Creative Collisions with AMOC


Audiences expect to get a glimpse of the musical future at Ojai. Not as a sci-fi fantasy of escape but through encounters with visionary artists who are actively transforming the real-world landscape: precisely the kinds of artists attracted to AMOC, a collective of 17 musical thinkers and performers. As the Festival’s Music Director for 2022, AMOC (the acronym for American Modern Opera Company) practices a model of curation grounded in interdisciplinary collaboration.

AMOC gathers like-minded singers, dancers, instrumentalists, and composers who are each at the cutting-edge of their respective fields. It’s the rock super-group of contemporary classical music. “What has been essential for us as a company is that every project is in some way interdisciplinary,” explains composer, pianist, conductor, and writer Matthew Aucoin, who co-founded AMOC with choreographer/director and dancer Zack Winokur in 2017. “We’re excited to bring the theatricality that is inherent in every AMOC project to Ojai.” ‘Collision’ is a favorite image to illustrate how their multifaceted, discipline-crossing approach works. “There’s always a collision, whether that’s between music and dance or music and text and dance,” Aucoin adds. Or, as the Festival’s Artistic and Executive Director Ara Guzelimian puts it: “When you have all of these incredibly vibrant artistic atoms colliding with each other, what results is often the very surprising and very unexpected.”

“As a collective, there are many tentacles to AMOC. Its artists have many diverse gifts, and the whole company has been involved in the programming,” says Aucoin. For example, Family Dinner, his own cycle of mini-concertos, will each feature a different member of the company and include spoken “toasts.” This is among the exciting world premieres that will grace the 2022 Festival to be held June 9 to 12. AMOC choreographer Bobbi Jene Smith will create a new, collaborative dance piece adapting and extending parts of her recent film Broken Theater and showcasing the AMOC family. Smith will choreograph music by Schubert, Bach, Connie Converse, and Pete Seeger, developing a scenario in which the rehearsal process is deconstructed.

Indeed, dance will play an especially prominent role in this edition of Ojai Festival. Smith is joined by Or Schraiber, Yiannis Logothetis, and Coleman Itzkoff in creating Waiting, a new dance-music piece about the bonds of friendship and its attendant moral quandaries that is tinged with 1960s-style French theater of the absurd.

A significant number of AMOC’s members have developed careers in opera — an interdisciplinary pursuit by definition — including soprano Julia Bullock, bass-baritone Davóne Tines, tenor Paul Appleby, and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo. It’s characteristic of the company that they strive to expand our expectations of what opera can encompass. Aucoin, a 2018 MacArthur Fellow, took on opera’s foundational myth with Eurydice, his setting of a play by Sarah Ruhl that reconsiders the myth of Orpheus and his descent into the Underworld from his wife’s point of view. Eurydice was premiered in 2020 by Los Angeles Opera, where Aucoin is artist-in-residence, and the Metropolitan Opera presented a new production earlier this season that was broadcast internationally in HD.

Among the highlights of Ojai 2022 will be the world premiere staging by Zack Winokur, with choreography by Bobbi Jene Smith and Or Schraiber, of Olivier Messiaen’s 1945 song cycle Harawi. The Andean musical tradition illuminates the legend of Tristan and Isolde in this hour-long song cycle for soprano and piano. Julia Bullock has long envisioned a performance that explores the cycle’s dichotomies of “spirituality and sensuality, love and death, men and women.” Drawing together five AMOC members (pianist Conor Hanick, along with the aforementioned artists), this version will layer theatrical and choreographic interpretations with multicultural reflection and musical performance. “With every composer who wants to celebrate other cultures that they’ve experienced or been deeply inspired by, there’s always this danger of appropriation that I wanted to be conscious of,” says Bullock. She has therefore invited the voices of artists of indigenous Andean traditions to share their musical or dance traditions as a counterpart.

Another song cycle on the program highlights the extraordinary music of composer, pianist, and scholar Anthony Cheung: echoing of tenses, commissioned by AMOC, sets the words of Asian-American poets who reflect on issues of family, identity, migration, and loss. Paul Appleby will be joined by Conor Hanick and violinist Miranda Cuckson to perform Cheung’s blend of live performance and pre-recorded sound design.

Interpretation-as-collaboration: this is AMOC’s signature, Winokur observes. “Part of the reason we started the company is that the members are not being asked to interpret something already there but form these ideas collaboratively — and often leading out of their own passions, experiences and desires. We’re good at shape-shifting to support different members in the company’s projects and ideas. Ojai is a perfect place to do this because of its rich history of birthing so many important projects that still live in the world.”

“They are ahead of their time,” says Guzelimian. “The fact that they make the creation and the performance of work integral is also a critical statement about how a new generation of artists works.” Many of AMOC’s members have friendships and working relationships that go back to their student days at Juilliard — bonds that have intensified their collaborative process. Their extraordinary range of interests widens their expressive palette as well. New music meets early music in several of their programs, and the period instrument group/continuo band Ruckus regularly includes musicians who overlap with AMOC, such as composer and bassoonist Doug Balliett and composer and flutist Emi Ferguson. Ruckus will join in some events to expand AMOC’s ensemble. And since several of the AMOCers are avid hikers and lovers of the outdoors, audiences can expect to encounter music in unusual natural settings.

