Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

True connoisseurs of great jazz know where to seek it out. They’ll haunt late night bars (at least when bars are a thing) and flip through bins of vinyl at ever-diminishing record stores. They create playlists on Spotify; Alexa already knows what they want to hear without having to be asked.

Through July 17, Idyllwild will be the place where some of the most vaunted names in jazz, blues and R&B come together (virtually, at least) for the 26th edition of Jazz in the Pines, a popular annual fundraiser for the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

This year, jazz-lovers don’t need to drive up the mountain to enjoy all the festival has to offer. In deference to the wicked Mr. COVID, the organizers have reimagined a hybrid event, with mostly virtual experiences to be enjoyed, along with a handful of outdoors, socially distanced, in-person events at Idyllwild restaurants. Through July 17, a lineup of live and recorded performances and workshops will be available for streaming at

This year’s festival is curated by New York Times-featured jazz vocalist Rose Colella, who has performed at the festival for many years. The online festival will be free and open to all; highlights include an “In Conversation” series with various artists, masterclasses, and special events with jazz luminaries including Tonight Show trumpeter Kye Palmer, Marshall Hawkins, Barb Catlin, Tom Hynes, Francisco Torres, Bob Boss, Evan Christopher, Rick Shaw and Rose Colella.

Pamela Jordan, the president of Idyllwild Arts, said Jazz Fest fans were initially skeptical about the largely online format.

“We’ve done so much online; people are ready to get out and about, and it’s the summertime,” Jordan said. “But then when they started seeing the caliber of performers and the different opportunities, we started seeing people get very excited about it. … People are excited to know that they can see Grammy Award-winning John Daversa not only give a masterclass, but also perform. This is very exciting for people to see Harry Pickens, who played for the Dalai Lama, or be in conversation with Marshall Hawkins, who toured for years with Miles Davis.”

This year’s reimagined Jazz in the Pines follows a one-year hiatus. It coincides with the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program Jazz Workshop—taking place online this year—during which up to 70 students, from ages 14 to 18, get to learn from some of the greats of contemporary jazz. This format restores the original vision of festival co-founder Marshall Hawkins by enabling Idyllwild Arts to build a bridge between the professionals and the next generation of jazz artists, Jordan said.

“We took a hiatus from Jazz in the Pines last year, and it allowed us to really think about the purpose of Jazz in the Pines, and what we came to was the need to return to our original mission, which is to connect these professional jazz artists with these up-and-coming young jazz enthusiasts,” Jordan said. “That’s what being online, being virtual, is allowing us to do. In some ways, we’re reaching kids and professionals and audiences far more broadly than we could have if we were bringing everybody to Idyllwild—which is ideal, but we’re glad to be able to engage audiences this way.

“One of the main things that changed is that instead of a 2 1/2-day festival, which it’s been in the past, the intention was for it to be a two-week jazz intensive with the festival. The festival was going to be going on the entire time that our jazz students were taking their session on campus. … So the same thing is happening in that regard.”

While all performances are free, the event is a fundraiser, and donations will directly support Idyllwild Arts’ mission: to engage professional artists and educators, offer unique educational programs, and provide scholarships for talented young artists to attend Idyllwild Arts’ high school and summer program. Jordan said the school—like virtually all educational facilities—had to scramble to switch to an all-online format in March. However, she’s hoping the students will be able to return to Idyllwild in the fall—but all of the extra safety measures will cost Idyllwild Arts money.

“Like all schools, we have many scenarios if something were to come and prevent us from doing that, but it is our intention to return,” Jordan said. “Idyllwild Arts is unique because we are located in Idyllwild, 6,000 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains. We believe firmly that if we can get our students to Idyllwild, we can keep them safe. … We’re making all kinds of contingency plans, like all schools are, but being a boarding school puts us in a slightly different category, and we’re doing everything we can to keep this campus safe for our students’ return.”

For a complete schedule of Jazz in the Pines events and more information, visit

Published in Previews

The dog days of August are here, so it’s a great time to get the heck out of the valley—and while doing so, you can enjoy some cool mountain air and take in some great music.

Idyllwild Arts’ annual Jazz in the Pines festival takes place Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 13. John Newman, the event chair and director of business operations for Idyllwild Arts, filled me in on the event’s history.

