Savannah and Music: The Savannah Music Festival

by Kerry Dexter

Savannah, Georgia: you might think of it in connection with southern food, or with its vibrant Saint Patrick’s Day festivities, or with the parts it has played in history since the Revolutionary War. There’s another reason to put Savannah on your map: the Savannah Music Festival.

It is one of the world’s most distinctive cross genre music festivals. Classical music, jazz, blues, swing, many flavors of world music, country, bluegrass, Celtic — all these and innovative collaborations among them fill the seventeen days of the festival this spring, as they have over the twenty five years the festival has been putting its stamp on Savannah, and across the years with concerts and education programs that run through the years as well.

This year, the Festival’s twenty fifth anniversary season opens on 20 March and runs through 5 April. Events include

Innovative mandolin player Avi Attal sharing a bill with the Dover Quartet, with pieces Bach, Bloch, and David Bruce as well as his own music

Blues singers
Catherine Russell and Charenee Wade spend three days sharing and exploring the music of historic blues greats Ma Rainey and others in a program called Ladies Sing the Blues

Scotland based trio Lau shares their fresh take on Celtic tradition — and share the stage — with an assembled for the festival group of Irish musicians including top guitarist John Doyle

David Hope, Mike Block, and friends give the U.S. premiere of The Given Note, a classical piece based on an ancient Irish story, commissioned by the festival

Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck bring their creative visions of the banjo to the stage, to an informal conversation with festival attendees, and to the students at the Acoustic Music Academy, an education component of the festival

There’s more — much more. Singers from Africa and from Nashville, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, award winning folk and country songwriters, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the always anticipated piano showdown featuring Festival Associate Artistic Director Marcus Roberts, bluegrass from Ricky Skaggs, country music from Vince Gill comprise just a few of the more than one hundred events that will take place during this year’s festival.

There are talks, daytime concerts as well as evening events, the Swing Central jazz workshop and competition during which high school students learn about music and liven up the streets and squares of Savannah with free concerts, the Acoustic Music Academy in which students learn about roots music from top artists, and an art exhibit featuring photographs from past festivals.

Most of the events take place near or within walking distance of Savannah’s historic river front area, in buildings including the Lucas Center for the Arts, the Charles H. Morris Center, the historic Temple Mickve Israel, and out of doors at places including Ships of the Sea North Garden and Rousakis Plaza on the Riverfront.

The Savannah Music Festival: wherever you might find yourself this spring, you can likely hear the echoes as music lights up Savannah. To find out more , visit
The Savannah Music Festival’s web site.

photograph of Lau by Dougie Coulter

Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You’ll most often find her writing about travels in Europe and North America in stories that connect to music, history, and the arts, including An Evening in Belfast and Celtic Connections: Seeing Music.

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