Anchorage Festival of Music History

The Anchorage Festival of Music was founded in 1956 though the collaboration of Mary Hale and the internationally renowned conductor, Robert Shaw, who served as Artistic Director and Conductor for the first twelve years of the company. Joining Maestro Shaw in the founding year were John Wustman, Julius Herford, Robert Gerle, and Blake Stern. The Festival was organized to “provide local musicians and audiences the enriching experience of great music; studied, rehearsed and performed with inspired, professional direction.” From the 1957 program… “The flashing aurora, the treasured wealth in the earth, the towering peaks-again all these have their musical counterparts in the inspiration and beauty which come to us with the artists we are now honored to receive. As they share with us their dedication to the universal speech of music, we who listen and who participate in the Anchorage Festival of Music again become one with all the world of music, which is bound together in tribute to the finest interpretations of the masters’ works.”

In 1986, the Alaska Festival of Music consolidated with the Basically Bach Festival, founded in 1978 by Elvera Voth, and together they re-established the original name of Anchorage Festival of Music.

Throughout its history, the Anchorage Festival of Music has provided opportunities for blending the finest local musicians with visiting national and international guest artists. Both local and guest soloists have been featured in chamber recitals, orchestral, and choral/orchestral concerts. Concerts are open to the public and often held in non-traditional venues that are less formal, more intimate, and more accessible than the typical large concert hall experience.

AFM also provides free or low-cost educational opportunities for the community through workshops, masterclasses, and public forums designed to reach diverse participants. AFM sponsors the annual Ted Stevens Young Alaskan Artist Award competition to recognize young, aspiring Alaskan classical performers pursuing a college degree or program in music.

AFM produced its first virtual concert, Baroque Reflections, in fall 2020. The following spring, AFM produced A Re-enactment and Centennial Celebration of Anchorage’s First Classical Music Concert, a virtual concert commemorating Anchorage’s first full-length classical music concert, A Longfellow Evening. Released on AFM’s YouTube channel on April 11, 2021, the 100th anniversary, the video presents the entire 1921 musical program, with archival images and narratives. Each artist represents one of the original 32 performers. An accompanying commemorative program booklet contains historical images, stories, and biographical information.

The Anchorage Festival of Music is a non-profit community organization. In has been supported in part over the years by grants from the Atwood Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the Municipality of Anchorage Arts Advisory Commission, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the Ted Stevens Foundation, and the Block Foundation. AFM also receives generous contributions of time and financial support from many individuals and businesses.

Program cover of first AFM concert

Anchorage Festival of Music Mission Statement

Music is essential to the aesthetic, intellectual, and spiritual development of individuals and their communities, and should be made available to people of diverse ages, abilities, and means. Therefore, the Anchorage Festival of Music is dedicated to uniting the talents of local and guest artists to create and share the rich beauty of classical and contemporary music through a program of music education and performances.

Anchorage Festival of Music Board

The Anchorage Festival of Music is governed by an active and involved Board of musicians and music lovers. We have a lot of fun and take pride in continuing AFM’s long tradition of bringing great music to Anchorage audiences and great performance opportunities to Anchorage musicians. We welcome new members! No special skills or qualifications required–all you need is a love of music and community!

If you are interested in joining the Board, please email us at, call 276-2465, or talk to any board member at an AFM event. Current board members include:

Corinne McVee, President
Gunnar Knapp, Vice President
Jeri Rubin, Secretary
Mary Ann Molitor, Treasurer
Barbara Kagerer
Julie Rose
Sharman Piper, Young Alaskan Artist Award Director
Laura Koenig, Artistic Director
Juliana Osinchuk, YAA Founder and Director Emerita
Anchorage Festival of Music
Presenting innovative, informative and intimate concerts since 1956
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