These collaborations allow AMOC to present performances in novel contexts, such as a program devoted to the works of Julius Eastman, for which special guest collaborator Seth Parker Woods shares his inspiring engagement with Eastman’s legacy. Another discovery awaits in a rare solo performance by pianist Conor Hanick of Hans Otte’s The Book of Sounds. A polymath artist who combined music, poetry, drawings, and art videos, Otte wrote in a Minimalist style that incorporates impulses from Eastern mysticism. The result, says Guzelimian, is “revelatory.”

Even a composer as familiar as J.S. Bach will emerge in a new light in a Libbey Bowl event offering contemporary reflections on his instrumental music, including pieces by Cassandra Miller and Reiko Fueting.

Some of the AMOC musicians are already familiar to Ojai audiences. Davóne Tines made his Festival debut in 2016 with Music Director Peter Sellars.  Emi Ferguson was featured in the recent 2021 edition. So did the venturesome violinist and violist Miranda Cuckson. “I loved the experience of playing for the Ojai audience,” she recalls. “Their receptiveness to all kinds of experiences was very palpable.” Julia Bullock made her first-ever appearance at a music festival when Dawn Upshaw invited her to appear at Ojai. For the soprano, “Ojai is a place of comfort, of real communion making, of openness and generosity — a place where community seems to be built.”

Similarly, the Ojai experience of intensive, contemplative music-making seems to be in AMOC’s DNA. “We try to create a festival atmosphere every summer at our residency/creative retreat in Vermont,” Aucoin says. That is the context for which he began creating the concertos in Family Dinner, as showcases to bring the company together after months of being separated during the regular year. “We want to bring that family spirit to Ojai,” Aucoin says. Winokur adds: “When we started the company, we had the thought that festivals were the best way to experience AMOC and for us to experience each other. We hope that will be the experience for the Ojai audience as well. Performing post-COVID, this is a time where we have to get back to the basics of why we do this.”

—Thomas May


AMOC’s Music Playlist

The 2022 Festival Music Director AMOC, a collective of today’s most adventurous musicians, singers, composers, choreographers, and dancers, is as eclectic and open minded with their musical interests as one would expect. To begin the new year and expand our own musical horizons, we asked each member of AMOC to share their personal listening of the moment — a selection which is characteristically wide-ranging and very individualistic.

Listen on Spotify and Apple Music
(Preview the AMOC playlist and log on to your account to listen to the full songs)


Jonny Allen:
Jazz Crimes by Joshua Redman
This is a track that I just keep coming back to.  The groove is subtle but persistent.  Joshua Redman is such an incredible artist and Brian Blade’s drumming has always been an inspiration to me.


Paul Appleby:
My “what I’m listening to” pick is Kate Soper’s set of three songs for soprano and string quartets, Nadja.  I am a huge fan of Kate’s music because she has a language and voice that is entirely her own.  Her intellectual and literary interested are deeply personalized in her compositions and performances and her somewhat esoteric tests become vivid and immediate in her music.  This score is a great example of Kate’s incredible level of technical accomplishment as well as her imaginative and unique approach to her art.

More info


Matthew Aucoin:
Stranger Love, Act 3 (excerpt), by Dylan Mattingly, performed by Contemporaneous
Dylan Mattingly writes music of limitless jubilance and joy. This excerpt from his opera Stranger Love is a kind of dance party for the angels, built upon an unlikely echo from a Springsteen-esque “promised land.”


Doug Balliett:
I cannot stop listening to Ok ok pt 2 from Kanye’s latest album “Donda”. It’s got a heavy dark groove and guest Shenseea’s verse is jaw-dropping.


Julia Bullock:
Up From The Skies by Jimi Hendrix, from the album Bold As Love (1967)
It’s like some prophetic, post-apocalyptic love song… (honestly hope to find a way to sing it one day)


Jay Campbell:
I’m currently listening my way through Wadada Leo Smith’s Ten Freedom Summers, a gigantic sprawling 4.5 hour collection of 19 pieces written over the course of 30+ years, each one titled after various moments, ideas, people, or places related to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s music that is very much alive in a literal sense. As in, it really feels like it is deeply meditating on the lived experience of human life itself. It’s extremely moving, exciting, surprising, and sometimes baffling. But when I listen to this highly abstract music, my ears somehow feel closer to hearing a full spectrum of complex human experience in all of its contradictions of tragedy, playfulness, rage, and joy. And maybe things that I haven’t even felt yet. And — when you consider the context of the composer himself, a Black man born and raised in segregated Mississippi — things that many of us are privileged to never have to personally feel or experience.


Anthony Roth Costanzo:
Lately I’ve become obsessed with Betty Carter and how wildly inventive and abstract she is, both in how she deploys the extremes of her voice, and how she charts the trajectory of a song. From her piercing head tones, to her forthright parlato, to her childlike upper chest register, to her impossibly rich baritone notes, I find her a total revelation. You can hear those colors set forth in this track:


Miranda Cuckson:
Wadada Leo Smith America’s National Parks
I adore this work (which I first heard a few years ago) for many reasons, including its bracing beauty, its grouping of very satisfyingly distinct utterances and instrumental presences, its continually thrilling sensations of space and texture, and the composer’s deep vision of the psychological tension in our shared natural landscapes.


