Big Ears Festival

“… one of the world’s greatest music bashes.”
The New York Times (2020)

The mission of the Big Ears Festival, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, is to bring artists and audiences together to create and share transformative experiences with a borderless mix of music, film, and conversation.

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 has established itself as one of the most exciting and imaginative cultural gatherings anywhere. The festival brings together a Who’s Who of established and acclaimed iconoclasts, innovators, and luminaries with inspired younger artists who are making fresh, new creative work. Big Ears is located in the heart of downtown Knoxville, Tennessee, taking place in over a dozen historic theaters, intimate clubs, majestic churches, and unique alternative performance spaces. All of the venues of Big Ears are within walking distance of one another. A Chicago journalist wrote, “Knoxville has the most venues with good sound within walking distance of any place in America.” The venues are intermingled with vital restaurants, bars, and shops, offering an unparalleled experience for artists and audiences alike. While primarily focused on music, Big Ears has developed strong film and literary components while also presenting installations, exhibitions, and interactive experiences.

NPR Music summed up Big Ears this way: “Contained within a walkable radius of historic downtown Knoxville — in a range of ornate landmark theaters, refurbished industrial spaces, art galleries, churches, and clubs — it creates its own atmospheric climate, along with a center of gravity. From its first iteration in 2009, the festival has been a locus of expedition, defined more by a go-anywhere ethos than by any style or genre allegiance.”

Over 45 million people live within a 300-mile radius of Knoxville. Big Ears draws a robust contingent of intrepid residents and visitors that 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 that bring experts from around the world into collaborations with artists across the diversity of Knoxville’s arts community.

Substantial support for the festival comes from the donors and sponsors in Knoxville as well as across the country.


Big Ears Festival Board of Directors:
John T. Winemiller, Chair
Katherine Pearson Criss, Vice-Chair
Richard Stair, Treasurer
Paul Parris, Secretary
Ashley Capps
Amy Elias
Brandon Gibson
Mark Grayson
Dylan Jones
Cynthia Moxley
Haseeb Qureshi
Tommie Rush

Sign up for our newsletter

Join for the latest updates, artist announcements, and more