Ben Anderson is Inverting the Music Festival with Park City Song Summit


Park City’s Ben Anderson is the founder of the forthcoming Park City Summit (Credit: Blake Peterson)

By Nicoline West, Arts Writer


Park City’s Ben Anderson may be a little bit of a visionary. 

The former attorney and lifelong musician is the founder of Park City Song Summit a three day series of intimate labs, live shows and “Songwriter Rounds.” PCSS places artists, storytelling and the power of music at its core. “We absolutely recoil to the word ‘festival,’ because of what it’s become known as, so that’s not our lane,” Anderson said. 

The lineup for the inaugural summit was announced Wednesday, April 19. This comes over one year after organizers made the careful decision to cancel the 2021 event due to COVID-19 concerns. This year’s summit is set for Sept. 7-10.

According to Anderson, nearly two thirds of the artists set to attend in 2021 chose to come back. These include Father John Misty, Fruit Bats, singer-songwriters Andrew Bird and John Craigie, multi-hyphenate Fred Armisen and folk sister-duo Rising Appalachia, among others. 

Investigating The Power of Song

The roots of PCSS lie in Anderson’s 2019 Park City Songwriter Festival. After its cancellation in 2020, Anderson joined forces with Jay Sweet, Executive Director of the Newport Festivals Foundation. Together, Anderson and Sweet worked to solidify their vision for PCSS. 

“We really took a shot at re-envisioning, rebranding and really expanding on the concepts of the power and myth of song,” Anderson said. “How does a song change our lives? How does a song spawn careers? How does a song stick with us in good times, bad times? We really want to explore and go back into the song, and how powerful that can be, but how mysterious it is as well.”

PCSS will feature “Songwriter Rounds” where artists will be given the chance to explain the stories behind their songs before performing them in a small setting. Anderson called the Rounds the “bread and butter” of the upcoming summit. Labs where artists will give speeches and lead panels on a variety of topics will also be featured. 

The Bigger Conversation

In Song Summit Labs, songs themselves are intended to be a vessel through which more expansive topics can be explored. Anderson said, “If we can create this immersive hangout for song lovers here in the beautiful mountains of PC, there’s a real chance we have to go on this deep exploration, this journey together, and utilize the platform of music to really discuss some important and critical issues that are highly relevant in these times.” 

Various labs will dive into discussions around addiction and inclusivity in the music industry. “In having a safe space to have those conversations we believe we can have an impact in our community here as well as the larger music community,” Anderson said.

Anderson himself is in long-term recovery and has helped conduct research on mental health and addiction in musicians with the Send Me a Friend Foundation. PCSS’s artist-first approach pays special attention to those struggling with addiction. The summit will include morning yoga, meditation sessions and 12-step meetings.

Flipping the Script

The format and intimate indoor settings of PCSS are a rejection of excess and a way to give back to artists. “When we are standing in the audience at a big outdoor music event, there is a lot of taking from the audience, and not a lot of giving back,” Anderson said.

The end goal of PCSS is to create a space where participants can relax, recharge, and reinvigorate their passion for music. “Are we flipping the pyramid? Are we trying to turn the live music experience on its head? You bet! And I have no apologies for that, and I will die on that hill,” Anderson said. “The thread running through it is love, empathy, understanding and inclusivity, and that can only yield a beautiful garden that we will return to every year.”

Tickets will become available Friday, May 20. Summit and Summit+ Pass holders will have access to Song Summit Labs. 


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