1947 May 4 – First concert features French baritone Martial Singher with Paul Ulanowsky in a recital covering repertoire from Rameau to Ravel at Ojai’s Nordhoff Auditorium.
1948 – Lawrence Morton becomes first program annotator and begins his association with the Festival; Igor Stravinky’s Histoire du soldat (A Solider’s Tale) is billed as the premiere of the final version of his work.
1949 – Ojai Festivals, Ltd. is officially launched as a non-profit organization.
1952 – The Festival holds first outdoor concert at the Libbey Bowl.
1953 – Lukas Foss makes his first Ojai appearance as conductor.
1954 – Lawrence Morton becomes first Artistic Director.
1955 – Igor Stravinsky conducts his own works at the Festival.
1956 – Stravinsky conducts his own Les Noces for Ojai audiences; permanent benches are added to the Libbey Bowl doubling the seating capacity to 750.
1957 – Aaron Copland makes Ojai debut.
1960 – For the first time, all Festival concerts are held at the Libbey Bowl.
1962 – Jazz flutist Eric Dolphy performs Density 21.5 for solo flute by Edgard Varèse; the Festival includes a four-day prelude of discussions lectures/concerts with Luciano Berio, Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller and Lukas Foss.
1963 – Foss experiments with music from Don Giovanni using three orchestras to create a kind of stereophonic surround sound at the Bowl; Mauricio Kagel is guest composer/conductor.
1964 – Ingolf Dahl (USC faculty composer) is Music Director and Ojai becomes a northern “outpost” for the USC’s music department.
1965 – 19-year-old pianist Michael Tilson Thomas is featured in concert; Harold Shapero’s Serenade in D for String Orchestra and Ramiro Cortes’ Concerto for Violin and Strings are premiered.
1966 – Ojai celebrates its 20th anniversary; David Raskin, film composer and friend of Lawrence Morton, writes five special fanfares for the Festival.
1967 – Lawrence Morton returns as Artistic Director; Pierre Boulez makes his Ojai debut in his fifth American appearance; Boulez delays the start time of a performance to allow the Santa Paula Railroad “Orange” train to pass.
1968 – Pianist James Levine makes a guest appearance; Ingolf Dahl is Music Director once again and the Debut Orchestra of the Young Musicians Foundation is in residence.
1969 – The trio of Michael Tilson Thomas, Michael Zearott and Stefan Minde lead the Festival as co-Music Directors.
1970 Boulez returns for his second visit to Ojai and includes the first American performance of his Domaines; the Los Angeles Philharmonic makes its Ojai debut.
1971 – Ojai celebrates its 25th anniversary; Gerhard Samuel makes first appearance as conductor and Artistic Director; Lou Harrison’s Chinese Classical Music Ensemble presents a morning concert of Chinese music.
1972 – Ethnic music is highlighted under the baton of Michael Zearott including Mariachi music from Jalisco, Mexico, drum music from West Africa and the Balinese group, Gamelan Angklung.
1973 – Michael Tilson Thomas is Music Director for the next three seasons; Tilson Thomas brings minimalism to Ojai with Steve Reich’s Four Organs with Percussion plus John Cage’s Three Dances for Two Amplified Prepared Pianos, both in their West Coast premieres; annual jazz concerts begin in Ojai.
1975 – Charles Wuorinen’s A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky, a joint Ojai Festival/Buffalo Philharmonic commission, is given its world premiere.
1976 – Copland returns to Ojai as does Lawrence Morton as Artistic Director.
1978 – Young African-American conductor Calvin Simmons (assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic) takes the baton as Music Director; Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex is performed.
1980 – Sequoia Quartet, UC San Diego-based SONOR and the Los Angeles Ballet perform.
1981 – USC Symphony’s director Daniel Lewis is the Festival Music Director; the program includes the West Coast premiere of Benjamin Britten’s Our Hunting Fathers with tenor Jonathan Mack and the U.S. premiere of Clementi’s Symphony No. 4.
1982 – The Festival presents a Stravinsky Centennial with Robert Craft as Music Director featuring all or part of nearly 40 compositions by the master in his honor.
1983 – The Kronos Quartet and The Musicians of Swanne Alley make their Ojai debuts; Ravi Shankar returns.
1985 – Under the recommendation of Pierre Boulez, young conductor Kent Nagano makes his first Ojai appearance as Music Director; the music of Olivier Messiaen is highlighted and attends his first Ojai Festival; Messiaen’s wife Yvonne Loriod performs in a piano recital.
1986 – Due to the success of his first Ojai Festival, Nagano is invited to return as Music Director; Composer-conductor-percussionist Stephen “Lucky” Mosko conducts Saturday evening’s concert, which includes the West Coast premiere of John Adams’ The Chairman Dances.
1987 – Lukas Foss comes back to Ojai; the Festival is dedicated to Lawrence Morton who passes away earlier in the year.
1988 – Peter Maxwell-Davies is composer-in-residence; Nicholas McGegan is Music Director along with his Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, which was also in residence this season.
1989 – The Festival highlights the work of composer György Ligeti; Boulez is Music Director.
1990 – Stephen “Lucky” Mosko returns but this time as Music Director and Elliott Carter is the composer-in-residence; for the first time in Festival history there is no music from the past or music by any European composers.
1992 – Boulez as Music Director brings famed director Peter Sellars to Ojai; Sellar stages Stravinsky’s Histoire du soldat in its fifth incarnation in Ojai; however, he re-stages the work using inner-city actors in the cast and the back of a flatbed pick-up truck as part of the setting; Ara Guzelimian is named Artistic Director.
