Writer Joseph J. Airdo
Photography Courtesy of Arizona Musicfest

[dropcap]A[/dropcap]rizona Musicfest has played a vital role in the Valley for the past 28 years.

The organization provides audiences with affordable and convenient access to a diverse lineup of culturally rich musical acts. It does so by making use of various North Scottsdale venues that provide Musicfest patrons with a special destination for their concert going experiences.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Arizona Musicfest is one of our community’s most powerful promoters of the arts. The money Arizona Musicfest makes from the concerts it produces benefits a variety of music education programs in the Valley. It presents free classical music and jazz programs to more than 6,000 K-12 students each year, inspiring the community’s youth through the arts.

The organization partners with local educators and administrators to supplement preexisting music education programs and enhance the resources available to them. It also offers unique performance opportunities and financial assistance to aspiring young musicians throughout the community.

All of that is made possible by the performances it brings to the Valley—performances that continue this month as part of Arizona Musicfest’s Winter Festival.

After a stellar fall lineup that included Wynonna and The Big Noise, Arizona Musicfest’s 2018-19 festival season advances through March 15, bringing several exciting and innovative musical artists to the Valley all winter long.

Those hoping to see Arizona Musicfest’s Feb. 15 presentation of superstar Neil Sedaka at Highlands Church in Scottsdale may be out of luck, since tickets sold out shortly after they became available last summer, but there are plenty of other one-of-a-kind concerts from which to choose over the next two months.

Swing ensemble Big Bad Voodoo Daddy arrives at Highlands Church Feb. 1, followed shortly behind by “Lonesome Traveler” Feb. 4. Originally an award-winning off-Broadway theatrical hit, “Lonesome Traveler” is an homage to iconic folk legends like Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills & Nash. Peter, Paul & Mary’s Peter Yarrow will appear as a special guest during the show, making for an enormously memorable evening.

Brian Stokes Mitchell brings Broadway to the Valley Feb. 7. Having won two Tony Awards and appearing in 10 Broadway shows over the course of his career—including “Ragtime,” “Man of La Mancha,” “Kiss Me Kate” and “Shuffle Along”—Mitchell’s performance at Highlands Church promises to be one of the biggest draws during this year’s Arizona Musicfest Winter Festival.

Highlands Church will also play host to The Hit Men Feb. 9. The band is comprised of five legendary performers who sang, played or recorded with some of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll history—such as Elton John, Carole King, Cat Stevens, Jim Croce, Carly Simon and Frankie Valli. As if their music was not enough to exhilarate audiences, they will also share behind-the-scenes stories about their careers.

This year’s Arizona Musicfest Winter Festival also sees performances by piano trio Trio Solisti Feb. 10 at Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, as well as The Ruth Moody Band Feb. 12 at Gathering Place at La Casa de Cristo Lutheran Church in Phoenix.

One of the highlights of Arizona Musicfest every year is Festival Orchestra Week, a series of six concerts featuring Festival Orchestra—an ensemble comprised of all-star musicians from the finest orchestras across the country.

This year’s slate, which takes place Feb. 17-24, includes programs that honor the history, musicians and music of the Holocaust. Coinciding with the Valley’s Violins of Hope events, the programs will feature musicians performing on a rare collection of recovered and restored violins.

Under the direction of Maestro Robert Moody, Festival Orchestra will also perform works by composers Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Antonín Leopold Dvorák, Johann Sebastian Bach and Gustav Mahler over the course of the week. Special guests at the concerts will include award-winning pianist Andrew von Oeyen, string trio Simply Three, pop vocalist Susie Pepper and world-renowned violinist Gil Shaham.

Arizona Musicfest comes full circle March 3 when the Valley’s young classical musicians who benefit from the organization’s programs perform their winter concert at Musical Instrument Museum, illustrating with sheer magnificence all of the good that the event—and the arts—does for our community.

This year’s Arizona Musicfest Winter Festival concludes with four more concerts in March that include performances by gyspy-jazz ensemble The Hot Club of San Fransisco, the Grammy Award-winning Count Basie Orchestra, Jimmy Buffett tribute band Changes in Latitude, and Tony Award-nominated cabaret singer-songwriter Ann Hampton Callaway, who will be celebrating the music of Barbra Steisand.

Arizona Musicfest has grown exponentially in recent years—from about 7,300 attendees and 17 concerts per season during its earlier events to about 25,000 attendees and 28 concerts per season now. That is great news for audiences and students throughout the Valley, whose exposure to the arts will continue to expand and diversify as a result.