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02 Aug 2017

Cool Place, Cooler Music: Idyllwild Hosts the Annual Jazz in the Pines Festival

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Idyllwild Arts Academy alum and American Idol finalist Casey Abrams performs at a previous Jazz in the Pines. Idyllwild Arts Academy alum and American Idol finalist Casey Abrams performs at a previous Jazz in the Pines.

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 www.jazzinthepines.com.

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