Julia Eichten:
While it was an extreme challenge to choose only one song from Xenia Rubinos’ latest album, Una Rosa, Cógelo Suave has been one of many that I have on repeat.  This swirl of a song will make any day brighter, break you open and have you singing!


Emi Ferguson:


Keir GoGwilt:


Conor Hanick:
The last thing played on my music app was the first disc of Beach House’s upcoming album, Once Twice Melody, which is lush, sweeping, synthy, and grandiose.

I’ve also been enjoying Jonny Greenwood’s soundtrack to the film The Power of the Dog, especially the Messiaen-esque finale Psalm 22.

Lastly, folks are rightly excited about the recent Floating Points / Pharoah Sanders collaboration, but I’ve found myself revisiting Floating Points’ 2015 album of experimental synth-jazz, Elaenia, with a particular habit of rewinding “Silhouettes (I, II, III)”


Coleman Itzkoff:
Pick: Matthew Aucoin’s Eurydice
I’ll admit to a certain degree of bias for my playlist pick, Matt being a close friend and current roommate here in New York City, but I truly felt compelled to list this new opera of his, which recently held it’s Met premiere to much acclaim. I was able to attend two live performances, as well as listen to the BBC broadcast on a recent long car trip and found so much of the music staying with me, swirling around in the back of my consciousness like the really great music tends to do. The score is dazzling, deeply moving, complex, tectonic (superlatives abound!), and the performance by Erin Morley, Joshua Hopkins, Barry Banks, and more, all backed by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Met Orchestra, is totally and utterly ravishing. For those already dedicated fans of Matt’s work, Eurydice is the latest and greatest contribution to his oeuvre (not to mention the latest in a 400-year Orphic opera tradition). And for those less familiar with the music of Matthew Aucoin, I can think of no better place to start!

More info


Or Schraiber:
Formidable by Stromae always makes me dance.


Bobbi Jene Smith:
La Solitude always makes me feel the dance inside of me. It has been a song that has been a starting point for many dances I have made. Thank you, Barbara, for haunting and dancing with me. I hope this song will make you feel the dance in you too.


Davónes Tines:
six thirty by Ariana Grande
Towards the end of the year I’m feeling cozy and romantic.  This song from one of my favorite artists, on her latest album, continues to evolve her special combination of crisp vocals wrapped in string-infused r&b redux.


Zack Winokur:
We Do Not Belong Together performed by Bernadette Peters and Mandy Patinkin. I’ve been listening pretty nonstop to Stephen Sondheim since his death. It’s hard to choose just one, but this song is the devastating apotheosis of a genuinely real relationship at the core of Sunday in the Park with George, a show I was going to direct last spring until covid struck it down.

2021 Festival Video Look-Back

As we welcome in a new year – full of anticipation for the 75th Festival, June 9-12, 2022 with Music Director AMOC – we’re looking back at our 75th Festival held in September with conductor and composer John Adams as music director. 

Adams’ festival was focused on the work of a new generation of composers and performers to make a decidedly forward-facing festival.

Thanks to our artists, composers, staff and team, volunteers, patrons, and the Ojai community for being a part of our musical journey! Re-visit the 75th Festival by enjoying our live stream concert archives here > 

A Holiday Video Gift For You!

As we approach the end of this eventful year, I want to take a moment to thank each of you for your constant encouragement and support. We were able to gather in September and savor the deep human joy of listening to music in each other’s company, something that we had so longed for in our isolation. There was a unique freshness and intensity that was felt on both sides of the stage, an exhilarating experience to cherish and hold in the midst of such difficult times.

We wanted to give you a special gift of music with our fondest good wishes of the season and, in particular, for a better world for all in the coming new year. We asked Sasha Ishov, one of the flutists in the wonderful 2021 Ojai Festival Orchestra, to film a performance that reminds us of the adventurous spirit of the Festival and of music heard in a beautiful natural setting.

Every new year brings with it renewed hope, even in the face of our current challenges. May the coming year bring you good health, the company of those you love, and always, music.

With thanks and warm regards from all of us at the Ojai Music Festival,

Ara Guzelimian
Artistic and Executive Director

Learn about AMOC in 5 Minutes

The Ojai Music Festival’s 2022 Music Director AMOC (American Modern Opera Company) develops and produces a body of discipline-colliding work, to combine traditional and experimental artistic processes, and to maintain enduring creative relationships between its members. Founded by Artistic Directors Zack Winokur and Matthew Aucoin, AMOC is made up of some of the most adventurous singers, dancers, and instrumentalists at work today in the fields of contemporary and classical music and dance. Get a glimpse of this boundary-breaking ensemble and understand why they are a perfect fit for Ojai’s longstanding legacy of innovation and adventure. 


2022 Virtual Ojai Talks


Welcome back to the Festival’s continuing series of Virtual Ojai Talks, where we celebrate the intersection of music, ideas, and the creative process with 2022 Festival artists, composers, innovators, and thinkers.



Episode 1: Co-founders Matthew Aucoin and Zack Winokur of AMOC, 2022 Music Director, talk with Ara Guzelimian on the origin story of this exciting collective of artists. 

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! 

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.

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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 


It is more than a festival. It is a homecoming, the recognition of a bond. On rough wooden benches — back in the day — or stretched out on the lawn, settled on a blanket, families in tow, this is a kindred fellowship, both alert and at ease. Performers get it right away because it only takes a rehearsal or two to realize that here it’s different. Young composers, cradling their newborn, often take more time. But after the jitters and anxieties of a premiere or first performance they look around and see where they are and are transformed.

