the world is much closer

by Rob Gibson, Executive & Artistic Director

As we prepare to celebrate our organization’s 25th anniversary this coming season, our staff has been gathering photos, recordings, videos and publications from the years since the 1990 debut of our festival in an effort to showcase some of the highlights and history. The growth of our organization has gone hand in glove with the advancement of our city, and we found it appropriate to call the 25th annual Savannah Music Festival (SMF) to the attention of our valued patrons and supporters. While economic development and music education have carried equal weight in the organization’s core mission, it is the clear and unfiltered exchange between hungry audiences and willing artists that has always fueled us.

The utterly unique setting of historic Savannah in the springtime, with its intimate venues and abundant natural beauty, provides an ideal environment for the interaction between artists and audiences. In a 2011 interview, renowned musician Wynton Marsalis portrayed SMF as “a community festival, which comes out of the environment. It’s a series of concerts that brings the world to Savannah, with one of the most informed listening audiences anywhere. The world is much closer during the music festival.” Marsalis’ sentiment encapsulates what we strive to be as an organization as we approach the milestone of 25 years: a facilitator of memorable musical experiences for our patrons, shining a light on Savannah as a powerful destination for musical artistry from around the world.


As SMF grows, so does the musical palette of our patrons, whose reactions to new artists each year deeply informs future programs. Since the 2003 transition of Savannah OnStage to Savannah Music Festival, programming has been driven with a focus on great artistry, regardless of genre and discipline. The result, we always hope, is a rich and varied festival representative of diverse musical influences and cultures, with musical styles ranging from the Renaissance to the present day.

Our 2013 festival brought yet another significant increase in visiting patrons, which now make up more than 40 percent of our audience. With many years of sustained critical coverage overseas, we are also starting to recognize an influx in cultural tourists from abroad, as evidenced in audience testimonials such as the following from April of this year:

“Friends of ours in Italy told us about the festival, so we went online and got the dates then timed our vacation to the USA around them.”
– couple from Italy

“After discovering Savannah during the music festival, we are now considering staying in Savannah for the winter rather than going to Florida.”
– couple from Manitoba

Programming for our 25th anniversary season is nearly complete, and as always, we anticipate a schedule filled with artistic exploration, innovation and collaboration. While we’ll wait to announce these events until the fall, it is safe to say that the coming festival will be the most international lineup to date. Alongside Savannah’s growth as a global community, SMF’s 25th anniversary season will bring in music from all over the planet. We hope that you will mark your calendar for next season and help us spread the word about SMF to your friends and loved ones. As part of “one of the most informed listening audiences in the world,” this really is your festival!