The acclaimed musician Rhiannon Giddens uses her art to excavate the past and reveal bold truths about our present. A MacArthur “Genius Grant” recipient, Giddens co-founded the Grammy Award-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops. She most recently won a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for They’re Calling Me Home, and was also nominated for Best American Roots Song for “Avalon” from They’re Calling Me Home, which she made with multi-instrumentalist Francesco Turrisi. Giddens is now a two-time winner and eight-time Grammy nominee for her work as a soloist and collaborator.
They’re Calling Me Home was released by Nonesuch last April and has been widely celebrated by the NY Times, NPR Music, NPR, Rolling Stone, People, Associated Press and far beyond, with No Depression deeming it “a near perfect album…her finest work to date.” Recorded over six days in the early phase of the pandemic in a small studio outside of Dublin, Ireland – where both Giddens and Turrisi live – They’re Calling Me Home manages to effortlessly blend the music of their native and adoptive countries: America, Italy, and Ireland. The album speaks of the longing for the comfort of home as well as the metaphorical “call home” of death.
Giddens’s lifelong mission is to lift people whose contributions to American musical history have previously been erased, and to work toward a more accurate understanding of the country’s musical origins. Pitchfork has said of her work, “few artists are so fearless and so ravenous in their exploration,” and Smithsonian Magazine calls her “an electrifying artist who brings alive the memories of forgotten predecessors, white and black.”
Among her many diverse career highlights, Giddens has performed for the Obamas at the White House and received an inaugural Legacy of Americana Award from Nashville’s National Museum of African American History in partnership with the Americana Music Association. Her critical acclaim includes in-depth profiles by CBS Sunday Morning, the New York Times, the New Yorker, and NPR’s Fresh Air, among many others.
Giddens was featured in Ken Burns’s Country Music series, which aired on PBS, where she spoke about the African American origins of country music. She is also a member of the band Our Native Daughters with three other black female banjo players, Leyla McCalla, Allison Russell, and Amythyst Kiah, and co-produced their debut album Songs of Our Native Daughters (2019), which tells stories of historic black womanhood and survival.
Giddens is in the midst of a tremendous 2022. She announced the publication of her first book, Build a House (October 2022), Lucy Negro Redux, the ballet Giddens wrote the music for, had its premiere at the Nashville Ballet (premiered in 2019 and toured in 2022), and the libretto and music for Giddens’ original opera, Omar, in collaboration with Michael Abels, based on the autobiography of the enslaved man Omar Ibn Said, premiered at the Spoleto USA Festival in May. Giddens is also curating a four-concert Perspectives series as part of Carnegie Hall’s 2022–2023 season. Named Artistic Director of Silkroad Ensemble in 2020, Giddens is developing a number of new programs for that ensemble, including one inspired by the history of the American transcontinental railroad and the cultures and music of its builders.
As an actor, Giddens had a featured role on the television series Nashville.
photo by Ebru Yildiz
2022 Festival Photos
Photos by Timothy Teague
Photos by Joshus S. Rose
Festival Patron Photos by Timothy Teague
2022 Festival Critical Acclaim
Thank you for joining us at our 76th Festival, June 9-12, 2022. It was an exhilarating time! The energy and boundless creativity of AMOC* was vividly present across the Ojai Valley, giving all of us an extraordinary artistic adventure. Read review excerpts below.
“The Ojai Music Festival has always been more than the sum of its considerable parts, thanks to its compact duration (little more than a long weekend), eclectic classical programming, embrace of other disciplines (including theater, dance and spoken word), and sustained ability to attract luminaries to its still delightfully rustic outdoor setting—Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and Pierre Boulez remain the most famous of its annually appointed music directors. Yet this year, something else pervaded, too: a feeling that the center of the classical-music universe, at least from June 9 through 12, was right here.” – Wall Street Journal
“Davóne Tines, in a program note describing amoc’s approach to Eastman’s unswervingly radical music, wrote, “What is possible if all members of a performing ensemble are present for every step of the creation of a performance?” Ojai made the possibilities clear.” – The New Yorker
“There is nothing in music quite like Ojai, now three-quarters of a century old, with that packed morning-to-night-schedule, its variety of spaces and the stalwart curiosity of its audience. Led by Ara Guzelimian with a steady hand, the festival is Southern California relaxed — T-shirts and shorts, maybe a hoodie at night — but the repertory tends rigorous and recondite.” – New York Times
“This Utopian collective of 17 extraordinary artists happily reinventing opera was the communal music director last weekend for the 75th anniversary of this ever-quixotic festival.” – Los Angeles Times
“Eastman’s beloved half-hour Gay Guerilla was a standout moment during the program — and the festival. The dizzily ecstatic work came off as a musical statement at once unruly and internally logical, raucous and yet reflective, as was Eastman’s complex musical wont. Among other distinguishing marks at Ojai 2022, Eastman now joins the ranks of the festival’s ever-expanding songbook of 20th- and 21st-century greats whose music left a mark in this dreamy outpost of a town.” – San Francisco Classical Voice
“Open Rehearsal, directed by the choreographer and dancer Bobbi Jene Smith, felt more nuanced. An outgrowth of Smith’s recent work “Broken Theater,” it is a wry, sometimes uproarious and poignant metatheatrical riff on the process of creation.” – New York Times
“For all its worldly trappings, as an annual gathering point for internationally-respected musicians, composers, conductors, plus visitors and press from near and far, the unique power of the Ojai Music Festival (ojaifestival.org) is partly rooted in its “village” concept. As the cliché goes, it “takes one” to pull all the festival pieces together and it is one, a golden west coast destination spot.” – Santa Barbara Independent
“With AMOC’s boundary-pushing tenure at an end, Ojai has once more proved the most elastic of music festivals. And it seems clear that Mr. Guzelimian intends to continue stretching things.” – Wall Street Journal
“Compositional styles ran a wide gamut at the festival, from the ethereal simplicity of Cassandra Miller’s “About Bach” to the riotous, pop-flavored eclecticism of Doug Balliett’s mini-opera Rome Is Falling.” – The New Yorker
“Everything for AMOC is sacred in that it needs to perform at the highest level, but nothing is so sacred that it can’t be rethought musically, socially, racially, sexually, theatrically, physically.” – Los Angeles Times
“Many in the arts these days talk a big game about interdisciplinary collaboration, but few walk the walk like AMOC” – New York Times
Where to get a cup of coffee (and more) in Ojai
By Lisa McKinnon
First-time visitors to downtown Ojai may be surprised when they go looking for a Starbucks: There isn’t one, thanks to a moratorium on chain businesses with five or more locations. Luckily, Ojai Music Festival audiences in need of a caffeinated pick-me-up between song cycles and dance-theater pieces have plenty of non-corporate options from which to choose.
