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Thomas W. Morris announces retirement as Artistic Director of the Ojai Music Festival
Following the 2019 Festival with Music Director Barbara Hannigan, Mr. Morris will conclude his distinguished 16-year tenure as the Festival’s Artistic Director
(Ojai November 17, 2017) – Thomas W. Morris has announced his decision to retire as the Ojai Music Festival’s Artistic Director following the 73rd Festival in 2019, after shaping Ojai’s artistic direction for sixteen years.
Under the creative watch of Mr. Morris, the Ojai Music Festival has been called “a finely calibrated ruckus each spring” (Alex Ross, The New Yorker). Mr. Morris expanded the Festival’s programming boundaries and scope, exploring each music director’s individual perspective, creativity, and artistic communities. Mr. Morris has offered adventurous through-curated programming for each Festival and between Festivals, and audiences have come to anticipate a four-day immersive musical, intellectual, and creative adventure. The Ojai Music Festival, under Mr. Morris, has also expanded its reach beyond Ojai with ongoing partnerships with Cal Performances in Berkeley and the Aldeburgh Festival in England, as well as through live and archival video streaming of performances, which are available on the Festival’s website.
Over the years, Mr. Morris has invited an ever-broadening roster of artists, building connections across musical communities. Music Directors of the Ojai Music Festival who have partnered with Mr. Morris since the start of his tenure in 2004 are Kent Nagano, Oliver Knussen, Robert Spano, David Robertson, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Eighth Blackbird, George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, Leif Ove Andsnes, Mark Morris, Jeremy Denk, Steven Schick, Peter Sellars, Vijay Iyer, as well as Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Barbara Hannigan in upcoming Festivals. The Festival has welcomed close collaborators, including John Luther Adams, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Claire Chase, George Crumb, Caroline Shaw, Roomful of Teeth, The Bad Plus, Aruna Sairam, Trimpin, George Lewis, Calder Quartet, Mark Morris Dance Group, Tyshawn Sorey, and Kaija Saariaho, among others. Programming highlights featured in Ojai during Mr. Morris’ tenure include site-specific works and premieres by John Luther Adams – Sila and Inuksuit, world premieres including The Classical Style by Steven Stucky and Jeremy Denk and Slide by Rinde Eckert performed by Eighth Blackbird, and most recently, the world premiere of Trouble by Vijay Iyer, performed by Jennifer Koh.
Mr. Morris continues to expand the footprint of the Ojai Music Festival, most notably with Ojai at Berkeley, the partnership with Cal Performances that is now in its eighth year, and the recently announced partnership with the Aldeburgh Festival in England, based in the acclaimed Maltings Concert Hall and in the town of Snape near Aldeburgh. These partnerships with accompanying co-productions and co-commissions allow the Ojai Music Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and Cal Performances to present more complex and creative artistic projects than could be conceived by each partner separately. The Aldeburgh relationship launches in June 2018.
“Each year, I find new possibilities to meet the demands of our supremely curious audiences. As Ojai has quite a legacy, my job has been to build on the Ojai aesthetic of discovery, adventure and engagement, creating an environment where great artists can experiment, and perhaps enter a new stage in their own artistic development. The rich heritage of this glorious Festival and sublimely beautiful place have a way of melding with great musical personalities, leaving behind lasting impressions,” commented Mr. Morris. “The Festival is an irresistible, exhilarating challenge and my work here has been enormous fun. The decision to finish my work here was a difficult one, but I’m confident it is the right one for Ojai and for me. The timing allows the Festival to find a successor in time to play a central role in all the artistic and institutional planning well through the 75th celebration in 2021 and 2022. For me, sixteen wonderful years in Ojai have led me into previously unanticipated artistic realms. I love the music, the place and the people. Working alongside Ojai’s extraordinary family of artists has been an honor and a privilege.”
Chairman of the Board David Nygren said, “Words are simply insufficient in expressing our deep gratitude for Tom’s innumerable contributions not only to the Festival, but to the entire field. Tom’s delight in the creative process is infectious and with each Festival, he has brought us – audiences and artists alike – along on intensive and transformational artistic journeys. He has fearlessly pushed boundaries of genre and community, and has designed through-curated Festivals rich with adventurous programming, frequent surprises, and lively discussion. In his retirement from Ojai, we will be celebrating his unrivaled creative genius and an entire career of superior artistic expression that has mesmerized hundreds of thousands of people. The Festival is recipient of a lifetime of Tom’s work, connections, creativity, and expressive discipline. Tom’s successor will inherit a brilliant platform on which he or she will continue to build, but for now we hope you will join us as we salute Tom during the upcoming Festivals with music directors Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Barbara Hannigan.”
Mr. Morris shared his decision with the Festival’s Board of Directors at a recent Board meeting. The Board has begun forming a search committee to secure Mr. Morris’ successor, who will become the Festival’s sixth Artistic Director in its 72nd year history.
Thomas W. Morris
Thomas W. Morris was appointed Artistic Director of the Ojai Music Festival starting with the 2004 Festival. As Artistic Director, he is responsible for artistic planning and each year appoints a music director with whom shapes the Festival’s programming. Over Mr. Morris’ tenure, audiences have increased, the scope and density of the Festival has expanded, the collaborative partnership Ojai at Berkeley with Cal Performances at UC Berkeley has started, and a compre-hensive program of video streaming of all concerts has been instituted. Mr. Morris is recognized as one of the most innovative leaders in the orchestra industry and served as the long-time chief executive of both The Cleveland Orchestra and the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is currently active nationally and internationally as a consultant, lecturer, teacher, and writer. Mr. Morris was a founding director of Spring for Music and served as the project’s artistic director. He is currently vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Interlochen Center for the Arts, and he is also an accomplished percussionist.
About the Ojai Music Festival
From its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has become a place for groundbreaking musical experiences, bringing together innovative artists and curious audiences in an intimate, idyllic setting 75 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The Festival presents broad-ranging programs in unusual ways with an eclectic mix of new and rarely performed music, as well as refreshing juxtapositions of musical styles. The four-day festival is an immersive experience with concerts, free community events, symposia, and gatherings. Considered a highlight of the international music summer season, Ojai has remained a leader in the classical music landscape for seven decades.
Through its unique structure of the Artistic Director appointing an annual Music Director, Ojai has presented a “who’s who” of music including Aaron Copland, Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen, Michael Tilson Thomas, Kent Nagano, Pierre Boulez, John Adams, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, David Robertson, Eighth Blackbird, George Benjamin, Dawn Upshaw, Leif Ove Andsnes, Mark Morris, Jeremy Denk, Steven Schick, Peter Sellars, and Vijay Iyer. Following Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Ojai will welcome Music Director Barbara Hannigan (2019).
The 72nd Ojai Music Festival, June 7-10, 2018, will present the dynamic violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja as music director. Praised for her “savage energy” (The Washington Post) and “mesmerizing artistry” (The Strad), Kopatchinskaja’s unbounded musical creativity will be in full force, showcasing her as a soloist, collaborator, and new music advocate. Joining her will be her close artistic collaborators, all of whom are making their Festival debuts: the Berlin-based Mahler Chamber Orchestra in its first extended United States residency, JACK Quartet, composer/pianist Michael Hersch, pianist Markus Hinterhäuser, pianist/harpsichordist Anthony Romaniuk, pianist Amy Yang, composer/sound designer Jorge Sanchez-Chiong, and Kopatchinskaja’s parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinski. For more information on programs and series passes, visit the 2018 Festival Schedule