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Ojai Music Festival

Ojai, CA            

The annual Ojai Music Festival is an intensive and immersive musical experience bringing together creative artists and inquisitive audiences around intrepid programming. The Festival takes place over four days in June with more than 25 events from dawn to late night, in venues both indoors and out, across the village of Ojai.

Each year we give a different Music Director, in collaboration with Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris, the freedom and resources to invent a unique festival through projects, commissions and collaborations that illustrate the distinctive artistic personality of the Music Director. So, each Festival becomes a new entity unto itself, completely different from the last one or the next one. The next Music Directors are pianist/composer/teacher/improviser Vijay Iyer (2017), violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja (2018), soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan (2019) and pianist Mitsuko Uchida (2021).

The Festival inspires artists from the worlds of music, theater, film, and dance to push the boundaries of repertoire and redefine the conventional concert experience. As a result, we draw open‐minded audiences every year, eager to discover new and boundary‐breaking music and performance.

Our impact has been felt in many ways, well beyond Ojai, by:

  • Supporting living artists. We have produced and presented at least 135 West Coast, United States and World Premieres since its founding in 1947. In recent years, the Festival has taken our commitment to new music one step further by co‐commissioning a new work or presenting at least one world premiere each year. These have included Steven Stucky’s The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts) in 2014, John Luther Adam’s Sila: The Breath of the World (2015), and Caroline Shaw’s This might also be a form of dreaming (2016).
  • Breaking down barriers between artists and audiences. We believe that performance can  shape a culture of exchange, inquiry, and adventure. In recent years, we have experimented with varying concert lengths and times (including late at night and dawn), formats, programs and artists, and venues, all of which has successfully engaged diverse new local audiences. A highlight of the 2015 Festival, for example, was the free performance of John Luther Adams’ mesmerizing new work, Sila: The Breath of the World. The musicians were spread in groupings across Libbey Park and audience members wandered freely among them, experiencing the work from different visual and acoustic perspectives. The performance attracted almost 1,000 people, including many “unintentional” participants of diverse ages and backgrounds, who walked into the park, attracted by the unusual sounds and sights.
  • Showcasing young artists. We feature the talents of rising American stars and international artists. Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, John Adams, David Robertson, Jeremy Denk, eighth blackbird, and Pierre‐Laurent Aimard are just a few examples of Festival alumni who have emerged as leaders in the 21st‐century music landscape since their Ojai debuts.
  • Sustaining a laboratory for new music and performance. Among the Festival’s regular audience members are leaders of major orchestras, leading chamber ensembles, and other prominent festivals who come to Ojai to hear the work of established innovators and the next generation of leaders in the field. Works that have premiered here have subsequently been performed throughout the US and the world. For example, Josephine Baker: A Portrait, a collaboration between composer Tyshawn Sorey, soprano Julia Bullock and director Peter Sellars that was first performed at the 2016 Festival has already been performed in Berkeley and at the Mostly Mozart Festival in New York.

At the most recent festival (June 9‐12, 2016), there was total live audience of more than 9,300 people, including more than 3,500 people who attended free community events, family concerts and open rehearsals.  The largest segment of the audience (60%) was from the greater Los Angeles and Southern California region. 30% were from the Ojai/Ventura/Santa Barbara area and 10% were from other parts of the United States and abroad.

Since 2012, we have greatly increased our outreach to new audiences throughout the world through live‐steaming, digital partnerships, and social media. Each year, the Festival has made significant technological and programmatic improvements, from the use of robotic cameras to broadcast and record the concerts, to pre‐concert and intermission interviews with musicians and composers, to a partnership with Q2, radio station WQXR’s online music station devoted to dynamic contemporary classical music, trailblazing ensembles and vibrant, live performances. As a result, remote participation has increased remarkably over the last four years, with more than 13,000 live-stream views during the 2016 Festival alone, nearly three times the number of views during the entire 2015 Festival. These viewers were located predominantly in the United States, but there were also participants in 35 other countries around the world.

We also present BRAVO Community Outreach and Education programs throughout the year. These programs provide a variety of musical experiences to public school students and seniors in the Ojai Valley and greater Ventura County area, delivered by professional musicians and trained volunteers. This year, BRAVO will engage 1,900 public school students through a variety of in‐depth and sequential educational experiences that develop their musical knowledge and skills; and 100 seniors through performances and participatory activities at four assisted living facilities. The goal of BRAVO is to make high‐quality musical experiences accessible to people of all socio‐economic and cultural backgrounds, with an emphasis on low‐ and moderate-income residents.

Steven Stucky, The Classical Style: An Opera (of Sorts)

Steven Stucky, composer and Jeremy Denk, librettist. Robert Spano, conductor. Mary Birnbaum, director. The Knights, Aubrey Allicock, Dominic Armstrong, Rachel Calloway, Keith Jameson, Kim Josephson, Ashraf Sewailam, Peabody Southwell, and Jennifer Zetlan.
World premiere at the 2014 Ojai Festival, June 9, 2014. This is a recorded live-stream of the entire concert. Begin viewing at 42:00.

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Claude Vivier, “Kopernikus: A Ritual Opera”

ICE and Roomful of Teeth, Eric Dudley, conductor; Peter Sellars, director; Michael Schumacher, dancer. June 12, 2016 at 3:00 p.m. in Libbey Bowl. US premiere. The complete performance is 1 hour, 11 minutes long.

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John Luther Adams, Become River

ICE and Renga; Steven Schick, conductor. June 13, 2015. West coast premiere. This is a recorded live-stream of the entire concert. An interview with the composer by Gail Eichenthal begins at 2:27:50. The performance begins at 2:50:45.

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