Boulder Philharmonic
Boulder Philharmonic at the Macky Auditorium. Courtesy Photo by Adam Riggs

Classical Music in Boulder


Boulder is known for its chart-topping bands, like 3OH!3, and its world-famous music venues, like the Fox Theatre, which has been named one of the best in the nation.

But the classical music scene here is also thriving.

You can occasionally hear classical music on most of Boulder’s big stages, such as the Chautauqua Auditorium.

Here are 11 ways you can enjoy Boulder’s classical music scene.

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra. Courtesy photo

Boulder’s Ultimate Guide to Music & Entertainment

This article is part of a larger series. To see all the articles in this Ultimate Guide, click here.

1. Boulder Chamber Orchestra

The Boulder Chamber Orchestra shows are often sold out. This chamber orchestra is highly regarded and features some of Boulder’s top classical musicians. Check the website for performances, including this season’s show, Fourteeners, is inspired by Colorado’s mountains. Fourteeners are what we call mountains that are taller than 14,000 feet elevation. This season’s concert highlights music from the classical period and after, including “Mozart’s Requiem.”

The chamber has been a Boulder staple since 2004.

Boulder Philharmonic
Boulder Philharmonic. Courtesy Photo.

2. Boulder Phil

The Boulder Philharmonic Orchestra is a nonprofit, professional symphony orchestra based in Boulder that performs at the Macky Auditorium on the University of Colorado campus, as well as other venues. You can also catch the Boulder Phil’s concert series on Colorado Public Radio.

It is led by respected music director Michael Butterman, and the performers are among the best musicians in the state.

The Boulder Phil is known for its innovative and artistic collaborations that thrill audiences; in fact, it has worked with 45 other local groups over the years. A show might feature local dancers or other visual elements, or even science and nature components. (A popular offering by the Phil is its Nature and Music guided hikes with a naturalist.)

The group also holds Discovery Concerts for kids in 28 elementary schools in Colorado. This gives the Boulder Phil a wider audience reach and brings orchestral music to people who think they might not otherwise enjoy it, or who might not otherwise have exposure to it.

The Phil is celebrating its 60th anniversary this season, which opens Sept. 24 with a project called “Made in America.” In this, orchestras from all 50 states joined together to work with composer Christopher Theofanidis.

The 60th-anniversary concert season will also feature Van Cliburn Gold Medalist Jon Nakamatsu; pianist David Korevaar performing Beethoven’s “Choral Fantasy” with singers from CU and Western Illinois University; and Cirque de la Symphonie in February, which will include circus performers (like jugglers and contortionists) and even an aerial violinist.

Boulder Back Festival
Boulder Back Festival. Courtesy Photo.

3. Boulder Bach Festival

The Boulder Bach Festival is, you guessed it, all about the baroque music of Johann Sebastian Bach. The festival is not so much a several-day celebration as a yearlong effort. The group offers high-caliber concerts all year long and also free events. The goal: Educate others about Bach and bring his music to more people, from youth to seniors.

One such event, Bachtoberfest, runs in Boulder County mid-October. It will feature chamber music by Bach, as well as Händel and Telemann, all played on historical instruments.

The Boulder Bach Festival is made up of local musicians, as well as nationally known performers. This is its 37th season.

The 2013 Holiday Concert put on by the College of Music in Macky Auditorium at the University of Colorado Boulder. Photo by Casey A. Cass/University of Colorado

4. The University of Colorado Music Department

CU’s Music Department is another great source for classical music entertainment. Throughout the year, it holds a variety of operas and concerts wither at the Macky Auditorium or the Grusin Music Hall. In these shows, you’ll hear the gamut, from the best up-and-coming musicians to internationally-renowned stars (such as Isaac Stern and Van Cliburn in the past).

Mahler Festival
The Mahler Festival. Courtesy Photo.

5. Mahlerfest

The Bach Fest isn’t the only classical music festival in Boulder. The Mahlerfest, founded in 1987, is a week-long event every spring that centers around composer Gustav Mahler. The highlight of the Mahlerfest is the orchestra shows of one of Mahler’s works. The Mahlerfest orchestra is comprised of 100 musicians from around the world who come together once a year for the special event.

