Georgia roots while drawing top international performers from classical, jazz, bluegrass, Americana and other traditions to the stages of Savannah.

The Savannah Music Festival runs this year from 22 March through 7 April. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:
classical string quartet Takacs Quartet
On the festival’s opening night, Georgia based gospel group Sweet Singing Harmony Harmoneers with share the stage with award winning high energy bluegrass group IIIrd Tyme Out, while across town The Takacs Quartet, known for their blend of drama, warmth, and humor in presenting classical music, mark their first appearance at the festival with an evening of works by Beethoven, Schubert, and Bartok. In another venue, banjo master Bela Fleck reunites with his original band mates of twenty years ago, The Flecktones, for a range across musical influences from jazz to blues to world music

At eleven o’clock on most festival mornings, you can catch top classical music artists in intimate performance at the Trinity United Methodist Church, and then at twelve thirty, have another chance to see roots, jazz and pops performers who headline evening concerts at the Noon30 series at the Charles H. Morris Center

You can dance to the zydeco rhythms of Nathan and the Zydeco Cha Chas, and take part in salsa dance party on another night

Listen in as in as twelve top high school bands play their hearts out in the Swing Central Jazz Competition, and follow the winners through to an evening concert where they will share the stage with jazz greats including Marcus Roberts and Wycliffe Gordon
soul gospel blues singer Ruthie Foster
Hear Texas troubadour Ruthie Foster bring together the fiery roots of soul, gospel, jazz, and blues in her work. It’s no accident that her latest album is called Let It Burn.

Listen to festival associate musical director and world renown classical violinist Daniel Hope give his first Savannah recital in years

Hear Chris Thile, known for his bluegrass music with Nickel Creek and the Punch Brothers, investigate both bluegrass an Bach

There is, of course, quite a bit more: more dances, more roots music, more gospel, more jazz, more classical. There’s a strong education component as well, including education events for schoolchildren from the area, jazz mentorships, and in a new program this year, an acoustic music academy for talented string players in which they have the chance to learn from and work with festival artists.

Tickets for the concerts are already sale, both in Savannah and through the festival’s web site, where there is also detailed information about the artists and the schedule of events.

In past years, Georgia Public Broadcasting has offered radio programs featuring music from the Savannah Music Festival, which have been broadcast across the United States. Several of these are available on the site. If you’ll not be making it to Savannah, you’ll want to keep an eye out there for broadcast plans for this year’s events, as well.

photograph of The Takacs Quartet by Richard Houghton, courtesy of the artists
photograph of Ruthie Foster by John Carrrico, courtesy of the artist

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