For all the unseen planning of a dedicated staff (or more likely because of it) — Ojai always feels improvised, something that just happens. How easily conversations begin, over a new work, a performance, or this and that. Introductions come later, maybe after a year or two with a “remember when.” Then casual acquaintance blossoms into friendship. Yes, that’s a big part of it, the shared memories, something even initiates pick up on, when on Sunday they look back on Friday and the distance travelled in between. Something, too, about the place, the trees, the hills, the soft mists in the morning, the beating sun at noon, the evening chill. Old-timers know to come prepared, newcomers learn quickly. Then we leave, disperse, maybe one last meal and the long drive back, envying those who call Ojai home.

There are regulars, of course, true believers who attend every event. For others, however, Ojai is a smorgasbord — up for a day, perhaps, or an afternoon, or some years not at all. No matter; we all come back sooner or later, a habit formed through decades. Naturally, there have been changes. Time was, the festival was a simpler affair. Three days, five or six concerts; lots of time to spare, to chat, shop, a leisurely coffee, a bookstore browse, perhaps a walk, or bike ride. Back then Ojai sometimes felt like a coda to the Los Angeles season, to the Monday Evening Concerts, or the concerts of the Philharmonic, a showcase for the Southland’s finest, under the guidance, among others, of Lawrence Morton, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Lukas Foss, Ingolf Dahl, Pierre Boulez, Ernest Fleischmann, not to mention resident composers such as Messiaen, Carter, or Kurtág — the legacies of giants. There was never a formula, a fixed agenda. There was freedom to pick, choose, and explore; to address the cultural and political preoccupations of the moment, to dare something new, to cozy up to something familiar, to be unapologetically eclectic. Ojai, as John Henken has written, “was always ahead of the counter- and multi-cultural curve.” Theater, dance, opera, non-Western music, and jazz have long been part of the mix. Just one thing: The music comes first.

It’s been more abuzz with activity recently. A stage rebuilt and shifted, a few trees lost, proper seats instead of sagging benches, a more forgiving sunshade, lots of bustle in the park. Tom Morris brought us events from dawn to midnight, spread around the lower and upper valley. The focus has grown from conductors and composers to include performers and ensembles; brash, innovative young artists from across the country and abroad who are rethinking music and the concert experience. New trends and fashions, our legacies in the making.
75 years — or longer? Consider a long-forgotten 1926 Ojai Valley Festival of Chamber Music, the so-called Frost-Sprague Festival with a $1,000 prize for the best new string quartet. “One of the greatest musical events that has ever taken place in America,” was the local assessment. Ah, the pride! We like to think we’re on the map, that we make a difference. No doubt we are, no doubt we have. Commissions, premieres, big names, new talents, correspondents from New York, London, and Frankfurt, weblinks, blurbs, and blogs, the world takes note. That’s all nice, good, and fine. But somehow, though we might care, Ojai itself is above such things. We listen, delight in new sounds, discover other cultures, new ways of making music, or interpretations that make us hear afresh what we thought we knew. But this place, this space takes it all in its serene embrace — the music with the birds, the crickets, the sirens, the bells, and the distant lawn mower. And because that’s so, this is a place of private epiphanies, revelations that come unbidden — we all have our favorites — moments to store quietly in our memories, to recall and share. Such are the shared moments that make each year’s festival a reunion. Together again. How good it will feel.

by Christopher Hailey 

Special thanks to Art Mentor Foundation Lucerne for their support of the Festival’s 75th anniversary season 

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

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 (

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, 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 (

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, Featured Exhibition: Henri Matisse drawings.

Porfirio Gutiérrez: Continuous Line, Linea Continua (

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, 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 (

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.


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” ( 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



2018 Festival Updated Announcement

72nd Ojai Music Festival: June 7-10, 2018
Patricia Kopatchinskaja, Music Director


Download PDF Version of Release

The 2018 Festival presents many dimensions of Kopatchinskaja:

· Violinist in works by Luigi Nono, Beethoven, Tigran Mansurian, and Ligeti
· Collaborator with soprano Ah Young Hong in Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments, Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello with JACK Quartet cellist Jay Campbell, and with her parents in an exploration of Moldavan folk music
· Advocate for music by Michael Hersch and Galina Ustvolskaya

Highlights of the 2018 Festival:
· Two semi-staged concerts conceived and directed by Kopatchinskaja
· The world premiere of a commissioned work by Michael Hersch
· Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat on the occasion of its centennial
· Free music events including Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas for solo instruments, two concerts for children devised and performed by Kopatchinskaja, and John Luther Adams’ new string quartet “everything that rises” as a tribute to Ojai Valley renewal following the Thomas Fire

Joining Patricia Kopatchinskaja are close artistic collaborators, all of whom are making their Festival debuts: 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, and Kopatchinskaja’s parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinsky

The new partnership with Great Britain’s Aldeburgh Festival launches June 20-23, 2018

Cal Performances’ Ojai at Berkeley is June 15-17, 2018

“Ojai is special. There is no fight with new music. There is no fear. Just curiosity and hunger for fresh music of today. The Ojai audiences are completely open minded, and it’s a wonderful possibility to do music that I truly enjoy and find powerfully relevant in our present world. Ojai is magic,” Patricia Kopatchinskaja, 2018 Music Director.

