Yibin Li

Yibin Li is one of the featured musicians performing at the 18th annual Red Rocks Music Festival. 

Entering its 18th year, the Red Rocks Music Festival has brought some of the best contemporary classical musicians to Arizona and executive director Moshe Bukshpan is excited about celebrating a meaningful anniversary. 

“Eighteen is a special number in Judaism, and I’m looking forward to a great year of wonderful performers,” Bukshpan said. “I’m happy to see that it has grown so much since I started this and every year we have wonderful artists performing.”

Born in Tel Aviv in 1954, Bukshpan founded the music festival and nonprofit in 2001 to fill a void after a festival in Flagstaff was discontinued. A musician himself, Bukshpan wanted to make sure that Arizona had a reputable venue for classical music.

The Red Rocks Music Festival often features renowned Jewish musicians, including several who Bukshpan studied with in Israel. Bukshpan trained as a violinist and first came to the U.S. in 1976, where he received his master’s degree in violin performance from Northern Illinois University.

Over the years, the festival has grown into a tradition for classical music lovers in Arizona. This year marks the first time that the festival will be held at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre in Sedona. The theater is one of Sedona’s most well-known theater venues and is operated by the Sedona International Film Festival.

There are also concerts planned at the Sedona Creative Life Center this year, which has partnered with the festival since 2002. 

The Red Rocks Music Festival also received funding from the City of Phoenix last month. The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture awarded nearly $1 million in the form of in the form of 84 grants to 70 nonprofit arts and culture organizations serving Phoenix residents. The music festival received $5,000 through one of these grants. 

In addition to the grant, Red Rocks also teamed up with Cancer Support Community Arizona to provide free concerts to those affected by cancer. CSCA Program Director Viridiana Zendejas said that they were grateful for the donation from the festival.

“It was a great gift and we’re looking forward to attending the concerts,” Zendejas said. “We’ve already used up all the tickets and we think it’s going to be wonderful for our community.” 

This year’s festival will feature six performances in both Sedona and Phoenix in August and September. Tickets are $36 for general admission and $14 for children under 14. 

The festival begins on Saturday, Aug. 17, at the Paradise Valley United Methodist Church with featured artist Elmira Darvarova, a Grammy Award-nominated concert violinist. She will perform the following day at the Sedona Creative Life Center. 

Her concert is titled “Piazzolla, the Genius of Tango.” Darvarova — along with two other musicians — will play music written by Argentine tango composer Astor Piazzolla, who revolutionized traditional tango and developed nuevo tango, a genre that incorporates instruments like the saxophone and the electric guitar.

The second and third Red Rocks concerts, “From Mozart to Gershwin and More,” take place in Phoenix on Sept. 5 at Temple Chai and in Sedona on Sept. 8 at the Mary D. Fisher Theatre. The featured musician will be Alex Laing, the Phoenix Symphony’s principal clarinet. 

On Sept. 6 at Paradise Valley United Methodist Church, Chinese violin soloist Yibin Li will be featured in “East Meets West,” a concert that combines Chinese folk songs with classical music. Li will perform the same concert the following day at the Sedona Creative Life Center.

“We are trying to broaden our reach by offering music that appeals to new audiences,” Bukshpan said.

Accompanying both Laing’s and Li’s concerts will be Israeli violinist David Ehrlich. Ehrlich has performed at several Red Rocks concerts and was a childhood friend of Bukshpan’s.

The final concert, “Polonaise - Fantasie, the Story of a Pianist,” will showcase Inna Faliks, the piano performance and keyboard area head of UCLA’s Herb Alpert School of Music. “Polonaise - Fantaisie” combines a recital of short piano works from Bach to Chopin to Carter. The concert will also include her personal essays that chronicle her childhood in the Soviet Union and migration to America.

“It is my hope that, in sharing this story, I offer audiences a glimpse into the life of a performing musician, as well as into my very personal story — the story that makes me the artist I am today,” Faliks said.

Bukshpan is happy that his music festival has become such a well-respected addition to the state. 

“I don’t have any plans to stop anytime soon,” Bukshpan said. “I stay motivated to make these concerts because I want to keep sharing all the wonderful talent of these musicians. I think we have a lot of great days ahead of us.” 

For more information or to order tickets, call 602-402-4551 or visit redrocksmusicfestival.com. JN

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