We did it … Together!

Message from Ara Guzelimian

It turned out to be a magical time of reunion and renewal, as we celebrated our 75th anniversary Festival in the best of company. As I take a breath and reflect on that beautiful September weekend, I feel boundless gratitude. We gathered together in Ojai and cherished the singular joy of being in the company of music and musicians as a communal experience.

The predominant emotion of the concerts was one of joy and optimism, particularly as defined by the energies and creativity of a new generation of composers. John Adams was so very wise in making sure this anniversary festival looked forward. All our artists embraced that spirit wholeheartedly, especially determined to do so in the face of the painful events of the past eighteen months.  Our great thanks go to John, not only for the riches of his own music, but also for the choice of artists and works which so beautifully defined the arc of this festival.

Let us take a moment to bask in just a few selected memories. Enjoy our photo gallery of Festival moments as captured by photographer Timothy Teague:

It took remarkable devotion on the part of many people to get us here, beginning with our dedicated Board of Directors who have been steadfast in their vision, generosity and clarity of purpose. I offer my heartfelt thanks to the artists, the staff, interns, volunteers and housing hosts who worked tirelessly to make this a most special festival, often in the face of unexpected challenges – did I mention that Víkingur Ólafsson was nearly turned away at the airport in Reykjavik because of confusion about his (entirely correct!) visa documentation? Somehow, there was always a solution to be found. Even the weather was ideal, with mild temperatures and soft breezes to bring Ojai enchantment 

But I reserve a very measure of thanks to each of you, for your continued faith in the Ojai Festival, for complying with the safety measures, for your generosity in supporting the festival financially, and most of all, for your irreplaceable presence at concerts (and by extension, long distance by way of our streamed concerts). You help create one of the most attentive, understanding, adventurous, and open-hearted audiences I have ever experienced.  

 And now, we begin the happy anticipation of the Festival to come in June 2022. We had a vivid introduction to two more artists from AMOC (the American Modern Opera Company), the collective of 17 instrumentalists, singers, dancers, choreographers, and composers, who together will be the Music Director in June. Violinist Miranda Cuckson and flutist Emi Ferguson, core members of AMOC, both made brilliant debuts at this year’s Festival. 

Miranda Cuckson shone in the virtuosic and expressive challenges of Samuel Adams’ Chamber Concerto, played a recital that ranged from Bach to Saariaho, and, in a stunning Libbey Bowl performance of Bach, created an iconic only-in-Ojai image: 

Emi Ferguson played Gabriela Ortiz’s Huitzitl with expressive power and grace, despite the distractions of another only-in-Ojai moment, the sounding of a persistent security alarm nearby. So I thought it’s only fair to revisit Emi’s mesmerizing performance, this time with the benefit of some subtle audio filtering that magically minimizes the sound of the alarm and focuses attention entirely on Gaby’s evocative music and the beauty of Emi’s playing! 

We can happily anticipate look ahead to more musical encounters with both Emi and Miranda, the return of favorite Festival favorite artists (and current members of AMOC) soprano Julia Bullock, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, and cellist Jay Campbell, as well as a happy introduction to all of the brilliant creative spirits of this endlessly-creative collective in the next Festival. We will meet all of the members of AMOC in the coming months by way of special online programming and conversations. 

In the meantime, our wholehearted thanks to each of you. I look forward to seeing you all again in June 2022 or sooner! 

Ojai Holiday Marketplace


Saturday and Sunday, November 13 and 14, 2021
10am to 4pm each day

A benefit for the Ojai Music Festival and its BRAVO education and community program, 
which offers free music workshops to the Ojai Valley public schools and the community

For this year we are putting all our energy, creativity, and time into creating the ultimate Holiday Marketplace. The Holiday Home Tour will return November 2022!

It’s the ultimate Holiday Marketplace to both celebrate and gather:

  • Begin your holiday shopping with 50+ booths that will provide the perfect find for everyone on your list, including something special for you
  • Enjoy musical performances at the Libbey Park Gazebo
  • Create your own decorations at the Ornament and Wreath Stations
  • Silent auction of decorated Tabletop Trees and Menorahs created by local artists, businesses, and organizations
  • Say hello to Santa and Mrs. Santa
  • Enjoy beverages and sweets at the Cafe in the Park 

Admission to the Marketplace is free and open to the public. Portion of the proceeds from the sales during the weekend will be donated to the Ojai Music Festival and its BRAVO education programs in the schools and community.

Ways to support:
Become a Patron Sponsor Be a Designer for our Tabletop Trees & Menorahs
  • Be a vendor
  • Be a shopper! See you on November 13 and 14!

2021 Critical Acclaim

Ojai Music Festival 2021. John Adams, Miranda Cuckson, Rhiannon Giddens, Víkingur Ólafsson, Attacca Quartet. Photos by Timothy Teague

Thank you for joining us at our 75th Festival, September 16-19, 2021. Read review excerpts below. Relive concerts anytime by watching our archived live streaming concerts. View our photo gallery of some of our favorite Festival moments.

Download PDF of reviews here

“a forward-looking survey of young artists — fitting for a festival that has long focused on the future” New York Times

“Against unsettlingly uncertain odds, Ojai’s 75th anniversary festival happened as hoped and promised, and it was special” Los Angeles Times

“In Ojai, circa 2021, themes of “homecoming” and pandemic-related dynamics struck emotional chords beyond the provocative and consoling musical goods.” San Francisco Classical Voice

“Throughout its illustrious history, the Ojai Music Festival has been known for a series of unpredictable, serendipitous musical experiences that become known as quintessential Ojai moments. One such moment stood out as a highlight of this year’s festival – an “Ojai Dawns” concert… [with a program of] all Mexican composers, music by [Gabriela] Ortiz, Javier Álvarez, and Georgina Derbez.” San Francisco Classical Voice

“Pandemic-waylaid, the Ojai Music Festival finally erected its contemporary-music-geared Big Top with one of its strongest programs of late.” Santa Barbara Independent

“Rhiannon Giddens was an inspired choice to anchor the festival with… a rousing concert of her original/traditional material on Saturday night… The concert… resonated with all of the pain and struggle we have experienced over the last two years in a way that was at once healing and grounding.” Santa Barbara Independent

“arguably the most exciting music event in this country” Berkshire Fine Arts

“Music sounds fresh and very much of the moment. It both delights and moves in its Ojai setting.” Berkshire Fine Arts

“thoughtfully programmed and precisely performed” Sequenza 21

“The Ojai spirit of adventure was alive in the programming hands of music director du jour John Adams… and the new artistic and executive director Ara GuzelimianClassical Voice North America 

2021 Festival Moments

Thank you for joining us!  Revisit your favorite festival memories below 
Note: Images have been optimized for web/social media display;
Please credit and tag Timothy Teague or Ben Hoffman for photo credit.

