Founded in the fall of 2015 in the medieval Tuscan village of Arcidosso, Italy, by Matt Pickart, Thomas Fortmann, and Helmut Lipsky, Clazz International Music Festival began as an opportunity to teach classically trained musicians, specifically string players, how to improvise through the pedagogical ideals of jazz and musical languages from other cultures.. After initial success with a small but mighty group in 2016, Clazz expanded the following year to offer two sessions: Jazz and Classical. The name of Clazz itself of course comes from the merging (or intersection) of classical and jazz idioms. Summers 2017 and 2018 featured the two sessions. During this time the reputation and the numbers of the festival grew.

In 2019, Clazz decided to integrate classical and jazz all at one festival, while elongating the number of days to allow students to soak in as much as they could. After a very successful 4th summer, we were so excited to present our fifth anniversary in 2020, which ended up getting canceled due to complications of the raging pandemic. We are now preparing to have our fifth anniversary July 24-August 7, 2021, in person or online if needed.
Boasting a distinguished and diverse concert series in the local 18th century theater and 12th century churches, Clazz hosts faculty artists who are at the top of their field; including Grammy winners and nominees, major orchestral principals, top conservatory and university professors, soloists, and recording artists.

Over the first four summers, hundreds of students have attended Clazz from twelve different countries: United States, Canada, Ecuador, China, South Korea, Thailand, Malaysia, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, and France. Clazz has attracted professionals from the likes of San Francisco Symphony, Les Violons du Roy, Strasbourg Philarmonic, Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, Louisiana Philharmonic, and Cirque de Soleil as students with a desire to expand their skillsets. Clazz alumni have also hailed from renowned institutions such as the San Juan Conservatory, Conservatorio di Milano, Interlochen Arts Academy, Manhattan School of Music, McGill University, Shanghai Conservatory, University of Houston, Berklee College of Music, Duquesne University, the Hart School, Indiana University, University of Tennessee, Conservatoire de Montréal, and Cleveland Institute of Music.
In 2017, the festival established the Clazz Quartet, faculty string quartet in residence, and in 2018 we began our special guest artist series which has included Quartet San Francisco (2018) and Joshua Roman (2019.) This coming summer, we will also begin a five day Clazz String Intensive through Webster University in St. Louis.

“For those of us who were drawn into music by Classical music but who also enjoy the freedom of improvised music, being at the Clazz International Music Festival is a dream come true. Arcidosso is so beautiful – narrow stone streets, views over miles of vineyards, easy access to walks in the countryside, amazing food and drink, friendly residents – and the faculty of the festival are top artists who are totally approachable and equally gifted teachers.” Eugene Friesen, Director of Berklee World Strings, 2017 Faculty Artist

“Life changing doesn’t even begin to describe the amazing experience that I had with the many visionaries, intellectuals, and powerful musicians in the program.” Alyssa Chetrick, 2017 violin student and Interlochen graduate

“In the winter of 2017 I saw a Facebook post by Jeremy Cohen, jazz violinist and old friend, about a two-week jazz strings music workshop taking place in July in Arcidosso, Italy where he was an instructor. I love jazz and have always wished I could play like the great jazz fiddlers. I’ve been a member of the San Francisco Symphony for 38 years, and through all that have kept the dream of jazz alive. So I took the plunge. What a great time I had. The great teachers are also wonderful performers, and the southern Tuscan town is a gem. The experience was for me a perfect springboard to a jazzy retirement.“ Paul Brancato, assistant principal second of San Francisco Symphony, 2017 Clazz Jazz Session participant

“I had the privilege to attend the Clazz Jazz Session 2017 and learn from passionate teachers. The surroundings and the fantastic faculty concerts added to the whole experience. The festival inspired me to deepen my own practice as a multi-style cellist.” Josée Campeau, former cellist of Cirque de Soleil, 2017 Clazz Jazz Session participant

Overall I feel like I got exactly what I was looking for at Clazz and am full of thoughts and ideas that I am excited to explore not that I am home.” Kate Withrow, violinist of the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra, 2016 Clazz Jazz Session participant

“Amazing festival! If you’re a string player who loves classical and is interested in the wonderful world of improv, this is the #1 place for you in the world this summer!” Eli Lacin, cellist, studying at Duquesne University, 2017 and 2018 Clazz Classical and Jazz Sessions participant

“Clazz music festival provides opportunities to improve any and all elements of your musicianship.” Whitman Polling, cellist and student from San Francisco State University, 2017 Clazz Classical and Jazz Sessions participant

“I was very impressed with the Faculty at Clazz, all accomplished musicians and inspiring teachers. Plus it’s in a beautiful secluded location, perfect environment for creating music.” Stephanie Jaimes, professional cellist from Miami, 2017 Clazz Jazz Session participant

“I had an amazing time at Clazz this summer! I learned a lot of new things, had a lot of fun, met a lot of really truly great people and I left feeling refreshed and rejuvenated as a musician and also just as a person.” Christian Eddins, cellist and student from Texas Tech University, 2017 Clazz Jazz Session participant

“I really enjoyed my experience at Clazz. I met incredibly talented teachers and musicians, in a fun and inspiring environment. The teachers had different backgrounds and approaches, which was interesting, and I certainly learned a lot. Arcidosso was a charming city; people were welcoming and the food was great. I would recommend it to any string players who wants to get into improvised music.” Florence Lemieux, violinist and student from McGill University, 2017 Clazz Jazz Session participant

Past summer promotional videos