Moab Music Festival

Enjoy the perfect acoustics of a red rock cavern along the Colorado River shore. Hike to secret locations to hear exquisite classical music. See world-class musicians in small, intimate venues and private homes surrounding Moab.

These are just some of the experiences offered during the Moab Music Festival, Aug. 26 – Sept. 12. During the festival, stellar musicians from around the world perform a variety of music, including latin, jazz, and classical.

While most events require a ticket, each year the nonprofit organization offers a free community concert in Old City Park, as well as music education and free concerts for Moab schoolchildren.

This year’s community concert, sponsored by Rocky Mountain Power, will be Monday, Sept. 2, at 2 p.m. This free concert includes a wide variety of music played on a many different musical instruments, including piano, violin, cello, bass, flute, trumpet, percussion and banjo.

“It’s mostly not classical music for that venue,” said musician and festival co-founder Leslie Tomkins. “It’s a nice sampler; they’re fantastic musicians; it’s family friendly.”

Kids get to run around Old City Park, located in Spanish Valley at the intersection of Old City Park Road and South Murphy Lane, while listening to great music, said longtime Moab resident Terry Galen. Galen said she and her husband Tom Edwards have been attending the festival for the past 22 years.

“My sister went on a Cataract Canyon Musical Raft Trip last year,” Galen said. “It was a life-changing event for her: the small group of people, the music, hearing it in that venue, the education about the music and, of course, the landscape.”

“There are concerts all the way down, including a grotto concert,” she said, about the yearly Cataract trip. “It’s a terrific combination of the outdoors and interesting musicians.”

There are concerts at night, along the way, and sometimes in the morning. Cost of the trip includes airfare back to Moab from Lake Powell.

There were still a few spots left on this year’s four-day, three-night whitewater rafting trip, as of Aug. 10.

The festival’s intimate indoor and outdoor venues make it easy to engage with the musicians.

“It’s really fun to get to know the artists,” Galen said. “You get to hike with them; you get to laugh with them. They’re not just performers on the stage.”

Edwards said the mix of latin, jazz and traditional music with classical and chamber is appealing.

“The thing I love the most is the sound of this transcendent music in the desert, a place we know and are familiar with.” Edwards said. “When you put the music there, the whole thing becomes magical.”

“Hotel Cabaret,” with Kim Hawkey and the Elvanelle Band, is a new addition to the festival this year. The festival bills the program as a “grown-up evening for lovers of the Great American Songs from the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s.” This concert takes place Thursday, Sept. 5, at the Hoodoo Moab.

In addition to music, the story of “The Soldier’s Tale” will be told through dance by choreographer Joshua Bergasse. The performance at the Grand County High School auditorium on Sunday, Sept. 8, will give a fresh spin on Igor Stravinsky’s 100-year-old Faustian tale.

“They’re accomplished dancers,” who have performed on Broadway, Tomkins said. “It’s quite an opportunity. It will be a unique and remarkable experience.”

Moab Music Festival Box Office Manager and Marketing Coordinator Rebecca Martin added that the librettist for “The Soldier’s Tale” is the Grammy Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning Mark Campbell, and that the evening will begin with a talk by Campbell, the music director and several performing artists.

Another event provides listeners the opportunity to hear chamber music at the scale for which it was invented, Tomkins said. The house concert on Sept. 4 will include instrumental music interpretations of songs from Ravel to the Beatles.

Both Tomkins and her husband and festival co-founder Michael Barrett perform with the guest artists for some of the concerts. The couple founded the music festival after visiting Moab years ago and falling in love with the scenery. Thus the Moab Music Festival’s slogan: “Music in Concert with the Landscape.”

Tomkins said she’s thankful for the Moab community’s support of the festival, which is in its 27th year.

“I’m grateful to everyone,” she said. “It happens once a year, but there are a lot of people who work year-round to make it happen.”

For a full description and schedule of concerts, visit

What: Moab Music Festival

When: Aug. 26 – Sept. 12

Where: Various venues in and around Moab

Cost: Different concerts and ticket options

Information: Moab Music Festival

“The thing I love the most is the sound of this transcendent music in the desert, in a place we know and are familiar with. The whole thing becomes magical.”

Tom Edwards