The Mahlerfest orchestra is comprised of 100 musicians from around the world who come together once a year for the special event. The next Mahlerfest is May 14-20, 2018.

6. Colorado Music Festival

The Colorado Music Festival, now in its 40th year, has been recognized by the League of American Orchestras for its caliber of music. During its season, held in the Chautauqua Auditorium, you can catch orchestra music, opera singers, chamber music and more. For example, earlier this summer, nationally known performers presented Beethoven’s “Ninth Symphony,” followed by “Ode to Joy.”

The Boulder Chorale
The Boulder Chorale. Courtesy Photo by Britt Ripley.

7. Boulder Chorale

The Boulder Chorale is Boulder’s biggest and oldest community choral group and the members often perform with other musical groups, like the Boulder Phil and symphony orchestras. The chorale features a variety of classical music, from Bach to Verdi to Mozart. The group also tours and performs internationally. An elite group of chorale members makes up the Boulder Chamber Singers.

Boulder Opera
Boulder Opera performs Carmen in the Park. Courtesy Photo.

8. Boulder Opera

Opera fans will love the Boulder Opera, a nonprofit that aims to bring opera to the community in new ways. The opera, founded in 2012, puts on two operas every season: famous operas, as well as lesser-known ones. The Boulder Opera also has a children’s program that puts on youth productions that are shortened and have a narrator, as a way to bring opera to younger crowds.

Flatirons Chamber Festival. Dohnanyi Tri-Chamber
Flatirons Chamber Festival. Dohnanyi Tri-Chamber Music at The Barn. Courtesy Photo.

9. Flatirons Chamber Music Festival

This music festival is one of the newest ways to experience classical music in Boulder. The Flatirons Chamber Music Festival started this June and featured workshops, interactive events and three performances highlighting the program and chamber music. The festival brought to Boulder highly-respected, professional musicians, including the world premiere of new work.

10. Longmont Symphony Orchestra

The Longmont Symphony Orchestra is celebrating its 51st season of bringing symphonic music to east Boulder County. One popular way to see this orchestra perform is at its free, public Fourth of July concert at Thompson Park in Longmont. The orchestra also performs in two shows of the “Nutcracker” in the winter.

This season, the orchestra will also present 2016 Pulitzer Prize finalist Carter Pann, among others. It puts on 13 performances every year.

11. Chamber Ensemble Con Grazia

Want to experience chamber music for free? This chamber brings free, 30-minute lunchtime concerts to Broomfield in the summer. The performances, called Little Noon Music, were at the historic Brunner House in June and July. (That’s a popular performance spot for this small ensemble.) The Chamber Ensemble con Grazia, founded in 2007, aims to highlight lesser-heard pieces.

Other Notables

  • The Boulder Bassoon Quartet does something different with the bassoon. These musicians do classical music, but also a wide style of genres and original music. They’ve performed all over the state, including the Governor’s Mansion and the Gothic Theater.
  • Boulder Concert Band Summer Series are free weekly concerts at parks throughout Boulder in the summer. See the schedule at
  • Boulder Public Library Concert Series offers dozens of free, public concerts throughout the year, including occasional classical musicians. You can find a second Sunday concert series from 2-6 p.m. and a third Tuesday lunchtime show from noon-1 p.m., both in the main library.
  • The Colorado Repertory Singers are a choral group in Broomfield that puts on community concerts. The group sometimes collaborates with area orchestras and other choral organizations.
  • Opera on Tap was designed to show that opera doesn’t have to be boring or fancy. This group performs in casual, unexpected locations around Colorado — not in concert halls and opera houses. You can occasionally find shows in Boulder.

One Response

  1. Don’t leave out Pro Musica Colorado Chamber Orchestra. With a mission of high-quality performances of classic to cutting-edge, comprised of Colorado’s top professional musicians, and lead by a conductor with top-notch training and professional experience, Pro Musica Colorado concerts are cultural “peak experiences” in Boulder.

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