JUNIOR BACH FESTIVAL was founded in Berkeley, California in 1953. Carmel Bach Festival, then in its 18th season, had inspired a young music student to ask her teacher, Tirzah Mailkoff, why there wasn't such a festival for children. In response, Tirzah and others founded the Festival and she became its first music director. Click for Tirzah's Story in her own words.

Following her, the directorship has been assumed by other prominent Bay Area musicians, William Duncan Allen, Sally Kell, James Gary, Mary Louise Hynes, Karla Lemon, Eric Hansen, Laurette Goldberg, Sharon Mann, Anna Carol Dudley, Margret Elson, Cheryl Keller, Ken Durling, Ron McKean and Amy Brodo.

The Festival promotes the appreciation and performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's music by presenting annually a series of concerts showcasing young musicians under age 21 from all over northern California.

Except for vocalists, performers are chosen from auditions by judges placed behind screens to assure impartiality. Judging is highly selective; generally, only 20 to 30 percent of the auditioners are invited to play in the Festival. Whether or not a participant is chosen, the audition procedure is regarded as a valuable experience. Students learn discipline and musicianship through having memorized, prepared and performed for the auditions. The festival is held in March, usually around Bach's birthday, the 21st.

Since the mid 1980's, the Festival Association has also sponsored annual workshops in the fall for students and teachers, focusing on topics such as baroque style, proper ornamentation, and the relation of dance to Bach's music. A school outreach program was initiated in 1990.

Throughout the years many Junior Bach alumni have pursued careers in music, teaching and performing locally or in concert halls nationwide and worldwide. Their success indicates that the educational efforts of our organization for over 50 years have been indeed worthwhile (click for Alumni page).

Junior Bach Festival Association is staffed by volunteers, an elected Board and appointed Music Director. Both hard work and financial contributions enable our organization to continue its efforts to enrich the musical lives of young people.