2022 Music Director AMOC shares initial programming for 76th Festival


The 76th Ojai Music Festival is scheduled for June 9–12, 2022 
Anchor programming will include world premiere performances:
  • Staging of Olivier Messiaen’s song cycle Harawi by soprano Julia Bullock and pianist Conor Hanick, staged by Zack Winokur, with choreography by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, who also perform as dancers
  • Broken Theater, staged and choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith incorporating the entire AMOC company alongside special guest collaborators
  • Family Dinner, a cycle of mini-concertos by Matthew Aucoin, featuring the entire AMOC company, including Davóne Tines, Miranda Cuckson, Emi Ferguson, and Keir GoGwilt

“For many decades, the Ojai Festival has been an artistic oasis, a place where artists and audiences alike go to be refreshed by the Festival’s atmosphere of openness, experimentation, and adventure. AMOC is thrilled and honored both to uphold Ojai’s essential spirit and to expand the Festival’s scope by offering numerous interdisciplinary offerings that feature our signature blend of music, dance, and theater. We cant imagine a better forum to feature the astonishing work of AMOCs many artists, and next years Festival will include several world premieres—including choreography by Bobbi Jene Smith, music by Matthew Aucoin, a production by Zack Winokur starring Julia Bullock and Conor Hanick, and much more. This Festival will be a welcome return for many of us: a return to Ojai for beloved Festival artists including Julia Bullock, Jay Campbell, Miranda Cuckson, Emi Ferguson, and Davóne Tines, and a return to collaboration with Ojais Artistic Director & Executive Director Ara Guzelimian for the many AMOC artists who have benefited from Aras wisdom throughout their careers. AMOC, 2022 Music Director


OJAI, California – September 15, 2021 – As the Ojai Music Festival begins the 75th Festival (September 16–19, 2021) with Music Director John Adams, the Festival’s 2022 Music Director AMOC (American Modern Opera Company) and Artistic & Executive Director Ara Guzelimian announce initial programming for the 76th Festival, June 9- 12, 2022, which will conclude the Festival’s 75th anniversary year.

“We are exhilarated to gather this week in Ojai for our long-awaited return to an in-person Festival with John Adams as Music Director and the central presence of a new generation of composers whom John has invited,” said Guzelimian. “This is such a fitting beginning to our 75th Anniversary celebrations. And we even get to meet two brilliant artists this September — violinist Miranda Cuckson and flutist Emi Ferguson — who are members of AMOC, the creative collective who serve as Music Director of the next Ojai Festival in June 2022. I am so delighted to be collaborating with the endlessly imaginative artists of AMOC as the culmination of our 75th anniversary celebrations. They represent a fearless discipline- and genre-crossing leap into a new generation of artistic work. Several of the AMOC artists — Julia Bullock, Davóne Tines, and Jay Campbell — are already well known to Ojai audiences, so there are elements of both reunion and discovery in this remarkable company of 17 artists. We are in for a great adventure.”

Ojai’s 2022 Music Director AMOC is a discipline-colliding collective made up of 17 of the most adventurous singers, dancers, instrumentalists, choreographers, and composers at work today in music and dance. For the 2022 Ojai Music Festival, AMOC will serve as the first-ever collective to hold the position of Music Director in the Festival’s 75-year history. As described by The Boston Globe, AMOC is “a creative incubator par excellence . . . where the boundaries between disciplines go to die.” A collective of some of the most creative, forward-thinking artists, AMOC is led by its co-founders — composer/conductor Matthew Aucoin and director/choreographer Zack Winokur — collaborating with Core Ensemble members Jonny Allen (percussion), Paul Appleby (tenor), Doug Balliett (double bass/composer), Julia Bullock (soprano), Jay Campbell (cello), Anthony Roth Costanzo (countertenor), Miranda Cuckson (violin/viola), Julia Eichten (dancer/choreographer), Emi Ferguson (flute), Keir GoGwilt (violin/writer), Conor Hanick (piano), Coleman Itzkoff (cello), Or Schraiber (dancer/choreographer), Bobbi Jene Smith (dancer/choreographer), and Davóne Tines (bass-baritone). Julia Bullock, Jay Campbell, Miranda Cuckson, Emi Ferguson and Davóne Tines will all make welcome returns to Ojai, having participated in past Festivals.

Programming for the 2022 Festival will include the world premiere performance of AMOC’s staging of Olivier Messiaen’s song cycle Harawi by soprano Julia Bullock and pianist Conor Hanick, staged by Zack Winokur, with choreography by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, who also perform as dancers. Harawi, written in 1945, is based on an Andean love song genre of the same name, with texts by Messiaen and incorporating the Quechua language. The 2022 Festival also will present the world premiere performance of AMOC’s Broken Theater, staged and choreographed by Bobbi Jene Smith and with participation by the entire company alongside special guest collaborators. Broken Theater is an intensely personal response to our time, beginning with the concept of a “ghost theater,” a theater empty in a time of isolation. The world premiere of Family Dinner also anchors the 2022 Festival. Family Dinner, a cycle of mini-concertos by Matthew Aucoin, features the entire AMOC company, including  Davóne Tines, Miranda Cuckson, Emi Ferguson, and Keir GoGwilt. Additional programming details for Ojai 2022 will be announced in the fall.

AMOC (American Modern Opera Company), 2022 Music Director

Founded in 2017, the mission of AMOC (American Modern Opera Company) is to build and share a body of collaborative work. As a group of dancers, singers, musicians, writers, directors, composers, choreographers, and producers united by a core set of values, AMOC artists pool their resources to create new pathways that connect creators and audiences in surprising and visceral ways. The company’s current projects include Comet Poppea, which includes an AMOC-commissioned opera by composer George Lewis and is produced in collaboration with Anthony Roth Costanzo and Cath Brittan, and The No One’s Rose, a new music-dance-theater work created in partnership with San Francisco’s Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Stanford Live.

