Topeka, Kan. –  The sounds of orchestra, chamber ensembles and jazz music will once again fill White Concert Hall on the Washburn University campus June 16 – 24 as internationally renowned musicians gather in Topeka for the annual Sunflower Music Festival. The community is invited, and all concerts are free.

“The Sunflower Music Festival brings some of the best musicians across the globe together to the Midwest every year,” said Charles Stegeman, concertmaster of the Pittsburgh Opera, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Andrea Bocelli’s west-coast tours, and concertmaster and artistic director for the Sunflower Music Festival. “It truly is a one-of-a-kind experience that is a gift of love from us to music lovers in Northeast Kansas. We love our craft, sharing it with others and teaching the next generation through the Blanche Bryden Institute. It is also a time of collaboration for us as artists.”

2023 Program

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 16, White Concert Hall
Opening Celebration

Opening night will showcase orchestra pieces by Mozart and Beethoven - “Overture to Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Concerto for Two Pianos K. 365” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and “Symphony No. 7 in A Major, Op. 92” by Ludwig van Beethoven.

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 17, White Concert Hall
Chamber Ensembles

Saturday night will feature chamber ensembles - “Après un Reve, Op. 7, No. 1” by Gabriel Faure, “Sicilienne, Op. 78” by Gabriel Faure, “Aria in Classic Style” by Marcel Grandjany, “Andante and Variations for Two Pianos, Op. 46,” by Robert Schumann and “String Octet” by Max Bruch. 

7:30 p.m. Monday, June 19, White Concert Hall
Jazz Night Celebrates Juneteenth

“A tribute to black female composers with the City Light Jazz Orchestra,” the June 19 concert is sponsored by Liz Stratton. Listeners can go on a “musical journey” that includes compositions by trombonist, Melba Liston, as well as singers Billie Holiday and Nina Simone. Many Black women composers went unnoticed in their lifetime because of a male dominated and segregated world. Jazz Night features vocalists Angela Hagenbach and David Basse, performing music written by orchestra members and compositions that are by now a part of the fabric of the Great American Songbook. 

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 20, White Concert Hall
Chamber Ensembles

Tuesday offers another opportunity to enjoy chamber ensembles – “Aria for Flute, Oboe, Cello & Harp” by Michael Cohen, “Quintet for Piano & Winds in E-flat, K. 452” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and “String Quintet in E-flat major” by Max Bruch. Beginning at 7 p.m., there is an opportunity for the audience to enjoy the pre-concert talk “Enhance Your Concert Experience” by world-renowned oboist Alex Klein. 

7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 21, White Concert Hall
Chamber Orchestra

Conductor Antony Walker will lead the orchestra has they perform “Pelleas et Melisande Suite” by Gabriel Faure, “Carnival of the Animals” by Camille Saint-Saens and “Symphony No. 104 in D major ‘London’” by Franz Joseph Haydn. 

9 a.m. Thursday, June 22, Topeka West High School
Blanche Bryden Woodwind Ensemble

There is no evening concert on June 22. 

1 p.m. Friday, June 23, Topeka Shawnee County Library, Marvin Auditorium
Blanche Bryden Outreach Concert – Brass and Strings

7:30 p.m. Friday, June 23, White Concert Hall
Chamber Ensembles 

The evening begins at 7 p.m. with a pre-concert “Musically Speaking” session with oboist Alex Klein with discussions, interviews and exposes to enrich the concert experience. The audience can then enjoy “Cello Suite No. 6 in D major, BWV 1012” by Johann Sebastian Bach, “Wind Quintet, Op. 79” by August Klughardt, “Sonata for Piano No. 6 in A major, Op. 82” by Serge Prokofiev and “Piano Quintet in F minor” by Cesar Franck. There will be a musician and audience “Talk Back” session following the concert. The “Talk Back” sessions are a way for the audience to ask questions of the musicians. 

3 p.m. Saturday, June 24, White Concert Hall
Blanche Bryden Student Ensembles, Followed by a Reception in the Lobby

The Blanche Bryden Summer Institute for the Advanced Study of Chamber Music annually accompanies the Sunflower Music Festival as Sunflower Music Festival orchestra professional musicians and Washburn University faculty teach classes on the Washburn University campus throughout the week. This year the institute is June 18 – 24. Potential students are selected through auditions submitted online to form chamber ensembles: string quartets, woodwind quintets and brass quintets. These students participate in master classes, independent study, group rehearsals, observe festival rehearsals and interact with professional musicians throughout the week. Their experience culminates with these two concerts at the end of the week which the community is invited to come and enjoy. 

7:30 p.m. Saturday, June 24, White Concert Hall
Chamber Orchestra

This orchestra night will feature special guest conductor Anthony Walker leading the orchestra in the performance of “Overture to Fidelio, Op. 72” by Ludwig van Beethoven, “Gabriel’s Oboe” by Ennio Morricone and “Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73 ‘Emperor’” by Ludwig van Beethoven. 

2023 Featured Artist

As a tribute to its name and home state, every year the program and imagery around the Sunflower Music Festival features sunflowers. The Sunflower Music Festival featured artist this year is Dr. Doug Frye whose creation is a wood cut-out sunflower on a treble clef stem painted with acrylic paint. 

“The Sunflower Music Festival is a major benefit to living in Topeka as world-renowned players descend on the city for a treat that’s unsurpassed and free,” said Frye. “I was delighted to learn that I would be designing the 2023 painting and decided to make it one of my cutout pieces using a sunflower and combining it with a musical stem, to signify music raising and supporting the sunflower community for the people of Kansas.” 

Silent Auction

As part of the ongoing fundraising efforts that support the Sunflower Music Festival and keeping it free to Northeast Kansas music enthusiasts, the board hosts a silent auction throughout the festival. Frye’s wood-cut sunflower piece will be included in the Sunflower Music Festival silent auction.

Also part of the silent action is a quilt made from the many sunflower t-shirts of a beloved patron, the late Lee Wright. Seamstress, Rymma Kamdybka, from the Ukraine, now living in Topeka and setting up an alterations shop, completed the quilt at the request of Wright’s wife, Alice Eberhart-Wright.  It seemed fitting that since the national flower of Kamdybka’s homeland is the sunflower that she contributes to this project. 

Silent auction items with winning bids will be announced after intermission at the last concert. Refer to the website,, to view the artwork and read more information on the artist. 

Enduring Legacy and Support

Free admission to the Sunflower Music Festival is made possible thanks to major sponsors. Those sponsors include Washburn University and The Blanche Bryden Foundation.

“The Sunflower Music Festival was born out of conversation between me and Russell Patterson, then conductor of the Kansas City Lyric Opera, and our spouses in 1987 about our vision to bring world-class music to the Midwest,” said Stegeman. “Now, 36 years later, the festival continues to fulfill its original purpose as ‘a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the presentation of an annual series of free concerts of the highest artistic caliber during a two-week period in June.’”

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For further information, contact:
Joy Bailes
Assistant Director of Public Relations
Office: 785-670-2153
Cell: 785-230-1648


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