1993 – John Adams makes his first Ojai appearance as Music Director highlighting the work of Cage, Reich and Gorecki.
1994 – For his seventh Festival, Michael Tilson Thomas journeys back to Ojai as Music Director along with his New World Symphony.
1996 – The 50th Anniversary of the Ojai Music Festival is led by Pierre Boulez; pianist Mitsuko Uchida makes her first appearance at the Festival.
1997 – Pianist Emanuel Ax is Music Director; Daniel Harding is principal conductor; Artistic Director Ara Guzelimian bids farewell to Festival.
1998 Ernest Fleischmann begins his tenure as the Festival’s third Artistic Director; Mitsuko Uchida is Music Director; David Zinman is principal conductor.
1999 – Esa-Pekka Salonen makes his Ojai debut and creates a program dedicated to Finnish music. Composer-in-residence is Magnus Lindberg.
2000 – Sir Simon Rattle makes his Ojai debut as Music Director; the Festival features the U.S. premiere of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Kai and the West Coast premiere of Thomas Ades’ Asyla.
2002 – Marking the first time for a group, the Emerson String Quartet is Music Director.
2004 – Kent Nagano returns, this time with his Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, which makes its Ojai debut; Thomas W. Morris begins his tenure as the Festival’s fourth Artistic Director; the Festival presents the world premiere of Korean composer Unsuk Chin’s SNAGS & SNARLS.
2005 – British composer-conductor Oliver Knussen is Festival Music Director; The Cleveland Orchestra with Music Director Franz Welser-Most; British composer Jonathan Cole’s Testament is given its world premiere and is a joint commission by the Sue Knussen Commissioning Fund, London Sinfonietta and the Ojai Festival.
2006 – The 60th Anniversary of the Ojai Music Festival is led by Robert Spano as Music Director in his Ojai debut; featured composer is Osvaldo Golijov; Golijov’s revised concert version of Ainadamar is given its West Coast premiere; featured artists include Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus and Dawn Upshaw.
2007 – French pianist, Pierre Laurent Aimard, makes his Festival debut as music director along with Hungarian composer/conductor Peter Eotvos as featured composer. The Festival program includes two U.S. premieres by Eotvos – Sonata per Sei and Chinese Opera.
2008 – American conductor David Robertson marks his first Festival as music director. American composer Steve Reich returns after a 35-year absence with his music at the centerpiece of the Festival. Dawn Upshaw returns for her third visit to Ojai. French composer Francois Narboni enjoys the U.S. premiere of his work entitled El Gran Masturbador and Michael Jarrell’s Cassandre makes its west coast premiere.
2009 – eighth blackbird becomes the second chamber ensemble to be named music director. The co-commissioned piece, Slide, makes its world premiere.
2010 – Former student of Messiaen, British composer/conductor George Benjamin makes his Ojai debut as music director and brings the preeminent Ensemble Modern to Ojai. Friday pays tribute to the composer Frank Zappa with a symposium session that includes Gail Zappa and evening concert pairing Zappa and works of Varese performed by EM.
2011 – Dawn Upshaw returns for her fourth appearance as music director celebrating the opening of the new Libbey Bowl. World premieres include the staged production of George Crumb’s The Winds of Destiny directed by Peter Sellars and composer Maria Schneider’s Winter Morning Walks performed by Upshaw. The Festival launches Ojai North! which brings three Ojai concerts to Cal Performances at UC Berkeley.
2012 – The Festival presents the West Coast premiere of John Luther Adams’ Inuksuit
at Libbey Park performed by 48 musicians and the American premiere of Bent Sørensen’s
Piano Concerto No. 2, “La Mattina,” performed by Music Director Leif Ove Andsnes.
2013 – Mark Morris, the first dancer/choreographer to serve as Music Director presents a program celebrating on iconic American composers Lou Harrison, Henry Cowell and John Cage.
2014 – MacArthur Fellow and pianist Jeremy Denk takes on the helm as Music Director. The Festival features the world premiere of the comic opera, The Classical Style: An Opera (of sorts) with music by Pulitzer-Prize winning composer Steven Stucky and a libretto by Jeremy Denk.
2015 – Steven Schick leads the Festival as its first ever percussionist to serve as Music Director. The Festival celebrates the works of Pierre Boulez and features over 30 living composers. Bartók’s complete string quartets are performed for the first time in Ojai.
2016 – Celebrated theatre/opera director Peter Sellars returns as music director and leads the Festival in its milestone 70thyear with the US premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Passion de Simone(chamber version), world premiere of Caroline Shaw’s This might also be a form of dreaming and the world premiere of Josephine Baker: A Portrait featuring Julia Bullock and Tyshawn Sorey.
2017 – MacArthur prize winner/Downbeat Magazine musician of the year Vijay Iyer makes his Festival debut and brings a diverse community of new artists to Ojai and George Lewis’s Afterword, an opera – a celebration of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM).
2018 – Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja leads Ojai as Music Director featuring premieres and news works, including her own stage conceptualizations of Bye Bye Beethoven and Dies Irae.
2019 – Soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan introduces Ojai audiences to LUDWIG orchestra and her new mentoring program, Equilibrium Young Artists; presented the staged version of Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; Festival recognizes Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris’ final year after a 16-year legacy.
2020 – For the first time in the Festival history, the 74th Ojai Music Festival, with Music Director Matthias Pintscher and Chad Smith, who led the artistic direction, is cancelled due to COVID-19. The Festival pivoted to a virtual Festival in June by presenting online Ojai Talks led by Ara Guzelimian with featured guest artists including Pintscher, Olga Neuwirth, Calder Quartet, and Steve Reich. Ara Guzelimian is named Artistic & Executive Director.