Past projects include Zack Winokur’s production of Hans Werner Henze’s El Cimarrón, starring Davóne Tines, which has been performed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Repertory Theater; a new arrangement of John Adams’s El Niño, premiered at The Met Cloisters as part of Julia Bullock’s season-long residency at the Met Museum; Davóne Tines’s and Winokur’s Were You There, a meditation on Black lives lost in recent years to police violence; and Bobbi Jene Smith and Keir GoGwilt’s dance/music works With Care and A Study on Effort, which have been produced at San Francisco’s ODC Theater, Toronto’s Luminato Festival, and elsewhere. Conor Hanick’s performance of CAGE, Zack Winokur’s production of John Cage’s music for prepared piano, was cited as the best recital of the year by The New York Times in 2018 and The Boston Globe in 2019. 

MATTHEW AUCOIN, composer, conductor, pianist
ZACK WINOKUR, director, choreographer, dancer




JONNY ALLEN, percussionist
DOUG BALLIETT, double bassist, composer
MIRANDA CUCKSON, violinist, violist
JULIA EICHTEN, dancer, choreographer
KEIR GOGWILT, violinist, writer
OR SCHRAIBER, dancer, choreographer
BOBBI JENE SMITH, dancer, choreographer
DAVÓNE TINES, bass-baritone

Learn more about AMOC >
Purchase 2022 Festival passes here>


Discover Art in Ojai – a curated tour by Frederick Janka

Beato Chocolates at Porch Gallery (porchgalleryojaistore.com)

Our community, long known as a haven for artists, is now reveling in a dynamic collection of vibrant and innovative art spaces that are exciting and fun to discover and share with our out-of-town visitors and guests. Imagine the following selection of top Ojai arts venues as a virtual gallery crawl to enjoy in one afternoon where one is bound to find one’s self both delighted and inspired by each radically different art experience.

Let’s start our tour at a white well kept historic building from 1874 that houses the Porch Gallery Ojai. Located in the heart of town, the gallery presents a diverse schedule of exhibitions of talented local, national, and international artists.  Also a local hub for events by many organizations and nonprofits based in Ojai and Ventura County, this is a true community gathering space centered around contemporary art. (310 E Matilija St, porchgalleryojai.com) Don’t forget to visit the Store at Porch Gallery the home of Beato Chocolates and many artist designed and inspired goods. Featured exhibition: John Millei: Works on Paper.

Matisse’s tête de femme, 1935 (canvasandpaper.org)

Head back now on Matilija Street and take a quick left up North Montgomery where you will find a handsome recently renovated cottage housing Canvas and Paper, the newest venue on our tour. Founded by a generous and scholarly collector, this is a small private gallery that offers a museum-like setting for contemplating three carefully selected works of art from the founder’s collection of 20th century modern and contemporary master works. (311 N Montgomery St, canvasandpaper.org). Featured Exhibition: Henri Matisse drawings.

Porfirio Gutiérrez: Continuous Line, Linea Continua (carolynglasoebaileyfoundation.org)

The Carolyn Glasoe Bailey Foundation is a great Ojai art space to encounter museum quality artists from the greater Southern California region. The venue and its newest initiative, The Ojai Institute, is an artist residency, gallery, studio, and gathering space for artists and creatives. (248 S Montgomery St, cgbfoundation.org) Featured Exhibition: Porfirio Gutiérrez: Continuous Line/Linea Continua. Come by for a special gift to celebrate the Ojai Music Festival when you complete your art tour! Saturday only!

Current Exhibit: Sacred Deities of Ancient Egypt (beatricewood.com)

And there’s more! If you are attending one of the Saturday performances at the Zalk Theater at Besant Hill Scool, please make sure to visit the Beatrice Wood Center for the Arts, the longtime home and studio of the “Mama of Dada.” The center with its bright gallery and enticing gift shop offers a glimpse into Wood’s dynamic world of fascinating ceramics while also highlighting the works of some of our most talented local artists and artisans. (8585 Ojai-Santa Paula Rd) hours are Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, 11 am – 5 pm, Admission is $5 per person. Tours are $10 per person and include a discussion of Beatrice Wood’s life and work, as well as the Happy Valley Foundation’s fascinating history.


And on Ojai Avenue you will find The Basic Premise. An artists’ space and gallery, this is a great place for the new and established collector alike to discover art by some of the most daring and thought-provoking artists in the region. (918 E Ojai Ave, @thebasicpremise) Featured Exhibition: Tara Jane O’Neil & Jmy James Kidd in Residence.


2021 Festival: The Ultimate Act of Optimism

If the Ojai Festival aged like a human being, the formidable storehouse of memories it has already accumulated would likely tilt the spotlight of this 75th anniversary edition toward the past — perhaps in the form of a retrospective celebrating highlights of these many decades. But the very spirit of Ojai — its open-eared curiosity and resistance to received ideas — evades that kind of chronological, linear account-taking.

The dislocations caused by the pandemic, the implications of which are still unfolding, have even triggered something of a Benjamin Button effect. After the long, traumatic abstention from live performance, it feels as though we’re aging backwards as we reconsider the basic issues we may have thought long since sorted out. And the urgency of today’s social justice consciousness has intensified a desire to hit the restart button. Acting your age, in this age, is to make room again for a radical hope that not so long ago might have seemed utopian overreach.

“This year’s Ojai Festival brings a real focus to young talent: especially young composers, but also young performers,” says Music Director John Adams, who previously served in that role in 1993. Even though much of the programming was envisioned prior to the pandemic, Adams instinctively chose the future as the vanishing point for his image of musical vitality.

Not that this is a new outlook for the eminent composer. Born in the same year as the inaugural Ojai Festival, Adams himself has steadfastly resisted the temptation to settle into comfortable habits and predictable patterns even while being increasingly feted as a musical sage. Anyone who comes to his work with expectations still constrained by such long-outdated pigeonholes as “Minimalism” is bound to be astonished by his tireless development of a complex musical language — and particularly by the paths he has followed over the past 15 years.