“This is the 24th annual Jazz in the Pines Festival,” he said. “It was started by the legendary Marshall Hawkins, along with Lin Carlson and Barbara Wood. They created the festival for three reasons: to preserve the heritage of jazz music in America, to provide a venue for friends and colleagues, and most importantly, to provide scholarship money for students to attend the Idyllwild (Arts) Academy.”

How did a town of less than 4,000 people end up with not only a festival, but the Idyllwild Arts Academy?

“The program was started in 1946 as a summer program by Max and Bee Krone. Max was the dean of Music at USC,” Newman said. “The goal was to create a place where people of all backgrounds could come together and, through the universal language of arts and music, inspire and create together. Then maybe they would stop killing each other.”

The summer programs are designed to be open to everyone, of all talents and ages. Later, Idyllwild Arts founded the Idyllwild Arts Academy high school.

“This is a global commitment,” he said about the academy. “Of 310 students who attend … these are independent young people who travel from around the world to come to a small town on top of a mountain in the southern part of California. These kids are so dedicated to their craft, they don’t even care that there is no cellular reception there.”

All of the festival’s proceeds go to Idyllwild Arts, and the festival offers three stages with simultaneous performances. The main stage will offer more traditional jazz, including a performance by Evan Christopher’s Clarinet Road. Evan is a world-renowned clarinetist from New Orleans—who was part of the high school’s first graduating class in 1987.

Also appearing on the main stage is Frisson, a new eight-piece jazz band featuring recent graduates from Oberlin College and Conservatory in Ohio. The band released its first album this year.

“We’re proud of our find of new talent,” Newman said. “They are so talented; I would describe them as more of a contemporary jazz band.”

The French Quarter stage will present R&B, blues and rock ’n’ roll; expect more of a party scene, where people are up and dancing.

The third venue is Stephens Hall, which Newman described as “an intimate recital hall which will offer more ballads and avant-garde.” He talked about one of the Stephens Hall performers, a resident chamber group called the Definiens.

“I mention them not only to highlight the talent of our faculty, but they represent more of the diversity of music styles,” Newman said. “They are a chamber group doing jazz standards, but as a classical chamber group.”

On Saturday, a fourth venue will join the festival: The state-of-the-art Lowman Concert Hall, just completed in the spring. VIP package-holders can enjoy Seahawk MOJO (Modern Jazz Orchestra). This is the group headed by Marshall Hawkins, founder of the Idyllwild Arts Academy’s Jazz Program. The 30-piece orchestra will be playing jazz standards.

“These different venues are for those who feel that they are not jazz aficionados, per se,” Newman said. “They offer different styles of jazz.”

The party starts Friday, Aug. 11, with the special Patrons Dinner and Dance in the French Quarter on the main campus. Throughout the fest, artisans will sell handcrafted items in the festival market.

Idyllwild Arts’ Jazz in the Pines takes place Friday, Aug. 11, through Sunday, Aug. 13, at 52500 Temecula Road, in Idyllwild, a 55-mile drive from the Coachella Valley. Tickets are $85 for Saturday or Sunday admission; $150 for a two-day pass; or $350 for the Patrons VIP Package, which includes the Friday and Saturday evening events. For tickets or more information, call 951-468-7210, or visit

Published in Previews

Summer is basically upon us—and in the desert, that means there’s a need to find activities that keep us cool.

Therefore, we here at the Independent have compiled a list of activities, places and events that will help you survive the scorching summer heat.

Wet ’n’ Wild

The former Knott’s Soak City in Palm Springs has new ownership and is now called Wet ’n’ Wild. The water park offers a definite summer survival activity for children and adults alike. With three slides—Pipeline Point, the Sea Snake, and the seven-story Tidal Wave Tower—the thrill element is there. You can also enjoy Kahuna’s Beach House and the 800-gallon Riptide Reef wave pool. If that’s not enough, you can take a ride on the Pacific Spin, featuring a 132-foot-long tunnel that ends with a ride into a 70-foot funnel. If you just want to soak and relax, enjoy a lazy ride on the Sunset River. With season passes starting at just $59, and general admission passes ranging from $26.99 to $36.99, Wet ’n’ Wild could offer a wonderful getaway all summer—or just for a day. Wet ’n’ Wild, 1500 S. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs; 760-327-0499;


