Focus on Music


Focus on Music showcases films about music and musicians, while at the same time exploring the role that music plays in film. Whether it be an original musical, a micro opera, a documentary on getting the band back together, a biopic, or an inspirational story of how music saves lives, these films all highlight the importance music can have on your life. All the films feature incredibly talented cast members and dedicated musicians. Focus on Music is sure to get your foot tapping and your heart burning to learn more.  

To many, Woodstock and music are synonymous. Since the sixties, the town has been a haven for musicians. The 1969 Woodstock concert—Three Days of Peace and Music made Woodstock the most famous little town in the world. Local residents also attracted attention, especially Bob Dylan, members of The Band, Jimi Hendrix, John Sebastian, Todd Rundgren and many others. Today, many top musicians still reside in Woodstock (see New York Times article). As a result, the town also boasts some of the top recording studios and session musicians in the country.

With this heritage as its ancestry, the Woodstock Film Festival has made music an integral part of its programming. Woodstock Film Festival’s Focus on Music showcases films about music and musicians while actively exploring its role in film. Many emphasize music as a powerful tool for expression and conflict resolution. Through workshops and seminars, the festival  also emphasizes film scoring, and live concerts are also presented featuring musicians with links to films in the program.

Copy of 2011_279.jpg

The first Woodstock Film Festival set the tone by  kicking off with A Voice from Heaven, a film that documents the music and legacy of legendary Pakistani singer Ustad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The Sufi musician was regarded by many as one of the most beautiful voices of the century. The film, which was picked up for distribution on the first day of the festival, was followed by an unforgettable concert featuring Rahat Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his nine man ensemble. 

workshops and seminars


The ability to address music related issues in a workshop and seminar setting is an integral part of Focus on Music. The festival has proudly presented four different  forums with legendary film composer Elmer Bernstein (My Left Foot, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Great Escape) including a seminar, a master class, and a Q&A following the U.S. premiere of his latest film, Far From Heaven. Mr. Bernstein’s keen ability to share his insight into music, and the arts, has played a major role in the success of the Woodstock Film Festival.

Other composers have also shared their insights including composer David Robbins who held a seminar on film composition with his brother, director Tim Robbins. Other highlights included a talk with Harold Leventhal and the “Music Doc” seminar with Albert Maysles (Gimme Shelter), Leon Gast (The Greatful Dead Movie), Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker (Down from the Mountain)

Special events


Each year BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc.) presents a music and film panel moderated by Doreen Ringer Ross. The 2012 panel featured discussions on the music of the Closing Night narrative VAMPS with director Amy Heckerling, David Kitay, Lauren Versel and Mollie Israel.


In addition to the great music-related films, seminars, workshops and special events, the Woodstock Film Festival has presented some outstanding live concerts and showcases. Each year the festival kicks off with a press conference/party at a New York City nightclub.  Guests have featured emerging and established musicians including Johnny Society, Little Sammy Davis, Simi Stone, The Billy Nayer Show, and Dominic Chianese from “The Sopranos,” among others.

to submit your film to this year's festival, click here:

2017 Focus on Music Programming


40 years in the making: the magic music movie

Filmmaker Lee Aronsohn examines the storied history of the 1970s Colorado jam band Magic Music.


sammy davis jr: i've gotta be me

The life and career of the singer, dancer and actor told through interviews with the stars who knew him.


a symphony of hope

25 Hollywood composers came together to write a symphony for the people of Haiti after the 2010 earthquake



Stuck is a musical drama film directed by Michael Berry, who also wrote the screenplay with Riley Thomas whose stage musical the film is based on



After a breakup, a singer moves in with her strict Catholic mother and begins a friendship with the wife of an old rival.


a hand of bridge

This piece is a faithful adaptation of the 9 minute micro-opera written by Barber and Libretto by  Menotti. Two couples reveal their deepest secrets while playing Bridge.

Other Focus on Music Films From Previous Years

stronger than bullets

A defiant music scene erupts during the 2011 Libyan revolution.


two trains runnin'

In June of 1964, hundreds of college students, eager to join the civil rights movement, traveled to Mississippi and started what would be known as Freedom Summer.

the grace of jake

Fresh from prison, wayward musician Jake Haynes says goodbye to California. His destination is Palestine, Ark., population 678. It's here -- among the cotton fields and gospel churches -- where his father, Henry Haynes, lives and works as a crop duster pilot.

one giant leap ii: what about me?

1 Giant Leap is a British electronic music duo consisting of the two principal artists, Jamie Catto and Duncan Bridgeman.

lee's 88 keys

The life and work of Lee Shaw, a jazz singer from Albany, N.Y.

paradise is there

Paradise Is There: The New Tigerlily Recordings is the seventh solo studio album by American singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant, released on November 6, 2015 by Nonesuch Records.

the poet of havana

 Enter the world of internationally renown Cuban musician Carlos Varela...singer, song-writer, lyricist, one of the most influential and well-loved artists of his time

playing with parkinson's

Parkinson's disease has limited Sangeeta Michael Berardi's technique, but has not diminished his desire to make music or live fully.