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The Festival and School was founded by Elizabeth and Walter Paepcke of Chicago.. Substantial artistic collaboration was provided by Henri Temianka and his Paganini Quartet during the formative years.
More than 350 classical music events take place in eight weeks every summer, from July to August, including performances by four on-site orchestras, chamber music, opera, contemporary music, children's events, lectures, and discussions. There are up to 8 events a day and more than 100,000 patrons participate.
For music students, the program provides a combination of classroom and performance experiences. A broad curriculum includes playing in an orchestra, individual lessons, master classes, and recitals. Seven hundred and fifty young musicians attend the School from throughout the United States and the world. Almost 40 nations are represented, including Australia, China, Iceland, Mexico, Sweden, and Venezuela. The average age is 23.
The master teacher/apprentice relationship, the foundation of music education, finds full expression at the School. Aspen students have the opportunity to perform as orchestra members with leading professional musicians, under renowned conductors in the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Aspen Chamber Symphony, the Aspen Concert Orchestra, and in chamber music throughout the summer. Conductors also have an opportunity to lead an orchestra in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen.
The principal concert space is the 'Benedict Music Tent, designed by Henry Teague Architects, with acoustic consultation from Kirkegaard Associates. It was constructed in 2000, and seats 2050.  It is constructed as a steel circular grid, supporting a roof of reflecting panels, all covered by a glass-fiber tent. The tent replaced an earlier tent designed by Herbert Bayer, which in 1965 replaced the original smaller tent designed by Eero Saarinen Secondary spaces consist of the 500-seat Joan and Irving Harris Concert Hall. 
Alumni of the AMFS fill important professional music positions around the world, performing in top-tier orchestras, opera houses, and teaching on music school faculties. Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, James Conlon, Lynn Harrell, Renée Fleming, Lawrence Foster, James Levine, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Susanne Mentzer, Shlomo Mintz, Itzhak Perlman, Leonard Slatkin, Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, Philip Glass, Bright Sheng, Augusta Read Thomas, William Bolcom, Dawn Upshaw, and Kalil Wilson are among those whose careers have roots at the Aspen Music Festival and School. The President and CEO is Alan Fletcher.
- Rita Mead, "Aspen Music Festival and School" New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd ed. 2001 p.115
- Archive of Henri Temianka’s personal correspondence and papers, 1926 - 1992, owned by Temianka's son Daniel.
- Leo Beranek, "Concert Halls and Opera Houses" 2nd ed. NY:Springer, 2007 ISBN 0-387-95524-0 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK] p.39-42.
- Aspen Festival timeline
- "Albert Herring". Aspen Times. Retrieved 2010-01-27.