Beans sourced from small farms in Kenya, Costa Rica and Guatemala are roasted at the café’s sister location in Ventura, then featured in pour overs, flat whites, cappuccinos and seasonal mochas (the festival coincides with Beacon’s annual switch from Ojai Pixie to lavender, the latter from Frog Creek Farm in the Upper Ojai). Magic Hour teas blended in Ojai are available hot or cold. The café’s kitchen is home to SunOven gluten-free vegan bakery, which produces lavender-lemon doughnuts among other treats. Additional baked goods are from Frontside Cafe in Ventura.
The menu of organic, plant-based food and drinks infused with ingredients from Ojai-based Boku Superfoods includes coffees and espressos made from locally roasted beans from Bonito Coffee Roaster. Enjoy an invigorating Golden Shroom Latte while juicing up your electric car at the café’s bank of chargers.
Look for the orange patio umbrellas to locate this off-the-beaten path local favorite specializing in organic, fair-trade coffee, espresso and loose-leaf teas. Drinks are available hot or cold. You’ll also find Mexican hot chocolate and baked goods.
The combination organic bakery, market and Mexican café with vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options also operates as a community gathering place and espresso bar with drip coffee and specialty drinks. “Beneficial” beverages like the Turmeric Toddy and adaptogenic hot chocolate (made with fungi) are available from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Nearing its 28th anniversary, the coffeehouse offers an ever-changing lineup of roasts, plus specialty drinks that can be made hot or cold. There’s also a wide selection of whole beans, loose-leaf teas and mugs, carafes and tea pots to take home as gifts.
Dune Coffee from Santa Barbara is featured, both freshly brewed and on nitro (cold). The café also serves lattes, cappuccinos and the eye-opening Gibraltar/Cortado – a double espresso topped with an equal amount of micro foam. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and matcha lemonade are also available.
Ojai Coffee Roasting Co., 337 E. Ojai Ave., 805-646-4478, facebook.com/OjaiCoffee. 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.
Owner and roaster Stacey Jones is often behind the counter at the café she opened in 1995 (and which served as a filming location for the 2010 movie “Easy A” starring Emma Stone). Arabica beans are roasted on site in small batches for coffees, espressos, red eyes (espresso plus drip coffee) and more. Check the specials board for lattes ranging from lavender to honey cinnamon.
In a nod to the coffee-served-all-day tradition set by the pre-moratorium Jersey Mike’s that previously occupied its address, Pinyon serves French-press hot and cold-brew versions of Los Angeles-based Canyon Coffee from opening till close.
Keeping track of your caffeine intake? A “none-to-high” scale for teas is spelled out on glass display case at this counter-service restaurant that also serves drip coffee, collagen lattes and herbal tonics.
Named for a vintage bread oven, the Rustic Canyon Family restaurant operates as a coffeehouse from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.-ish, when the focus is on order-at-the-counter service of Bonito Coffee drinks and Magic Hour teas (including a heavy-caffeine black variety dubbed Organic Flower Dutchess) to go with grab-and-go sandwiches, cookies, seasonal-ingredient cakes and artisanal breads by pastry chef/partner Kelsey Brito and bread baker/partner Kate Pepper. The Dutchess switches to sit-down dinner mode at 4:30 p.m., when its California-Burmese menu becomes available.
Fans of Peet’s Coffee will find the brand served at the service deli.
Lisa McKinnon is Ventura-based food writer who drank a LOT of coffee and still managed to fall asleep during a special, four-hour performance at the 2002 Ojai Music Festival — but only because audience members were invited to bring pillows and blankets and told get comfortable on the Ojai Art Center floor for the duration. She’s on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok as 805foodie, and blogs at 805foodie.com.