(OJAI CA – UPDATE May 24, 2018) – The 72nd Ojai Music Festival, June 7-10, 2018, presents Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s unbounded musical creativity in the context of today’s social and political climate. The Ojai, Ventura, and Santa Barbara areas continue to replenish from the devastation of the Thomas Fire. The Topa Topa Mountains surrounding the Ojai Valley have already given rise to new growth, and the Festival honors this renewal with new works, debuts, and free community concerts.

“When I first met Patricia Kopatchinskaja, I knew she was a natural to be Music Director of the Festival. She is, quite simply, a force of nature. Her unstoppable energy, blazing virtuosity, and relentless curiosity are irresistible. The 2018 Festival will showcase her wildly diverse artistic tal-ents as a violinist, a collaborator, a director, an advocate, and as a creative force. Patricia sees music in the context of today’s social and political issues, so the 2018 Festival is one that will surely offer confrontation, questioning, and healing. The 2018 Festival aims to capture Patricia’s infectious energy and virtuosity,” said Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris.

The 2018 Ojai Music Festival welcomes the Mahler Chamber Orchestra (MCO) in its first extended United States residency. Founded in 1997, the Berlin-based MCO defines itself as a free and international ensemble, dedicated to creating and sharing exceptional experiences in classical music. With members spanning 20 different countries, the MCO works as a nomadic collec-tive of passionate musicians uniting for specific projects in Europe and across the world. The MCO forms the basis of the Lucerne Festival Orchestra and maintains long and fruitful artistic relationships with major artists, including Ms. Kopatchinskaja and Mitsuko Uchida, Ojai’s 2021 Music Director. In Ojai, MCO will display its versatility and virtuosity as an orchestral ensemble, in smaller chamber iterations, and also in superb solo performances from individual members.

The JACK Quartet also makes its Ojai debut at the 2018 Festival. Deemed “superheroes of the new music world” (Boston Globe), JACK is dedicated to the performance, commissioning, and spread of new string quartet music. Comprising violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violist John Pickford Richards, and cellist Jay Campbell, the group collaborates with composers of our day, including John Luther Adams, Chaya Czernowin, Simon Steen-Andersen, Caroline Shaw, Helmut Lachenmann, Steve Reich, Matthias Pintscher, and John Zorn.  At the 2018 Festival, JACK will perform works by Georg Frederick Haas, Horatio Radulescu, Morton Feldman, George Crumb, and John Luther Adams.

Major projects will include two semi-staged concerts conceived and directed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja. The first, which opens the Festival on Thursday night, is Bye Bye Beethoven. Ms. Kopatchinskaja describes the concert as a commentary on “the irrelevance of the classic concert routine for our present life.” This program features a mash-up of music by Charles Ives, John Cage, Joseph Haydn, György Kurtág, Johann Sebastian Bach, and the Beethoven Violin Concerto. This marks the US premiere of Bye Bye Beethoven, which was premiered at the Hamburg International Music Festival and subsequently staged in Berlin. This production marked the fourth collaboration between Ms. Kopatchinskaja and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. Bye Bye Beethoven involves musicians in both conventional and unconventional roles, encounters with different musical genres and discourse among sound, space and imagery.

The second semi-staged concert conceived and directed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja is a provocative commentary on the consequences of global warming. Titled Dies Irae, the program is an aesthetic reflection of a time rife with global warming, wars over resources, and refugee crises. Musical selections include Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber, George Crumb, Michael Hersch, Byzantine chant, and Galina Ustvolskaya’s remarkable Dies irae for eight double basses, piano, and wooden box. The evening performance on Saturday, June 9 marks its American premiere.

A new work, I hope we get a chance to visit soon by American composer Michael Hersch – described by him as a dramatic narrative for two sopranos and eight instrumentalists – will receive its world premiere at the 2018 Ojai Music Festival, with subsequent performances at Cal Performances’ Ojai at Berkeley and at Great Britain’s venerable Aldeburgh Festival. Performing in the premiere will be sopranos Ah Young Hong and Kiera Duffy, alto saxophone player Gary Lou-ie, and members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tito Munoz. Set to poetry and text by Rebecca Elson, Mary Harris O’Reilly, and Christopher Middleton, the new work is com-missioned by the Ojai Music Festival, Cal Performances Berkeley, Aldeburgh Festival, and PN Review. Mr. Hersch, who wrote a violin concerto for Ms. Kopatchinskaja two years ago, is con-sidered one of the most gifted composers of his generation. He currently serves on the composi-tion faculty at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. The Friday, June 8 premiere follows works by Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, and music by Purcell, Bartok, Shostakovich, and George Crumb performed by Anthony Romaniuk, Patricia Kopatchinskaja, and JACK Quartet.

Featured on Friday afternoon (June 8) will be the music of Russian composer Galina Ustvolskaya, described by Alex Ross as “one of the century’s grand originals.” Kopatchinskaja has long been a passionate advocate of Ustvolskaya’s music and will perform her Duet and So-nata with pianist Markus Hinterhäuser. Hinterhäuser, who is also the Intendant of the Salzburg Festival, will perform all six of her piano sonatas. Ustvolskaya’s powerful Dies irae will be featured in the Saturday evening concert of the same title.

