Nevada County’s music scene this summer: Benoit to Baez

LANDING THE ICONIC STRAWBERRY MUSIC FESTIVAL at its Fairgrounds in September is a major coup for Nevada County. While extraordinary, the local arts and culture community already deserves credit for establishing the County as a year-round arts and music destination, thanks to its performing-arts nonprofits and many others.

The music scene includes: The Center for the Arts, Music in the Mountains, InConcert Sierra, Miners Foundry, KVMR and its Celtic Festival & Marketplace, Paul Emery Presents, Haven Underground and countless venues that host live music.

The County has been home to well-known musicians such as fiddler Alasdair Fraser, harpist and singer-songwriter Joanna Newsom, folk singer U. Utah Phillips, singer Mariee Sioux, guitarist Chuck Ragan and composer Terry Riley. Country music singer Kris Kristofferson also visits Truckee-Tahoe and has performed at The Center for the Arts.

Most nights you can enjoy live music at historic theaters or arts venues, as well as restaurants, pubs or coffee houses. While there, you also can view the work of talented local artists, because it is usually hanging on the walls. Nevada County has more artists per capita than any county in California.

The Center for the Arts in Grass Valley, Miners Foundry Cultural Center and the Nevada Theatre in Nevada City, are once again hosting big-name talent this summer.

Jewel and Joan Baez are performing at the Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium in Grass Valley, thanks to The Center for the Arts. Blues and folk singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster, English blues singer and guitarist John Mayall, and New-Age musicians Deva Premal & Miten with Manose, among others, also are part of the summer lineup.

Miners Foundry is hosting The Wailers, performing the iconic album Legend on its 30th anniversary. The Wailers are a reggae band formed by the remaining members of Bob Marley & The Wailers, following Marley’s death in 1981. Together with Marley, The Wailers sold more than 250 million albums and played to an estimated 24 million people.

More than 300 musicians converged in Nevada County in early summer for Music in the Mountains’ SummerFest, one of Northern California’s most diverse classical music festivals. The InConcert Sierra Orchestra performs in September, creating a program of orchestral greatest hits.

The wine tasting rooms in Grass Valley, such as Smith Vineyards, as well as the restaurants and pubs, such as Matteo’s Public in Nevada City, regularly offer live music. Together with the music nonprofits, it all adds up to big-city talent in intimate surroundings.

Summer Jazz at North Star House

Land conservation is important to award-winning composer and smooth jazz pianist David Benoit. During regular walks on the coastal trails near his Southern California home in Palos Verdes Estate, Benoit finds his most creative inspiration. “I have some of the best music I’ve ever written on long walks,” he says.

Benoit’s interest in preserving open space brings him to the historic North Star House in Grass Valley to perform a benefit concert for Bear Yuba Land Trust on Sunday, July 27. Benoit’s show is the first of a series of three outdoor summer jazz concerts, the Land Trust’s 12th annual and largest benefit of the year.

Just prior to the concert, BYLT will hold its popular annual Gala Dinner, an elegant gourmet meal featuring locally grown food catered by Emily’s Catering and Cakes. In addition, a variety of food and beverage vendors will offer everything needed for a summer picnic on the lawn. On August 24, The Sierra-5 will perform blues jazz and on September 28, Grammy award winner Poncho Sanchez and his Latin Jazz Band will bring the concert series to a fiery conclusion.

Proceeds support land conservation, trail building and community outdoor programs. For tickets and more information, visit

(Photos: Jewel by Lynda Churilla; John Mayall by Arnie Goodman; and

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