The festival was founded in 1986 by German concert pianist Justus Frantz.
In 2006, the 21st festival was from 15 July through 3 September with the Low German festival motto Dat klinkt lekker (That sounds yummy). The 22nd festival in 2007 focused on Hungary, 2008 on Russia, 2009 on Germany, when the motto was Heimspiel (home game). In 2010 the motto was Poland in Pulse featuring music from Poland. The regional focus was in 2011 Turkey, in 2012 China, and in 2013 Baltic states. Beginning in 2014, the concept changed by highlighting a specific composer for each year. The composer retrospectives were devoted in 2014 to Felix Mendelssohn, in 2015 to Peter Tchaikovsky, in 2016 to Joseph Haydn, in 2017 to Maurice Ravel, in 2018 to Robert Schumann, in 2019 Johann Sebastian Bach, in 2020 Carl Nielsen, in 2021 Franz Schubert, and in 2022 Johannes Brahms.
- Leonard Bernstein Award
The festival concerts and recitals are organized in collaboration with the cities of Lübeck, Kiel, Flensburg and smaller towns within the state such as Eutin or Plön, as well as in the countryside in castles, manors, old barns or little Brick Gothic village churches. Most locations are also historic sites of interest, monuments and part of the state's World Heritage Sites, including the Musikhochschule Lübeck.
Other concerts in conjunction with the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival
- Hoenig, Matthias (2014). "Von Mendelssohn-Bartholdy bis Elton John". Die Welt (in German). Berlin. Retrieved 11 July 2017.
- "Schleswig-Holstein Musikfestival startet mit Maurice Ravel und Avi Avital". neue musikzeitung. Regensburg. 28 June 2017. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- "Das Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival 2018" (PDF). Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival. 2018. Retrieved 3 February 2019.
- "Das Festival in Schleswig-Holstein". Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival (in German). Retrieved 5 March 2023.
- "Sparkassen- und Giroverband für Schleswig-Holstein Leonard Bernstein Award" (in German). Retrieved 20 July 2023.
- Ohl, Ulrike (2014). Da ist Musik drin. Die Spielstätten des Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festivals (in German). Neumünster: Wachholtz. ISBN 978-3-529-06306-0.