The Big Ears Festival Brings Together Artists and Music Lovers from All Over the World for an Exhilarating, Unforgettable Four Days of Musical Adventure, Discovery, and Fun

Music • Talks & Panels • Film • Writers & Poets

March 30 – April 2, 2023 in Knoxville

Big Ears collaborates with artists, audiences, and communities to create joyful, meaningful, and transcendent cultural experiences that defy boundaries, fuel curiosity, ignite the spirit, and nourish the soul.

Described as “one of the most quietly earth-shattering, subtly luminous festivals the world over” by the Oxford American and “one of the world’s greatest music bashes” by The New York Times, the Big Ears Festival – the flagship program of the organization – has established itself over the past decade as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings anywhere. The festival brings a Who’s Who of acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators, and luminaries together with inspired younger artists making fresh and new creative work.

The Big Ears Festival takes place throughout downtown in more than a dozen venues: historic theaters, intimate clubs, majestic churches, pocket parks, galleries, and repurposed industrial spaces, museums, galleries, and clubs – with pop-up events and performances, exhibitions, films, literary readings, workshops, markets and talks taking place in cafes, bars, hotels, restaurants, in alleyways and other nooks and crannies. The festival experience is full of surprises. As one journalist wrote after attending, “Knoxville has the most venues with good sound within walking distance of any place in America.” Performance locations are interspersed among a vibrant collection of restaurants, bars, and shops, offering an unparalleled festival experience for artists and audiences alike.

A festival pass offers access to all publicly announced performances – enabling festival goers to not only see familiar artists that they know and love, but also to explore the music of artists with whom they are not already familiar.

Big Ears draws robust contingents of both Tennessee residents and visitors from around the world who come together to form a shared community energized by joy, discovery, and engagement. To add context and promote access, Big Ears programs an array of community events during the festival that bring world-class artists into collaborations with Knoxville’s diverse creative community.

With a very rare exception, everything – all the venues, along with Knoxville’s finest hotels and award-winning restaurants – is within an easy, short walk of everything else, with a dedicated festival trolley service offering assistance should you wish to rest up for a moment and catch your breath.

While no two Big Ears are quite the same, each year the festival presents many of the world’s most visionary composers and musicians, artists whose work reaches for new heights and expands to new frontiers. The programming transcends generation and genre – bringing together iconic trailblazers and young iconoclasts performing and sometimes blending classical and contemporary composition, jazz, rock, folk traditions from throughout the world, pop, drone, avant-garde, ambient and beyond.

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Big Ears is an independent 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that receives substantial investment from donors and sponsors in the Knoxville community, as well as from private foundations, government agencies, and dedicated supporters across the country for whom the festival has become an annual pilgrimage. Explore our list of generous partners or join the ranks of our supporters.