Aside from his own composing career, Adams has long been committed to mentoring the new generation through his involvement in teaching, curating, and commissioning. Not long after resettling from his native New England to the Bay Area in the 1970s, he led a new music ensemble at the San Francisco Conservatory that presented many premieres and experimented with fresh voices. “I was thinking about what has really meant the most to me over the years, and particularly now, at my age, it is my relationships with these younger composers,” Adams says.

Ojai Festival’s Artistic and Executive Director Ara Guzelimian recalls that Adams insisted on this focus on the future early on: “When he began thinking about this summer’s program, he became so determined that even though this is an anniversary festival it should not be a retrospective in any sense — and that it should not be centered around his music. This idea of bringing discoveries of new composers to the audience is very fitting for Ojai. He wanted the takeaway of this Festival to be an exploration of the next generation — the ultimate act of optimism, because they are the ones who will carry us forward.”

But what does Adams find so promising in these young artists? Above all, it’s their openness to inspiration from all directions — temporally and across genres, from the classical tradition, from its avant-garde fringes, from the by-now inextricably interwoven discourses that fuel our many-layered musical lives. Composers like Carlos Simon are navigating new ways of relating to an increasingly interrogated canon while at the same time honoring the authenticity of voices that it has historically marginalized. “I’m excited that at this Festival we have such a broad bandwidth of talent and also backgrounds,” says Adams.

Guzelimian adds: “If there is one takeaway from the 75th anniversary Ojai Festival, it might be that there is health in being poly-stylistic.” In this sense, the composers and performers featured over this intense, long weekend of music-making mirror the identity that the Ojai Festival itself has cultivated over its history: an openness to new sounds, unusual combinations, uninhibited fusions and even contradictions, and, above all, to the possibility of genuine epiphanies amid these uncertain, fearful times. Sometimes, this might even be an attempted recovery of what was once known as a sense of the sublime, as we encounter in the world premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Sunt Lacrimae Rerum.

Mattingly is among the California composers who have a particularly strong presence in Adams’s lineup — along with Gabriella Smith, Samuel Adams, and Anthony Cheung. This in turn represents a subsidiary theme of “homecoming” and a West Coast sensibility that runs through the programming — though this, too, cannot be reduced to a single trend. Gabriela Ortiz, the outstanding Mexican composer, extends this geographical orientation further and offers a potent counterweight to the Eurocentric focus that has so long dominated discussions of new music. “I think that music is very interested in other latitudes and other cultures, that the future is no longer limited to European aesthetics, as we were taught in the past,” Ortiz emphasizes.

And through the participation of Julie Tumamait- Stenslie, a modern-day leader of the peoples who originally inhabited this magical paradise-on-earth, we acknowledge the enduring presence of the Chumash people. They have given this place its name: “Awhay,” meaning “moon” or “lunar phase” — changed to “Ojai” to make it easier to pronounce — was chosen to replace the Germanic “Nordhoff” in the wake of the First World War.

Adams’s choice of performers likewise intensifies the focus on a fresh, youthful perspective that is redefining the entire field. Just before the pandemic shutdowns began, Adams got to spend time touring with Víkingur Ólafsson for some of the first European performances of his dazzling new piano concerto Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? “Not only

is Víkingur a phenomenal pianist, he also has an amazing creative mind,” Adams remarks, referring to the Icelandic pianist’s equally convincing approach to well-known repertoire and new scores.

Like the featured composers — including fellow pianist Timo Andres — Ólafsson approaches inherited tradition as a contemporary language, transforming it into an inescapably thrilling new experience. By the same token, the Attacca Quartet and Miranda Cuckson bring to the new scores they interpret a conviction that confers on them the sense of longstanding authority. And the incomparable Rhiannon Giddens is such a natural fit for Ojai that it’s surprising this summer marks her debut at the Festival. “She seemed to John and to me to be ideal,” recalls Guzelimian, “because she is one of the most genuine pan-stylistic artists I know. She’s somebody who really is deeply rooted and convincing in a wide variety of musics.”

If there is no overarching trend among the composers and performers who are shaping music’s future, there is a shared value — the value of acting their age, as Guzelimian puts it, recalling how  Esa-Pekka Salonen was criticized at the beginning of his tenure with the LA Philharmonic for playing “too much” contemporary music: “He responded: ‘When I conduct Lutosławski’s music, I bear the same relationship and age to him as Karajan did to Richard Strauss.’ What he was essentially saying is, ‘I’m acting my age, I’m bringing forward what I know and love.’

I think this current generation is the least inhibited yet in drawing on the multiplicity of musics that they know.”

  • Thomas May

Podcast Series: OJAICast

Welcome to OJAICast where we pull back the curtain to explore all-things music to satisfy musical appetites, whether you are a newcomer or longtime music fan. Special guests help shine the light on topics, ranging from concert repertoire, music of today, to their own Ojai experiences. OjaiCAST is hosted by composer, pianist and Festival Live Stream Host Thomas Kotcheff. 


Episode 1

Our first episode gives an in-depth look into the 75th Ojai Music Festival (September 16-19, 2021) repertoire and the musical threads that connect it all together, curated by Music Director John Adams. Guests include Ojai Festival Artistic & Executive Director Ara Guzelimian, Program Book Annotator Thomas May, and featured 2021 composer Gabriela Ortiz.

Thomas Kotcheff, host
Thomas Kotcheff, producer
Louis Ng, recording engineer

OJAICast theme by Thomas Kotcheff and Louis Weeks

Music used in this episode:
Philip Glass – Evening Song No. 2 performed by Timo Andres
Gabriela Ortiz – Río de las mariposas performed by Southwest Chamber Music

N.B. John Adams was Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival in 1993 and not 1994 as stated in the podcast.


Episode 2

American composer and conductor John Adams, who leads the 75th Ojai Music Festival, has been an influence for many artists and composers, including several of our 2021 collaborators.  The second episode invites pianists Vicki Ray and Joanne Pearce Martin, composer Dylan Mattingly, and chairman emeritus and longtime president of Nonesuch Records Robert Hurwitz to discuss their personal connections with John Adams.


