About the Festival

The Pacific Northwest’s Premier Summer Orchestra Festival

Surrounded by Beauty, Inspired by Music

Every July, during the most glorious summer weather, the Bellingham Festival of Music has added to the delight of hikers, golfers, gardeners, boaters, swimmers, bikers, and beer aficionados, whether residents or tourists.

Five orchestra concerts feature an ensemble composed of North America’s finest symphony musicians. Guest artists of international renown add virtuoso dazzle to concerto performances. And new Artistic Director Marcelo Lehninger brings a fresh brilliance and expressivity to well-loved and new repertoire.

Chamber Music Too

The Summer season also includes two popular chamber music performances. 

  • The Calidore String Quartet, which performs annually, has been ensemble-in-residence since the earliest days of its career. So, Festival audiences have watched with pleasure as “our” ensemble has ascended to international prominence.
  • Principal players from the orchestra also arrange themselves in small chamber groups to program the annual Chamber Music by the Bay Audiences at the regularly sold-out concerts enjoy the scenic beauty from the Bellingham Ferry Terminal atrium. And they relish sipping wine during the concert and indulging in the complimentary post-concert reception.
Outreach Throughout the Year

The Festival’s community engagement programs are as important as its concerts. These initiatives include supporting music-making for students and presenting free concerts for audiences that might not otherwise be able to attend.

Welcome Home Concerts

Every year, the Festival presents emerging musicians who are preparing for a professional career and have received initial training in the Whatcom County area. These recitals honor both the accomplishments of the young artists and the guidance they received from local teachers.

Play it Forward Chamber Residency

During winter break each year, the Festival brings a gifted young chamber ensemble from the Colburn Conservatory in Los Angeles to play for, coach, mentor, and inform local high school students. The week-long residencies have engaged as many as 800 students in 14 schools. A public concert features both the Colburn group and local musicians they have coached in a celebratory conclusion to the residency.

Fifth Grade Strings

Beginning in 2015, the Festival joined with several local music organizations to fund and “relaunch” the Fifth Grade Strings program in Bellingham public schools. This support included the purchase and maintenance of string instruments for every school.  So successful was the effort that string training for fifth graders went from an after-school program to an in-school program for all students.  In 2016, the Festival expanded this support to cover the Ferndale, WA schools.

Blue Skies for Children

In collaboration with the non-profit Blue Skies for Children, the Festival provides funds for instruments and private lessons for seven local children. Blue Skies’ mission is to raise hope and self-esteem in low-income, homeless, and foster children through enrichment programs in Whatcom and Skagit Counties.

Beethoven in the Schools

Mr. Beethoven himself has for 10 years visited third graders in the Bellingham public schools. Impersonated by Grant Donnellan, Professor of Music at Western Washington University and a member of the Festival Orchestra, the “composer” appears in full 18th Century costume and wig. He introduces children to classical music, often playing examples on his violin.

Free Concerts in the Community

Every summer, Festival orchestra musicians play free chamber concerts at a variety of venues, from the Whatcom Museum of History and Art and Jansen Art Center to such unexpected locations as Boundary Bay Brewery and Bistro and Mallard’s Ice Cream.

Master Classes by Guest Artists

During the summer season, up to four masterclasses are offered to local music students taught by our incredible guest artists. These classes are free to all, both participants and observers.

This summer features guitarist Pablo Sàinz-Villegas on July 20th from 10-12pm