About TDSF

The mission of the Tucson Desert Song Festival is to provide a world-class experience for music enthusiasts and novices alike—of enjoyment, education and interaction with acclaimed classical voices singing with some of Tucson’s leading performing arts groups. Ultimately the mission is to elevate Tucson to a world-class destination for music lovers.


LARGE FILE TESTWhere might you savor performances by some of the world’s leading classical singers collaborating with accomplished regional arts groups, while enjoying moderate winter temperatures, breathtaking sunsets, and endless outdoor activities?

It’s the Tucson Desert Song Festival, a unique three-weekend blend of glorious singing in orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo formats along with related lectures and master classes in the warmth and charm of Arizona’s renowned desert resort region. Internationally celebrated soloists join the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, Tucson Chamber Artists, UApresents and other organizations, in conjunction with master classes and lectures in intimate settings at the University of Arizona School of Music. The second annual festival will sing out January 30 through February 16, 2014.

Between the festival events, enjoy the many wonders of the Sonoran Desert and Southern Arizona—the perfect winter destination known for its mild temperatures, numerous golf courses, art galleries, sumptuous restaurants, and hiking in any of four mountain ranges. Nearby are historic and art-filled towns such as Tubac, Bisbee, and Patagonia, not to mention Kartchner Caverns and prime birding sites.

TCA chorus

How we began

Tucson has a long tradition of classical music leadership in the Southwest. The University of Arizona has offered instruction in music since the late 1800s, and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra is the oldest continuing professional performing arts organization in Arizona.

With these artistic partners as a foundation, the Tucson Desert Song Festival was formed in 2010 as a Section 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation by a group of music-loving volunteers. The driving force behind the festival is Jack Forsythe, co-founder of the successful St. Paul, Minnesota Summer Song Festival, which ran from 2002 to 2006.

Our purpose is to coordinate, subsidize and publicize a unique classical voice festival highlighting the rich musical life of Tucson along with some of the country’s leading vocal performance artists through a series of concerts, lectures and master classes throughout the three-weekend festival.

The participating organizations in the festival include the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, the Tucson Chamber Artists, UApresents, Ballet Tucson, the Tucson Guitar Society, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, Chamber Music Plus and the University of Arizona School of Music.

The annual festival presented its inaugural performances February 8 – 17, 2013.



John (Jack) Forsythe - President; Chair, Artistic Committee

Cecile Follansbee - Executive Vice President; Director, Development

Cynthia Hansen - Vice President, Marketing

Linda Raezer - Treasurer; Chair, Finance Committee

Susan Aceto - Director, TDSF K–12 Education & UA School of Music Activities

Ludwig Deppisch, M.D. - Director, Adult Education

Sheldon King - Chair, Strategic Planning Committee

Judith A. Robison, C.P.A. - Chair, Compliance/Contract Committee

Celia A. Balfour

Marlys Beider

Bob Downing

Theodore N. Hariton, M.D.

Patricia Coyne-Johnson

Tom Lois

Nancy March

Patricia Martinez, M.D.

Julia Pernet

Jill Rosenzweig

Linda Staubitz

Dorothy Vanek

Diana Varecka

Kevin Murphy - Artistic Consultant



Kevin Murphy Kevin Murphy

The objective of the Tucson Desert Song Festival board is to work with the participating arts groups to bring in world-renowned conductors and rising stars of classical voice to perform during the three-weekend festival. The artistic committee, chaired by Jack Forsythe, includes a broad spectrum of expertise, including UA music professors, the artistic directors and executive directors of the participating performing arts groups, the classical music director of Arizona Public Media, and festival board members. This diverse group keeps tabs on the country’s finest talent that will best match the pieces performed during the festival, and functions under the guidance of artistic consultant Kevin Murphy, a nationally noted accompanist to vocalists and program director for singers at the Ravinia Festival’s Steans Music Institute.


Andrew Birgensmith , President and CEO, Tucson Symphony Orchestra

Mary Beth Cabana, Artistic Director, Ballet Tucson

Bryan Daum, President, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music

Cecile Follansbee, Executive Vice President, TDSF

Jack Forsythe, President, TDSF

Cynthia Hansen, Vice President, Marketing, TDSF

George Hanson, Music Director and Conductor, TSO

Theodore N. Hariton, M.D., TDSF

Eric Holtan, Music Director, Tucson Chamber Artists

James (Jed) Kee, Executive Director, Ballet Tucson

Julia Pernet, Chairman, Tucson Guitar Society, Board Member, TDSF

Chuck Tennes, Executive Director, UApresents

Rex Woods, Director, University of Arizona School of Music





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