Thomas Kotcheff, host 
Thomas Kotcheff, producer 
Louis Ng, recording engineer  

OJAICast theme by Thomas Kotcheff and Louis Weeks  

Music used in this episode: 
John Adams – Hallelujah Junction performed by Nicolas Hodges and Rolf Hind  
John Adams – Road Movies: III. 40% Swing performed by Leila Josefowicz and John Novacek  
Dylan Mattingly – Magnolia performed by ZOFO duet (Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi)   
John Adams – The Dharma at Big Sur, Pt. II: Sri Moonshine performed by Tracy Silverman, John Adams, and the BBC Symphony Orchestra  
John Adams – I Still Play performed by Timo Andres


Episode 3

Classical music can be intimidating to newcomers and frequent concertgoers alike, even more so, new contemporary music. Host Thomas Kotcheff discusses this topic with the help from his guests, Musicologist Lance Brunner and composer and Festival Live Stream host Veronika Krausas, on finding meaning and confidence in the process of listening to classical music.

Thomas Kotcheff, host 
Thomas Kotcheff, producer 
Louis Ng, recording engineer  

OJAICast theme by Thomas Kotcheff and Louis Weeks  

Music used in this episode: 
Rachmaninoff – Isle of the Dead  performed by Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Andrew Davis 
Glass – Glassworks, Opening (Reworked By Christian Badzura) performed by Víkingur Ólafsson 
Knut Nystedt/Johann Sebastian Bach – Immortal Bach performed by Maulbronner Kammerchor, Benjamin Hartmann


Episode 4

The Ojai Music Festival has been around since 1947, but rather than sticking to status quo, it continues to evolve and surprise with unusual intersections of musical styles and genres. Invited to talk about their Ojai experiences will be alum – Matthew Duvall of Eighth Blackbird, Music Director of the 2009 Festival, and Steven Schick, percussionist, conductor and Music Director of the 2015 Festival.

Thomas Kotcheff, host 
Thomas Kotcheff, producer 
Louis Ng, recording engineer

OJAICast theme by Thomas Kotcheff and Louis Weeks

Music used in this episode: 
Missy Mazzoli – Still Life with Avalanche performed by Eighth Blackbird
Xenakis – Rebonds B performed by Steven Schick


About Thomas Kotcheff:
Thomas Kotcheff is a Los Angeles based composer and pianist. His compositions have been described as “truly beautiful and inspired” (icareifyoulisten.com) and “explosive” (Gramophone magazine), and have been performed internationally by The Riot Ensemble, wild Up, New York Youth Symphony, Sandbox Percussion, violinist Jennifer Koh, the Argus Quartet, the Lyris Quartet, the Alinde Quartett, The Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble, HOCKET, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble amongst others. Thomas has received awards and honors from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Presser Foundation, the Aspen Summer Music Festival, BMI, ASCAP, the New York Youth Symphony, the National Association of Composers USA, and the American Composers Forum. Thomas has been a composition fellow at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s National Composers Intensive, the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, the Aspen Summer Music Festival and School, the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, the Bennington Chamber Music Conference, and the Bang on a Can Summer Music Festival. He has been artist in residence at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, the Avaloch Farm Music Institute, the Studios of Key West, the Blackbird Creative Lab, and the Hermitage Artist Retreat. Thomas holds degrees in composition and piano performance from the Peabody Institute and the University of Southern California. For more information visit www.ThomasKotcheff.com



COVID-Safety Measures

The Ojai Music Festival is pleased to welcome you back to in-person concerts and events from September 16 to 19, 2021 for the 75th Festival.

Your health and safety, that of our entire Festival family and our beloved Ojai community, is of paramount importance to us. The Board of Directors has decided to put in place protocols to ensure everyone’s well-being.

Key health and safety measures for the 2021 Ojai Music Festival:

▪        Proof of vaccination will be required for artists, audience members, volunteers, and staff. We do not accept health exemptions or proof of negative testing. At all points of access to Festival concerts and events, you will be asked to show either your physical vaccination card or a photo of your card. We recommend keeping one of these records on your person at all times. 

▪        Universal masking at all Festival concert venues and events, indoors and outdoors, will be required. Masks must fully cover both nose and mouth. Bandanas, gaiters, and masks with external valves are not permitted.

In addition, social distancing signage will encourage safe ingress and egress at concert venues. New hand sanitization stations will be available throughout the Festival campus. Frequently scheduled surface-cleaning of all spaces, including seating areas and restrooms, will occur during the Festival.

We are eager to welcome children under the age of 12 back to Festival concerts in the future.  As soon as health conditions permit, the Festival looks forward to programming special concerts for families and for the Ojai community.

The Festival team developed these updated measures based on consultation with public health professionals and federal, state, county, and local guidelines. Your patience, support, and participation in our efforts to help minimize the risk of exposure and the spread of COVID-19 are deeply appreciated.

Once again, the Festival is pleased to offer live streaming of main Libbey Bowl concerts free of charge for everyone worldwide. If you cannot join in person in Ojai next month for any reason, we invite you to tune into OjaiFestival.org to access concerts and discussions.

If you are sick or believe you may have been exposed to someone with Covid-19 within ten days of your attendance at the Festival, thank you for staying home. Please contact our box office to discuss ticket options: Bryan Lane at [email protected].

We encourage all participating at the Ojai Music Festival who can to get vaccinated. Learn more here > 

Special thanks to our following partners for their support of the Festival’s covid-safety protocol:

Rotary Club of Ojai 


As of August 21, 2021 

Music Van Arrives!

Music Van is one of our most favorite activities that encourages students to try out musical instruments. This year, Music Van will go virtual, thanks to our collaboration with the Santa Barbara Symphony.

Ojai school children will be introduced to the instrument family in a new digital way. To  supplement this virtual version,  our very own BRAVO Committee has put together short videos to show just how much fun it can be to play an instrument. Special thanks to several local students who helped demonstrate!

Special thanks to our community partners for supporting our BRAVO programs!
Ojai Women’s Fund
Alice C. Tyler Perpetual Trust
John and Beverly Stauffer Foundation
City of Ojai 
Montecito Bank and Trust


From Ojai with Love featuring Julie Smith Phillips

A musical gift from the Ojai Music Festival: harpist and 2021 Festival artist Julie Smith Phillips performs a movement from Tree Suite for solo harp by Hannah Lash. Enjoy!

