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10th Anniversary of all that Jazz in the Pines

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What began ten years ago as a dreamy scheme to raise money for scholarships to a local art school has not only garnered hundreds of thousands of dollars, but also has created a musical extravaganza that draws musicians and music lovers from all over the world to a rustic resort town in the mountains above Palm Springs.

As the story goes, in the early 1900s two Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation (AIAF) members, Lin Carlson and Barbara Wood came up with the idea for an annual Jazz Festival during one of their power walks through town. The AIAF is an organization dedicated to raising scholarship money so that underprivileged students gifted in the arts can attend the world-famous Idyllwild Arts school, which strives for both artistic and academic excellence.

The headmaster thought the idea absurd. But he gave the women permission to try anyway. What could it hurt? Carlson and Wood enlisted the talents of Idyllwild Arts music teacher and now Jazz in the Pines Musical Director Marshall Hawkins, who is an old hand at jazz. He called some of his friends, and the festival was off and running.

It was just a one-day festival that first year. Now, 10 years later, it’s a full-blown two-day affair with more than 75 musicians playing continuously on three stages on August 23 and 24, from 10:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. each day.

The three venues include the huge main stage in the grassy bowl of the Holmes Amphitheater, the intimate, cooler indoor setting of Stephen’s Recital Hall, and the French Quarter Bistro, where volunteer bar maids serve drinks, and frisky bistro patrons can dane to the rock and blues sounds of such regulars as Rocky Zharp and Johnny Neal.

This 10th anniversary celebration is dedicated to the hundreds of local volunteers who direct traffic, drive shuttles, give directions, serve drinks, rake leaves, pick up trash, and generally smile a lot because they love what they’re doing. They love the fact that they get to see performers like this year’s main headliners, Poncho Sanchez, Hiroshima, Charles McPherson and many more.

But the volunteers are more in love with the fact that gifted students, some from the mean streets of third-world countries, can come here and hone their academic and artistic talents and perhaps go on to Julliard or the Boston Conservatory or dozens of other famous arts schools when they graduate. It happens.

Here’s a partial schedule of events. The gates open at 9:30 a.m. each day. The music begins at 10:30 a.m. and plays continuously until 5:00 p.m. on both days.
The main stage players on Saturday, August 23, will be Hiroshima, Charles McPherson, Yve Evans, Too Many Drivers, Rocky Zharp and many more.

On Sunday, August 24, main headliner Poncho Sanchez will bring his Latin jazz rhythms to center stage. Also playing in on the big stage on Sunday will be Marshall Hawkins and the Seahawk Modern Jazz Orchestra featuring music by Eddie Kram, Terry Plummer, John Rodby and Jason Jackson. Billie Mitchell, Andy Fraga, Johnnie Neal, Sherry Williams and Lori Andrews also will perform.

Both days playing in various venues will be Rick Helzer, Jeff Tower, the Idyllwild Faculty Quintet, the Idyllwild Arts Student Jazz Band, Pat Rizzo, Johnny Meza, Pepter Pupping, Catarina New, and some very special surprise guests.

There also is a special Patron’s Gourmet Dinner Dance on Friday night, August 22, at Rush Hall on campus. Music will be by Robin Adler and Barnaby Finch and special guests.

General admission ticket price is $45 per day. Children under 12 are free when accompanied by a parent.

The Patron’s package includes the Gourmet Dinner Dance and one ticket for each day of the festival, plus free parking and reserved seating in the amphitheater. The ticket price is $135. Tickets are available by calling (909) 659-4885.

For information on Idyllwild, visit www.towncrier.com.

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