History & Purpose

The Santa Cruz Baroque Festival was founded in 1974 by early-keyboard specialist Linda Burman-Hall as a way to share the joys of early music with friends and the community. In the beginning, in an old Victorian house at Schwan Lagoon, there was just a handful of fine musicians playing with rising excitement through centuries of early scores while studying historical treatises, puzzling how their own instruments could best express this old and enchanting music and touch the heart of the listener. With this commitment, the festival's concerts have continuously revived the excitement and controversy that early music generated when it was new. Since its early days, the Baroque Festival has grown as presenting organization, bringing early classical music to Santa Cruz area audiences in hundreds of concerts and over the course of 46 seasons.

Our mission is to present an annual season of early classical music as it sounded in its own time. Each season theme expands the envelope of ‘Baroque’ by drawing connections with other times, places, and styles. We balance masterworks and innovative collaborations, local emerging artists with touring professionals, and experimental new ideas about old instruments with historical performance practice. We explore early music’s connections with science, literature, art and history. We engage our audience in an expedition through musical time.

These goals are realized as follows:

● Presenting 5 early music season concerts each year (February-May) under the umbrella of a season theme.

● Expanding the envelope of 'baroque' by:
          (1) Balancing timeless baroque works with unique and educational concert themes;
          (2) Featuring international touring artists alongside regional artists;
          (3) Investigating crossovers with a variety of folk music styles; as well as
          (4) Engaging in collaborations with other arts disciplines.

● Presenting off-season fundraiser events in support of the concert season and the organization's operations.

● Engaging in community outreach through informative concert notes, our annual Youth Chamber Music Competition, radio broadcasts, and collaborations with emerging ensembles other organizations.

Our festival has been fortunate to host many early music 'stars' like violinists Monica Huggett and Elizabeth Wallfisch, vocalists Max van Egmond and Julianne Baird, harpsichordist Gustav Leonhardt and organist Anthony Newman. Major touring groups heard in our concerts include Anonymous Four, Chanticleer, and the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra. At the same time Dr. Burman-Hall's regionally-based ensembles have often been heard collaborating with guest artists and presenting creative endeavors that are distinctly 'locally-brewed’. Our artists perform on original and replica instruments, which are not commonly heard on concert stages, but communicate the music of their time with great integrity and power. Frequently our musicians play from facsimile or 'urtext' editions, using historical playing styles that include improvisation of ornaments and figured bass. Though baroque 'masterworks' remain our focus, our programming ranges from the medieval mysticism of Hildegard of Bingen to renaissance and baroque styles to the classical and romantic repertoire, including premieres of contemporary neo-baroque works.

While we have occasionally staged ambitious larger projects such as Bach'sSt. John Passionand Handel's Messiah, we have concentrated on the way that ethnic traditions - whether Celtic, Nordic, Spanish, Gypsy, Arabic, Hindustani or Turkish - have influenced the development of the 'classical' style. Our five season concerts are unified by an annual season theme. Past examples include "Musical Ecology" (2009), "Endangered Musics" (2011), “Homecoming" (2013), “Early Music Treasures" (2015), and “Alla Rustica: Folk & Baroque” (2017).


Serving audiences from Monterey to San Francisco, the Santa Cruz Baroque Festival fills a unique artistic niche in the greater Santa Cruz area and surrounding counties. Our creative approach to programming keeps the contemporary listener and the Bay Area's demand for cultural and artistic diversity in mind.