Additional programming highlights include Kurtag’s Kafka Fragments; Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat on the occasion of its centennial; major chamber and piano music by Galina Ustvolskaya; as well as Romanian and Moldavan folk music performed by Ms. Kopatchinskaja and her parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinsky on cimbalom and violin. The Festival closes with the Ligeti Violin Concerto performed by Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

Free Community Concerts
The 2018 Festival continues to build on its commitment to reach broader audiences with several opportunities for all to experience Ojai offerings. On Thursday June 7, following the three-part Ojai Talks dialogues, the Festival commences the first in a series of five free concerts in the Gazebo of Libbey Park, featuring performances of Luciano Berio’s Sequenzas for solo instruments performed by members of the Mahler Chamber Orchestra. On Saturday morning (June 9), Viktor Koptachinsky will perform in works for cimbalon at the Gazebo hosted by his daughter Patricia and Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris. Ms. Kopatchinskaja and Scott Worthington, electronics (who replaces Jorge Chiong-Sanchez), will perform Luigi Nono’s La lontanaza nostalgica utopia futura in a free concert on Thursday evening in Libbey Park, preceding the Festival’s first main Libbey Bowl concert of Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s semi-staged concert Bye Bye Beethoven.

New to the schedule is on Friday evening (June 8), the JACK Quartet will perform John Luther Adams’ Everything that Rises, a work commissioned by the quartet, in a free community concert in tribute to the Ojai Valley renewal following December’s devastating wild fires. Additionally, Ms. Kopatchinskaja has programmed two free concerts just for children. Children of all ages will convene in the Ojai Art Center listen to works by Berio, Biber, Cage, Holliger, Arthur Honegger, and Ferdinand the Bull by Alan Ridout for solo violin and speaker. These concerts for children are presented in association with the Festival’s BRAVO education program for schools and community.

Ojai Talks
The 2018 Festival begins with Ojai Talks hosted by Ara Guzelimian, former Festival Artistic Director and current Dean and Provost of The Julliard School. On Thursday, June 7, a three-part series of discussions will begin with an exploration of Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s musical preferences and inspirations, followed by a discussion with composer Michael Hersch and soprano Ah Young Hong.  The third part of the series will speak to the reinvention of musical groups with  the JACK Quartet. Additional on-site and on-line dialogue during the 2018 Festival includes Concert Insights, the preconcert talks at the LIbbey Bowl Tennis Courts with Festival artists hosted by resident musicologist Christoper Hailey, and live stream interviews between concerts.

For up-to-date Festival information, artist biographies and photos, and access to concerts, etc., visit the Ojai Music Festival website at

New Partnership with the Aldeburgh Festival
Following the 2018 Festival in Ojai with Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja and the following week’s Ojai at Berkeley presented in collaboration with Cal Performances, a new partnership with Aldeburgh will take place at the end of the Aldeburgh Festival (June 20 – 23) based at the acclaimed Maltings Concert Hall and in the town of Snape near Aldeburgh in England. The col-laboration with Aldeburgh follows the formation of Ojai at Berkeley as a partnership of co-productions and co-commissions that affords the Ojai Music Festival, the Aldeburgh Festival, and Cal Performances the ability to present more complex and creative artistic projects than could be conceived by each partner separately. The Aldeburgh relationship launches in June 2018, for an initial four-year period.

Ojai at Berkeley
Marking the eighth year of artistic partnership, Ojai at Berkeley celebrates the dynamic nature of the Ojai Music Festival and of Cal Performances. As two distinct communities, Ojai and Berke-ley are both known for intrepid artistic discovery, spirited intellect, and enduring engagement in the arts. Inaugurated in 2011, Ojai at Berkeley is a joint force that enables co-commissions and co-productions and allows artists to achieve more than could be imagined by each organization separately. Ojai at Berkeley will take place from June 15-17 in Berkeley, CA, following the Ojai Music Festival. For more information, visit

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, 2018 Music Director
Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s (Ko pat chin sky yah) 2017/18 season commenced with the world premi-ere of her new project Dies Irae at the Lucerne Festival where she was ‘artiste étoile’. The second staged program which follows the success of Bye Bye Beethoven with Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 2016, is conceptualized using a theme from the Latin Requiem Mass and features music from composers such as Scelsi, Biber and Ustwolskaja. The North American premiere will take place at the Ojai Festival in June 2018 where she is Music Director.

Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s was awarded the prestigious Swiss Grand Award for Music in September 2017 and continues to move from strength to strength adding a Grammy award to her list of ac-colades in the 17/18 Season. The Violinist was presented with the award for Best Chamber Mu-sic/Small Ensemble Performance for her disc Death and the Maiden, recorded with the St Paul Chamber Orchestra and released on Alpha Classics.

Concert highlights in 17/18 include; performances of Stravinsky’s concerto with Currentzis and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and the same repertoire with Gimeno and the Rotterdam Phil-harmonic Orchestra. She has played with Mahler Chamber Orchestra under Payare and will perform with Orchestra Sinfonica Nazionale della RAI and Geneva Camerata for Berg’s violin concerto.

