Though we often think of Santa Fe as a small town, we really are on the map globally when it comes to art markets and live musical performances. Here are those which Best of Santa Fe voters picked as the top venues among the many that keep the city on the radar as a hot spot for live music.
Santa Fe Bandstand
What makes the Santa Fe Bandstand such a force in live music is a credit to not only its diversity in programming, but its audience. During the summer months, the free evening music on the Plaza attracts members of various communities, age groups and tastes.
"We not only present diversity, but our audience is incredibly diverse, particularly now that we have our Southside venue," Bandstand Executive Director Michael Delheim tells SFR, referring to occasional shows in the SWAN Park off Jaguar Drive. "It's introduced us to a whole new segment of Santa Fe that was never planning to come to the Plaza. We went to them, and it's really been rewarding to see brand-new faces. Our outreach and diversity in programming gives a really different look than some of the other standard venues in town."
That Delheim and his team can provide great live entertainment—for free—is something that brings people together and somehow creates intimate live performance even in an open-air setting, and on both ends of town. It's truly, uniquely Santa Fe.
Santa Fe Opera
Since the late 1950s, the Santa Fe Opera has shaped a legacy that puts Santa Fe on the map worldwide for its excellence in programming and performance. In addition to its consistently excellent productions, what makes this storied venue vital for Santa Fe are its extracurriculars, such as the Apprentice Program for Singers, which pays living expenses for performers in search of world-class industry experience. The opera also provides youth outreach, including the Pueblo Opera Program, which serves Native American youth throughout New Mexico and introduces the continued relevance of classical and operatic music.
In addition to the usual programming, which kicks off again this June with Puccini's iconic La Bohème, the Opera provides a beautiful space for contemporary music as well. Touring acts such as Wilco and St. Vincent have graced the stage in recent years, and the organization also has a focus on staging contemporary operas, like last year's world premiere of Mason Bates' The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs about the late tech mogul. The connecting of new and old is always a hit, lending the opera staying power for decades to come.
301 Opera Drive, 986-5900, santafeopera.org
Lensic Performing Arts Center
A common thread between Santa Fe's most popular live venues is their diversity, and the Lensic Performing Arts Center's programming is no different. From stand-up comedy to film screenings, lectures, classical performance, rock bands and all points in between, the historic Lensic is a unique space that can cater to almost any taste. Lensic Executive Director Joel Aalberts believes this to be what makes it such a crucial piece of Santa Fe culture.
"Most cities would have two to three different theaters that would be managing all these different things," Aalberts says. "The diversity of that programming really is kind of unmatched—particularly when you put it into a community the size of Santa Fe; no other city of 85,000 people has a theater that's offering as many diverse programs as what you see here in any given week."
It's true. When you imagine an icon such as Patti Smith, whose recent performance at the Lensic sold out, you might not initially think she would come to a smaller town. Thanks to theaters like this one, Santa Fe remains a draw for national and renowned acts.
211 W San Francisco St., 988-1234, lensic.org