The 2023 Crossroads Festival

by Erik Brodin Higgins

The Crossroads Music Festival is the largest multicultural and multi-genre festival of its kind in the Midwest and takes place in Lincoln, Nebraska from July 29th to August 6th, 2023. World-class performances spanning classical, soul, folk, hip-hop and a unique blend of styles defying traditional classification make up the festival’s nine days. The concerts animate the narratives of the many cultural groups that call Nebraska home in a week-long celebration of Nebraska’s rich cultural heritage.

Between 50-80 musicians congregate in Lincoln for the festival, among them internationally-acclaimed touring artists, as well as local and regional musicians, storytellers and speakers. The festival also includes jam sessions, storytelling slams, film screenings, workshops, and educational events for kids.

The 2023 festival will open with Arooj Aftab, who won the 2022 GRAMMY® for best performance in the world music category and close with a world-premiere commission of the composer/performer duo Kinan Azmeh and Layale Chaker. Other artists, including German experimental-electronic trio Toechter, percussionist John Hadfield, and Celtic harpist Maeve Gilchrist will be featured in a program themed “Sisters,” which explores sisterhood across cultures and in our community. 

Going on its fourth season, the Crossroads Music Festival has developed a devoted following, attracting visitors from Minneapolis, Denver and across the Midwest. Past artists include Kinan Azmeh, Gabriel Kahane, Maeve Gilchrist, Sandeep Das, JP Jofre, Tall Paul, Layale Chaker, Alina Kuzma, and Julian Kytasty; many of these have been recognized with GRAMMY® awards, Guggenheim fellowships and prestigious residencies. Past local artists include the Yezidi band Golden Studio, Latin band Jarana, Edem Soul Music, First Plymouth Cantorei, visual artist Sarah Rowe and violinist and DJ Olga Smola. 

The Crossroads Music Festival promises to be a unique and transformative experience, which demonstrates that Nebraska truly is, as bestselling author Mary Pipher asserts, “the Middle of Everywhere.” 

Nebraska—“The Middle of Everywhere”

Cultural diversity and a cosmopolitan cultural life are deeply rooted in Nebraska, which has rich and momentous indigenous history and a long tradition for welcoming immigrants and refugee communities. More than 80 languages are spoken within Lincoln’s public schools and the rich tapestry of cultural life can be found in more than just the number and variety of the city’s culinary offerings. The Crossroads Music Festival aims to bring to light the artistic contributions of these traditions as they grow and change. 

The festival is both a celebration of these cultural traditions and an incubator for the development of new artistic expression, locally and nationally. Together with Lincoln’s own award-winning recording studio, The GRID Studio, we’re developing local artists with professional recording sessions and seminars on thriving in today’s profession music industry. The interactive nature of the festival also leads to more opportunities and professional engagements for local artists throughout the year. By commissioning new works from gifted composers, we help to amplify new voices on a national scale.

The Music Hotspot of the Midwest

The Crossroads Music Festival is one of a growing number of high-quality musical events in Lincoln that include Jazz in June, the LIED Center for Performing Arts, Lincoln Friends
of Chamber Music, Lincoln Calling, Meadowlark Music Festival and many more, making Lincoln a musical hotspot of the Midwest. 

Crossroads is distinctive in its genres and cultural breadth, making it a unique experience anywhere outside of the biggest metropolitan areas of the country. During a pre-concert chat, an audience member remarked that “I feel like I’ve traveled hundreds of miles and spent thousands of dollars to hear some of the best music anywhere, and I can go home and sleep in my own bed at night.” 

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