Chamber music is immensely important to Ms. Kopatchinskaja and she performs regularly with artists such as Markus Hinterhäuser, Anthony Romaniuk and Jay Campbell. With pianist, Polina Leschenko she has recorded and released ‘Deux’ for Alpha Classics. Together the duo reimagi-nes the sonatas of Ravel, Poulenc, Bartok and Dohnányi.

Thomas W. Morris, Artistic Director
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. During Mr. Morris’ tenure, audi-ences 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, a new partner-ship with England’s Aldeburgh Festival will be initiated this year, and a comprehensive 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 na-tionally and internationally as a consultant, lecturer, teacher, and writer. Mr. Morris was a found-ing 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 accom-plished percussionist. In November, Mr. Morris announced his decision to retire as the Festival’s Artistic Director following the 2019 Festival with Music Director Barbara Hannigan, after shaping Ojai’s artistic direction for sixteen years.

About the Ojai Music Festival
From its founding in 1947, the Ojai Music Festival has created a place for groundbreaking musi-cal experiences, bringing together innovative artists and curious audiences in an intimate, idyllic setting 80 miles northwest of Los Angeles. The Festival presents broad-ranging programs in unu-sual ways with an eclectic mix of rarely performed music, refreshing juxtapositions of musical styles, and works by today’s composers. The four-day festival is an immersive experience with concerts, free community events, symposia, and gatherings. Considered a highlight of the inter-national 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), Matthias Pintscher (2020) and Mitsuko Uchida (2021).

As the Ojai Music Festival approaches its 75th anniversary and looks toward the future with re-cently appointed Artistic Director Chad Smith, who will take the helm in 2020, the innumerable contributions by Thomas W. Morris will continue to be realized through the 2019 Festival and be-yond. Under Mr. Morris’ creative watch, the Festival continues to push boundaries and scope; explore each music director’s individual perspective, creativity, and artistic communities; invite an ever-broadening roster of artists; and build connections across musical communities with through-curated programming for each Festival.

Remote Access to the Ojai Music Festival
The Ojai Music Festival continues to draw thousands of curious and engaged music enthusiasts from across the country. As tickets remain in high demand, Ojai includes free access to the Fes-tival experience through live and archived video streaming at The live streaming includes guest interviews throughout the web cast. Hosting this year will be director of publications at National Sawdust and longtime journalist Steve Smith and LA-based composer/musician and host of Underscore.FM podcast Thomas Kotcheff.

Tickets for the 2018 Ojai Music Festival
2018 Festival single tickets are available and may be purchased online at or by calling (805) 646-2053. 2018 Ojai Music Festival single tickets range from $45 to $150 for re-served seating and lawn tickets for $20.

June 7-10, 2018

Matthias Pintscher Named 2020 Music Director




Patricia Kopatchinskaja: 72nd Festival, June 7 to 10, 2018
Barbara Hannigan: 73rd Festival, June 6 to 9, 2019
Matthias Pintscher: 74th Festival, June 11 to 14, 2020
Mitsuko Uchida: 75th Festival, June 10 to 13, 2021


Download PDF Version of Press Release

(OJAI CA) — Ojai Music Festival Artistic Director Thomas W. Morris announced updated Festival Music Director appointments today. Composer/conductor Matthias Pintscher will take the helm as 2020 Music Director for the 74th Festival (June 11 – 14, 2020). Mr. Pintscher is one of the most prominent composers of our time and has an extraordinarily active conducting career. He serves currently as Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and as Principal Conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy. He is active as a teacher both at the Lucerne Festival Academy and at the Juilliard School in New York. His teachers and mentors include two Ojai alumni, Peter Eötvös and Pierre Boulez. As Music Director of the Ojai Music Festival, Mr. Pintscher will follow violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja (2018) and soprano/conductor Barbara Hannigan (2019), and precedes pianist Mitsuko Uchida (2021).

“I have known Matthias since the 1990s both as a composer and conductor, and have always been impressed with his amazing creativity, unbounded energy and endless curiosity”, said Thomas W. Morris. “He is in high demand as a composer with recent works being commissioned by the Lucerne Festival, Chicago Symphony, London Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra, and his conducting career is exploding with regular guest engagements with the world’s greatest orchestras, including this week’s debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Matthias is another natural to be music director of Ojai, and I am confident he will preside over a festival that is engrossing, wide ranging, and full of surprise – consistent with the arc of our artistic planning towards and through the 75th anniversary in 2021 and 2022.”

“It is a tremendous pleasure and incredible honor to be music director for the 2020 Ojai Festival, something I have dreamed about since moving to New York ten years ago,” said Matthias Pintscher. “I feel a combination of joy and responsibility to showcase composers and works that create something like an INVISIBLE BRIDGE between the two continents in which I am living and working: Europe and the USA. I have realized that my role as musical communicator – as composer, conductor, educator, and festival director – is to actively strengthen the interactions and connections between the music of today and its heritage in the US and on the “old continent”. As a European living in New York, I want to explore this INVISIBLE BRIDGE as one of the key elements for my programming of the 2020 Ojai Festival: thoughtful, innovative, loving, provocative, and poetic. Music speaks most directly from human to human, and Ojai is a perfect place to showcase this. I am excited. See you in 2020.”