Fall & Spring: Song & Play

We continue our learning even in the virtual world! Working with the Ojai Unified School District, the Ojai Music Festival’s BRAVO education & community program offers online classes with Ms. Laura.

Special thanks to the Ojai Festival Women’s Committee for their ongoing support for BRAVO, and to the Ojai Women’s Fund for their generous donation during the FY2020-21 school year! 

Click the tabs below to watch our Song & Play lessons.

LESSON 9 | 08.27.20

Our first day back, and it’s so glorious to be together, even though it can only be virtually for now! We are going to set ourselves up to be the most successful we can be, through singing and playing, and starting to learn each other’s names. How important is a name? It is how we are known. It is an avenue for attachment. It leads us into community. 


This song is often the first experience children have playing on an instrument. We approach this folk song through a story. Why did people not make signs to advertise what they were selling? How did people sweeten their food 1,000 years ago? What was the importance of singing in the streets? We also add the hand signs for the music notes.


Movement causes our attention systems to click on. Adding movements helps lower distractibility. When we create a train somewhere and move to it, our brain kicks into participation. Participating physically in a basic way is a direct route to play. When we couple the movements with the words (notice the syllables in the fingers), we move the student into stabilization, and the emergence of intelligence.


LESSON 10 | 9.3.20


This week’s play involves the balance between repetition and variation.

The brain loves repetition. Up to a point. It looks for patterns. Then it delights when there is novelty, something different. Balancing these two helps to stabilize a child’s emotional state. The song stays the same. It is predictable. The fingers popping up are a surprise. Looking for a Hot Cross Buns pattern is always fun!

LESSON 11 | 10.01.20


Taking a look at proprioception, puzzling, and the playfulness of Mozart.

One thing that children need is tons of proprioceptive input. This is how they orient themselves to the world—jumping, skipping, stomping, spinning. They develop their spatial awareness, both of themselves and their environment. This song is a great way to play with rhyming words, and get the body up and moving.


Here’s a fun way to connect visual art and music. When we are together we sing about someone’s clothing. Sometimes the clue is very hard to spot, but an amazing thing happens; the children become focused on each other in a positive way, hoping they can find who is wearing, for instance—”unicorns”, or “something delicious”. This positive social regard for other is important for gathering in community and building the tools of empathy.


Have you ever wondered where Mozart got his sense of playfulness? Here is the first stage of learning his “Cuckoo Canon”. When we sing it in a round, using the hand signs, there is a wonderful symbiosis of challenge, skill and the delight in doing it. And we can hear the cuckoo bird. Genuine play has a characteristic of being autotelic—doing it for its own sake. It is so joyful to feel this!

LESSON 12 | 11.05.20

Using a secret song triggers the brain’s memory and recall. The brain looks for an auditory match. It searches previous experiences and pictures it has made, based on our play of this game. We represent the song by acting it out in the classroom. Here is an extension of that—new verses to explore rhyming and phrasing patterns. The prosody of our language is reflected in our songs, and this assists with the development of language and listening skills.


This folk song has a rich history, being used by lumberjacks who were using a saw together. They would sing the song to keep their sawing movements in sync. It is about an apprenticeship relationship, when there were master electricians and plumbers, etc. that would take on a young person to learn the trade. I think poor Jack liked to goof off, to which we can all relate! True to its nature, this song sung by a room of children and adults cause the group to sync together, matching awareness, skills, and action.


We are learning to use the sign language symbols for this song. Children share why the rain is good. Being interested in nature, and the cycles of rain, growth, and plants is good for all of us to remember. Later on in school, this is a beautiful song to sing in canon, and as a partner song that goes with other songs. But first, we explore its meaning.

LESSON 13 | 12.03.20

This week we explore the importance of the proprioceptive system, and listening for accents and syllables. The most distinguishing characteristic of a piece of music is its rhythm, so we play with that.


This old jig from the British Isles enacts the joy of a chance meeting with a friend. Going for a walk and seeing someone you know can be an experience of amazement for a child. Especially when they see others from school out in the community. This song works to preserve that delight.


Learning to hear the accented and unaccented parts of speech and music are key to comprehension. Children love exploring syllables, both in their own names, and those of their friends. Sometimes they love when we make it harder just to see if we can get the flow of the number of syllables, the correct accents, and all at the normal speed of speech. It’s a fun challenge.


We spend most of our time singing songs, acting out the words, and exploring the sounds auditorily. This is referred to as procedural learning. The declarative process of learning note names can be done very quickly and is an addendum to our weekly lessons focused on play.

LESSON 14 | 01.07.21

Exploring sounds and symbols leads to increased literacy. And we have a science experiment with song!

We are excited about science, and pairing science with music. Sound vibrations are fun to study from a science perspective also. Watching how different leaves blow in the wind is curiously relaxing. It’s fun to make predictions.


Children delight in challenges of object permanence, as well as searching for objects. This satisfies the brain’s natural tendency to look for patterns in nature (is that a saber-tooth tiger hiding in those bushes?). When we play this in class, one person drops the letter behind someone while we sing with our eyes closed. We love watching the face of the person who finds the letter, and gets to chase the other person. So joyful! Poems by Shel Silverstein.


Someday soon we will be singing this favorite in a round. At summer camp, we have groups of children acting out their own boats together, and see how they move across the floor. Then we have them come up with their own words to extend the drama. Imagination builds intelligence!


Once we have played a song many times, we can start to look at the rhythm. Rather than explaining right off the bat, we explore. How do these symbols function? These lines are just arbitrary signs that have developed into symbols in music for the speed of notes. Interpreting written symbols by having a sound for them is what reading is all about. Since the children know the song, they can search their memories for an auditory match. Doing is stronger than telling. By singing the solfège, we start to understand the relationships between notes.


LESSON 15 | 02.04.21

A symbol is a symbol only if it makes present again that for which it stands. We are playing with sound experiences. 

Sally Go Round
When objects can stand for other objects, we are engaging the imagination. Eventually, abstract symbols, such as letters, which make up words, can stand for objects. While playing with these ideas, the children are learning a lot of folk songs that accurately carry the prosody of the English language.


