Carlos Santana once told Welz Kauffman that he’d never play Ravinia. Nothing personal, he said, just that “my audience won’t come.”
The year was 2000, and Kauffman had just taken the reins at the legendary Highland Park music festival with a vision to build on the historic venue’s proud legacy of presenting a wide variety of great concerts.
“From the beginning Ravinia presented a mix of classical concerts and the cutting-edge acts of the time, whether it was Benny Goodman introducing a mixed-race band in the 1940s to Janis Joplin and Frank Zappa in the 1970s,” Kauffman said. “But as the classical programming continued to feature the brightest talents in the world, for about 30 years, we lost our way a bit on the nonclassical side, allowing it to get pretty dusty.”