If you have children, you’ll need to get them out of the house when they aren’t in school. One idea: There’s something for everyone at Boomers in Cathedral City. There is an arcade—which means air-conditioning! There are also bumper boats, go-carts and a rock wall. This is a perfect place for a child’s birthday; a party room is available. For a family night together, nothing says fun like miniature golf. Boomers Palm Springs, 67700 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Cathedral City; 760-770-7522;


While our local casinos are a prime spot for gambling, of course, they also offer other things to do. The Spa Resort Casino, Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Spotlight 29 Casino and Morongo Casino Resort Spa, as well as other local casinos, include fine restaurants, free shows and world-class entertainment (which you can read about in the Independent, of course). The drinks are often cheaper; the crowds in the dance clubs tend to be lively; and the air conditioning is always cranked up for maximum comfort.

Orange Empire Railway Museum

Sometimes, the best way to beat the heat is to get in the car and venture outside of the desert; even an hour’s drive can lead to a significant temperature difference. Well, the Orange Empire Railway Museum is located in Perris—about an hour outside of the desert. The museum features a collection of Southern California railroad history. A friend of mine who gives tours at the museum has told me in extensive detail about the fully functioning trains that offer short rides; the educational experience that the museum offers to both children and adults; and the great value of the visit. It’s especially great if you’re into trains or looking for a great piece of American history. Admission is free, and on the weekends, an all-day train-ride pass is $8 to $12; a family membership is available for $60. Orange Empire Railway Museum, 2201 S. A St., Perris; 951-943-3020,

Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

If you’re desperate for relief from the summer heat, consider the fact that the temperature difference between Palm Springs and the top of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway at Mount San Jacinto at 8,000 feet is generally 30 degrees. There are plenty of hiking, camping (great for the family!) and dining options up at the top, as well as guided nature walks. Tickets are $16.95 to $23.95. If want to go up for a nice dinner, the Pines Café offers an incredible package deal of dining and the tram ride for $23.50 to $36. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, One Tram Way, Palm Springs; 760-325-1449;

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club

Whether or not your home has a pool, consider the Ace Hotel and Swim Club: The Ace has a great pool, with frequent events including DJs and more. A full bar is located near the pool, and the King’s Highway restaurant offers patio service, so you’ll never go hungry or get thirsty while you spend a relaxing day there. Day passes cost $30 and are available between the hours of noon and 6 p.m. I also suggest dropping in on Bella da Ball on Monday nights for both Sissy Bingo and Trivia Night, held in the King’s Highway restaurant and the Amigo Room, respectively. The Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900;

Joshua Tree Gay Pride Festival

On Saturday, June 14, Joshua Tree will celebrate its sixth annual Gay Pride Festival. I admit I was somewhat skeptical before I attended last year as a volunteer—when I was absolutely amazed at how the community up in Joshua Tree comes out to support the LGBT side of things. The festival brings out some of Joshua Tree’s artists, interesting vendors and the usual gay-related organizations. The entertainment this year is top-notch, with the Joshua Tree Community Jazz Band, the Small Wonder Experience, Indy Amos and many other performers. Attendance is a $5 suggested donation. Joshua Tree Gay Pride Festival, Coyote Corner (Highway 62 and Park Avenue), Joshua Tree; find the Facebook page for more information.

Splash House

If you are looking for a mini-Coachella-like festival that includes ample pool time, Splash House—from Friday, June 13, through Sunday, June 15—is definitely for you. The lineup this year includes Moby, Neon Indian and Purity Ring, just to name a few of the big-name DJs. This is definitely an awesome event, and your ticket includes a shuttle pass between the three venues: The Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs, the Saguaro, and the Hacienda Beach Club. Tickets are $103. For more information, visit

21st Annual Jazz in the Pines in Idyllwild

If you’re looking to get out of the desert for a day or two, the Annual Jazz in the Pines up in Idyllwild on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 16 and 17, will be a nice retreat: The temperatures will be a little cooler, and you’ll be in the wilderness of Idyllwild. Of course, the music will be fantastic, too. Tickets are $65 per day for walk-up admission; advance tickets and two-day passes are also available. For more information, visit

10th Annual Campout with Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven

David Lowery, his two bands, and his friends will be heading to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace for the 10th annual Campout in September. A lineup has not yet been released for festival-style event, but we know the dates: Thursday, Sept. 11, through Saturday, Sept. 13. Keep checking Pappy and Harriet’s website for ticket info and details. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road; Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

Published in Local Fun