Note of the Day—F
In class the children take turns whispering their guess to me. The room gets very quiet, except that we all start laughing about how quiet we just got!  

Roly Poly Tracks
Rhyming helps our auditory system develop, and the auditory system is of primary importance for reading, either music, or language. In this way, studying and singing music helps the brain develop structures for greater academic success.

Penny solfege
Another symbol used in representing sound is solfege. This is the do, re, mi, fa, so, la, and ti of the scale. In our classes, we sing the solfege, explore the difference in sounds, and read the solfege after we have already experienced it. The song and sound need to be represented in our bodies and physically experienced, before seeing the symbols. This leads to a robust learning experience.

LESSON 16 | 03.04.21

Repetition and variation are the two spices of music mastery. We set up an environment where the students ask if we can do it again. This is internal motivation at its finest!

Fly Away
I had some birds outside my window, so I sang for them. The melody of this song goes up, and then it goes down. And our bird follows the melody by going up, and then coming back down to the nest. It’s so important to have a comfortable nest.

Here We Are Together

We not only talk about community; we sing about it. Our actions with our students and families show it. These pro-social skills help to build a safe environment of inclusion and acceptance. Our hands are singing the “do” and “so” of the song, too!

Clickety Clack
Children love the predictability of making different movements that correspond to distinct sounds. This helps us practice, by repeating the experience to achieve mastery. Changing the motions provides the variation that the brain needs to stay engaged. The brain is always looking for patterns, and novelty. 

LESSON 17 | 04.08.21

Play is one the greatest equalizers we have in society. When we play together, we are equal participants; no child or adult has any advantage over any other. People who have play experiences together are much less likely to lash out at their peer, but rather work to come to a resolution. Our games feature many opportunities for partnership and collaboration, as we get to practice listening to all ideas and negotiating solutions.

This song comes from the deep south of Brazil and means “our place of peace”. Sharing our peaceful place builds attachment to our community, because it is something very personal about us, and we want to be known. The beauty of this song when sung in a round, or with other partner songs, or with its descant, helps us to appreciate each other.

Ginger Snap
Eventually, we have a room full of people with wings extended, trying to fly around the room. We bow to our partner, modeling respect. When we “take them by the shoulders”, all the children quickly organize themselves into a line (all by themselves!) to fly together. We have our own flock then!

Sally Go Round, rhythm, solfa
When puzzling over a secret song, the brain is looking through its memory banks for an auditory match. Sometimes a part of the rhythmic sound sparks a word, or a movement that we have previously done. The cross lateral indexing of the modalities of learning is one thing that gets dendrites branching. Building the experience to singing only one of solfa syllables out loud engages the skill of picking out the figure from the auditory ground, a skill so necessary in reading and paying attention.


LESSON 18 | 05.06.21

Today we have some experiences of kindness, acceptance, and integrity through music.

Note of the Day—A
Music is such an abstract language, but isn’t all written language? Once we make sense of it, we are all set. Once we sing it, it becomes concrete. Children love to explore the relationships between notes: in how they sound, in what they look like, and with the hand signs. That is why we sing a lot before we read music, just as we speak before we read. Emerging intelligence needs to hear it first, then see it.


Mulberry Bush
The integration of learning modalities happens when our actions line up with our words. Here I suggest actions that the children will know about, but maybe haven’t had direct experience of, such as throwing a snowball (coastal California!), or petting an iguana. Setting down this template in the brain, of matching language with movement, lays the foundation for integrity. We are doing what we say.


Love Canon, 4 parts
One of the great joys of singing together is singing in canon. Once the children know the song automatically, without needing to use up a lot of attention and focus to enjoy it, they are ready for singing in a canon. The harmonies in this song are wonderfully pleasing. The children are so happy to create such a thing of beauty. Harmony is naturally produced through the melody. They can own it, because they produced it themselves.


Make New Friends in Different Languages
Singing together helps us understand who and what we are. We are in a season of hope (at least, we hope we are!), embracing our common humanity. People from around the world are looking forward to coming together to greet old friends and to meet new friends. We embrace people and extend the hand of welcome. We can’t wait to get to know you better. 


LESSON 19 | 06.03.21

Play is to intelligence as breath is to life. If we make our interactions with children joyful and filled with beauty, they will want to come back and do it again.

Row Row
Making up new verses for songs helps imagination to develop. The rhyming scheme assists auditory development, which is important for fluent reading skills. 
Penny Song
Brains are attracted to beauty and play. Guessing where the penny is boosts resiliency, as there is a 50/50 chance we will miss. Experiences with manageable disappointment help to build a robust self-image. Drawing a map of the song is our way to symbolize the sound with a visual cue. Everybody’s map will look different, and by reading others’ maps, we are building the practice of empathy.
Windy Weather Rhythm
We love learning sign language! We sing in many languages: the words, the rhythm, the solfege with our hands, and now ASL. In class, the children take turns being leaves blowing around in the wind.
Tallis Canon
Thomas Tallis worked at the court of King Henry VIII. He wrote in a beautiful, lyrical vocal style. We sometimes take this melody and superimpose new words to tell a story, in the form of our own “operas.”






What’s on your Bookshelf Recommendations

In our current time of endless Zoom meetings or even when watching the news, we have taken notice and peeked curiously at other people’s backdrops. Inevitably, a bookshelf seems to be a frequent ‘prop’  — always lined with what looks like interesting books…and so we all wonder, what’s on their bookshelf?  What is there that might interest me, inspire or entertain me during these times? What might I learn about the person on screen that I didn’t know? For this, we turned to our Festival family – Barbara Hannigan, George Lewis, Thomas W. Morris, and Miranda Cuckson – to share with us their own inspirations. What we come out with to share with you is a multitude of fascinating reading and music resources. Enjoy!


