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The KPAC Blog features classical music news, reviews, and analysis from South Texas and around the world. To listen to KPAC 88.3 FM, simply open the player in the gray ribbon at the top of this page and choose KPAC: Classical Music.

The Thorny Origins Of A 10-Day Chamber Music Fest

Stephanie Sant' Ambrogio


A recurring San Antonio music festival is about to kick off. It’s got an odd name and origin, but it's grown and thrived as it has played out. It's called the Cactus Pear Music Festival, and if you're wondering what the heck that is, its founder Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio laughs, then elaborates.

“It’s a chamber music festival that I started 19 years ago when I moved from Cleveland to San Antonio.”

Ms. Sant'Ambrogio was hired as concertmaster with the San Antonio Symphony. But she soon realized that there was a problem locally with chamber music.

“There was not much going on. So I thought it would be a great idea to bring people from all over the place, as well as the fantastic principal players of the San Antonio Symphony.”

So she created the Cactus Pear Music Festival for a short run every summer. She describes the resulting performances this way.

“It is classical music that is not stuffy. We talk about the pieces and composers before we play. It’s kind of like inviting friends into your living room and jamming. It’s very exciting I think to hear classical music in such an intimate way.”

This year’s season runs from July 9th through the 19th and is features five different programs over 10 days.

“We play in Kerrville on the ninth, San Antonio on the 10th, the 11th, the 17th and 18th, and we also play in Boerne on Sunday, July 12th at 2p.m.”

That night also brings something a little unexpected.

“The Brazilian Guitar Quartet. And I’m really excited to hear them play."

Having heard the story about the festival's genesis, I had to pose this question: “Now, do you think that yours is the only classical music festival whose inception was over a margarita?” She laughed.

"That’s true! I knew I wanted to start a music festival. I was actually sitting in a restaurant with my girlfriends, and after about the second or third cactus pear margarita, it seemed like that would be a great name.”

And 19 years later that name has stood the test of time.

For more on the Cactus Pear Music Festival, go here