Laguna Beach Music Festival to bring tunes to town next week

Pianist Jeremy Denk is the artistic director for the 21st annual Laguna Beach Music Festival.
(Shervin Lainez)

The Laguna Beach Music Festival returns to town next week, bringing with it a series of live performances and community events for fans of classical music.

Laguna Playhouse is set to host three concerts Friday through Sunday, Feb. 17 to 19, featuring Jeremy Denk, a pianist and the artistic director for the 21st annual festival, violinist Stefan Jackiw, the Isidore String Quartet, and the Choral Arts Initiative.

The shows will draw from the music of Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, Ives, Mozart and more.

“The Laguna Beach Music Festival has become a true gem in the Southern California music world,” Tommy Phillips, president and artistic director of the Philharmonic Society of Orange County, said in a statement. “For the past 21 years, the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and Laguna Beach Live have brought world-class artists to this community each year for an extraordinary week filled with wonderfully memorable concerts and musical moments, from performances at the Susi Q for our local seniors to educational engagements with local students at Thurston Middle School and Laguna Beach High School.


“Our roster of past Festival Artistic Directors include artists who’ve sold out concert halls all over the globe — such as Joshua Bell, Joyce Yang, Ray Chen, Conrad Tao, Chris Thile, and now, the multifaceted MacArthur Genius Jeremy Denk — and we have the distinct pleasure of presenting them in exquisitely intimate concert experiences at the Laguna Playhouse; it’s like a private concert for you and 300 music-loving friends.”

Additional events include a performance by Denk and Jackiw at Hotel Laguna at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15, as well as a solo recital by Jackiw with a question-and-answer session at the Susi Q Center at 10 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 16.

There will also be a collaboration of the Laguna Beach Music Festival and the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painters Assn. at Heisler Park on Saturday, Feb. 18. Local artists and musicians will gather at Heisler Park from 9 a.m. to noon that day in an event that is open to the public.

Tickets for the Laguna Beach Music Festival can be purchased through the Philharmonic Society of Orange County or Laguna Beach Live.

Community engagement also comes in the form of education, as festival artists have regularly appeared before Laguna Beach middle and high school students when the annual event comes around.

Steven Wade, the music director at Thurston Middle School and the jazz band director at Laguna Beach High, said students have been treated to live performances with a chance to interact with the artists.

“They get to hear, firsthand, professional musicians, which many of the students actually don’t get to hear, certainly not in a controlled environment, where their attention is focused on analyzing the performance,” Wade said. “… The presenters are usually used to working with students, so they usually communicate every aspect of the performance from the technique, to how it feels to play, to the purpose of the music, and also the pathways that students can take from middle school to be an advocate for the arts, to doing their own thing with their own voice.”

Tickets can be purchased at the Live!Laguna Music Festival 2023 website,

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