Nuria Schoenberg-Nono – Arnold Schoenberg: Playing Cards
Arnold Schoenberg – Theory of Harmony
Carl Schorske – Fin-de-Siecle Vienna: Politics and Culture

Alban Berg – Lulu
George Gershwin – Girl Crazy Suite


Naomi André – Black Opera: History, Power, Engagement
W.E.B. Du Bois – The Comet
Luc Boltanski & Eve Chiapello – The New Spirit of Capitalism
Uwe Johnson – Anniversaries: From a Year in the Life of Gesine Cresspahl
Kim Stanley Robinson – The Ministry for the Future

Wagner – Lohengrin
Wagner – Parsifal
Composers he is following: Andile Khumalo, Hannah Kendall, Courtney Bryan, Leila Adu-Gilmore, Jessie Cox, Jason Yarde, Daniel Kidane, Tania León, Alvin Singleton

Thomas W. MORRIS
Books, etc:

Joshua Wolf Shenk – Powers of Two: How Relationships Drive Creativity
Heidi Waleson – Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America
Stave Jigsaw Puzzles, Vermont 

J.S. Bach – Cantatas
Fritz Reiner – Chicago Symphony Play Works by Ravel and Debussy. RCA Red Seal, 1986, CD
Fritz Reiner & Chicago Symphony Orchestra – The Complete RCA Album Collection, CD


Dominique Fourcade – Henri Matisse Ecrits et propos sur l’art
Charles Mackay – Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds
Joseph Szigeti – Szigeti on the Violin
Tobias Wolff – This Boys Life: A Memoir

Alban Berg – Lulu
Blue Heron (Renaissance Choir)
Christelle Bofale (Singer/songwriter)
Jon Hassell (Experimental trumpeter/composer)
Paco de Lucia (Flamenco guitarist)
Johannes Ockeghem (Renaissance composer)

André Aciman – Out of Egypt: A Memoir
Eric Ambler – A Coffin for Dimitrios
Ishmael Beah – Radiance of Tomorrow
Tove Jansson – Travelling Light
Penelope Lively – Moon Tiger
Tayeb Salih – Season of Migration to the North
Zadie Smith – Swing Time
Lizabeth Strout – My Name is Lucy Barton
Miral Tahawi – Brooklyn Heights: An Egyptian Novel 

John Adams – The Wound Dresser
Smithsonian Anthology of Blues
Blind Willie Johnson – Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground
Vikingur Ólafsson playing Bach – Concerto in D minor, BWV 974 – 2. Adagio 
Read  Ara’s “Music for our Time” blog 

Download the complete list!

Music For Our Time

A Message from Ara Guzelimian, Artistic & Executive Director 

I write this on a bright November day, the air fresh with the crispness of the season. It has been a time of extraordinary events, marked a few days ago by an election of extreme division. We continue to be in the midst of an unprecedented pandemic, which has brought much loss, separation, and isolation. All of that is compounded by the racial and economic fissures made apparent by events of the past year.
How do we measure this time in our innermost thoughts? Many years ago, I first met Peter Sellars at a conference in San Diego where he was giving a talk. His remarks have stuck with me, growing in importance with the passage of time. Peter said that our response to the arts is one of the few truly private experiences we have at a time of very little privacy. We encounter a book, a play, a piece of music, a work of art, a dance; we may express a public opinion and may even try to second-guess what a “correct” and “sophisticated” opinion might be. But when all is said and done, when the lights are out and our head hits the pillow, we are left alone with our experience of the art. We love it or we don’t, it speaks to us or it doesn’t, we understand it or we are left confused. But, in the end, we feel what we feel and think what we think.

Like so many of us, I have turned to music of every variety imaginable to keep me company in this roller-coaster time. I’ve found myself returning to a Smithsonian anthology of the blues that I’ve had for years but had overlooked more recently. There is such richness in this tradition and, as B.B. King observed, “blues is a tonic for what ails you. I could play the blues and not be blue anymore.” One of the most moving discoveries among these old recordings is this one, sung and played by Blind Willie Johnson (inset photo), that summons up a well of human expression without a single word being uttered. Here is a recording made nearly 100 years ago that reaches out across time and speaks to us with amazing currency. This is the raw power of music in its ability to express deep emotion.

My other constant has been the music of Bach, especially in the hands of great pianists. Bach’s music is informed by his unshakable faith, an abiding humanity, as well as a sense of order and design. In working with John Adams to plan the 2021 Ojai Festival, I have been listening intently to the recent recordings by one of our artists, the Icelandic pianist Víkingur Ólafsson, a pianist as at home in Bach as he is in the music of Philip Glass. His recent Bach recording is one of exceptional beauty, and I have returned to it often to provide a grounding in this disrupted time. As Víkingur wrote, “everything is there in Johann Sebastian’s music: architectural perfection and profound emotion.” Here is the Adagio from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor, BWV 974:

I happily anticipate Víkingur’s participation next year and am so grateful to John Adams for suggesting him as one of the first guest artists to invite. John himself has had an uncanny ability to give voice to American experience throughout his career – he is a musical chronicler of our times. In recent days, I found myself thinking about The Wound Dresser, a 1989 setting of Walt Whitman’s poem of the same name. In it, Whitman documents his experiences tending to the Civil War wounded in makeshift field hospitals. 
In listening recently to The Wound Dresser, I have been so struck by the resonances with our own moment in time – the deep divisions in the country on one hand and the boundless generosity of so many health workers and caregivers in this pandemic on the other. Whitman writes “Thus in silence in dreams’ projections, / Returning, resuming, I thread my way through the hospitals, / The hurt and the wounded I pacify with soothing hand.”

John wrote about the work, “It is a statement about human compassion that is acted out on a daily basis, quietly and unobtrusively and unselfishly and unfailingly.” Another [Whitman] poem in the same volume states its theme in other words: ‘Those who love each other shall become invincible . . . ‘”
And so, we are reminded that artists are our truth-tellers and our chroniclers, their work our necessary companions through thick and thin. I am also reminded that we turn to the arts particularly in trying times. As we approach the 75th Festival in June, it is meaningful to recall that the Festival was founded in 1947, when the world was just barely emerging from World War II. The Festival’s very existence comes from an act of hope and optimism at a time of rebuilding in the face of adversity. In that spirit, we hold the promise of the next Ojai Festival as a similar act of faith. 

When we gather together to listen to music, we assert our humanity, our belief in the arts, and in community. Thanks to each of you for creating the warm and welcoming spirit of community that defines the Festival. I am so gratified to be working with the musicians who will bring to life the 75th Festival. And I relish the promise of listening to their music in your company.