Initial details for Mr. Pintscher’s 2020 Festival will be announced in June 2019. For complete biographical information on upcoming Ojai Music Festival Music Directors, visit

Matthias Pinscher, 2020 Music Director
Matthias Pintscher is the Music Director of the Ensemble Intercontemporain and became Principal Conductor of the Lucerne Festival Academy Orchestra at the start of the 16/17 season. He is currently in his eighth year as Artist-in-Association with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra.
In the 17/18 season, Mr. Pintscher makes several significant debuts including with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Berlin Radio Symphony, Finnish Radio Symphony, and the Gulbenkian Orchestra in Lisbon. Pintscher and the Ensemble Intercontemporain bring an ambitious presentation of Pierre Boulez’s Répons to the Park Avenue Armory in New York and perform a number of concerts on tour in London (Royal Festival Hall), Vienna (Konzerthaus), and Cologne (Philharmonie). In addition, they will be joined by alumni of the Lucerne Festival in a special multi-media Messiaen project which will be performed in four cities. Return guest engagements this season include the Los Angeles Philharmonic in both a subscription week and at the Hollywood Bowl, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (where he premieres Salvatore Sciarrino’s new piano concerto with Jonathan Biss), Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Frankfurt Radio Symphony, and the Mahler Chamber Orchestra conducting Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. An enthusiastic supporter of and mentor to students and young musicians, Pintscher will also work with the Karajan Academy of the Berlin Philharmonic, culminating in a concert at the Philharmonie.

In the 16/17 season, Pintscher was featured as the inaugural composer-in-residence and artist-in-focus at Hamburg’s new Elbphilharmonie concert hall which opened in January 2017. He took the Ensemble Intercontemporain on tour to Asia and celebrated the orchestra’s 40th anniversary. Other highlights included guest appearances with The Cleveland Orchestra, Dallas Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra (Ottawa), Kammerphilharmonie Bremen, and Bayerische Rundfunk, among others. Last season also saw the premiere of Pintscher’s new compositions un despertar, his second cello concerto, performed by Alisa Weilerstein and the Boston Symphony Orchestra under the direction of François-Xavier Roth; and Shirim for baritone and orchestra, with Danish singer Bo Skovhus and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra led by Christophe Eschenbach.

Matthias Pintscher began his musical training in conducting, studying with Peter Eötvös in his early twenties, during which time composing soon took a more prominent role in his life. He began to divide his time equally between conducting and composing, rapidly gaining critical acclaim in both areas of activity. As composer, Mr. Pintscher’s music is championed by some of today’s finest performing artists, orchestras, and conductors. His works have been performed by such orchestras as the Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestre de Paris. Bärenreiter is his exclusive publisher, and recordings of his compositions can be found on Kairos, EMI, Teldec, Wergo, and Winter & Winter. Mr. Pintscher has been on the composition faculty of the Juilliard School since 2014.

Update on the Thomas Fire
The Ojai Music Festival is deeply grateful for the outpouring of concern and support from our worldwide community after the Thomas Fire raged in the Ojai, Ventura, and Santa Barbara areas. As one of California’s largest wildfires on record, the fire has had a devastating impact on hundreds of thousands of acres and on all those in its path. Thanks to the heroic efforts by firefighters, the overall natural beauty including the town of Ojai, Libbey Bowl, other Festival venues, and area hotels and restaurants were spared, allowing the Festival to proceed as planned. Over time, the Topa Topa Mountains surrounding the Ojai Valley will give rise to new life, and the Festival looks to honor this renewal of hope during the upcoming 2018 Festival with Music Director Patricia Kopatchinskaja.

This Year’s Ojai Music Festival (June 7-10, 2018)
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), Ms. 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 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 Ms. Kopatchinskaja’s parents, Viktor and Emilia Kopatchinski. For more information on programs and series passes, visit

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, 2018 Music Director
Violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja’s versatility shows itself in her diverse repertoire, ranging from baroque and classical often played on gut strings, to new commissions and re-interpretations of modern masterworks. Kopatchinskaja’s 2017/18 season commences with the world premiere of her new project Dies Irae at the Lucerne Festival where she was ‘artiste étoile’. Dies Irae is her second staged program following the success of Bye Bye Beethoven with Mahler Chamber Orchestra in 2016, and uses the theme from the Latin Requiem Mass as a starting point for her new concept featuring music from Gregorian Chant and Early Baroque to Giacinto Scelsi and Galina Ustwolskaja. The North American premiere will take place at the Ojai Festival in June 2018.

Thomas W. Morris, Artistic Director
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. During 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, a new partnership with England’s Aldeburgh Festival will be initiated this year, and a comprehensive 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. In November, Mr. Morris announced his decision to retire as the Festival’s Artistic Director following the 2019 Festival with Music Director Barbara Hannigan, after shaping Ojai’s artistic direction for sixteen years.

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 chosen a “who’s who” for the post, 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 in 2018, Ojai will welcome Music Director Barbara Hannigan (2019).

Series Passes for the 2018 Ojai Music Festival (June 7-10)
2018 Festival series passes are available and may be purchased online at or by calling (805) 646-2053. 2018 Ojai Music Festival series passes range from $165 to $925 for reserved seating, and lawn series passes start at $75. Single concert tickets will be available in spring 2018.
Directions to Ojai and Libbey Bowl, as well as information about lodging, concierge services for visitors, and other Ojai activities, are available on the Festival website. Follow Festival updates at, Facebook (, and Twitter (@ojaifestivals).

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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.”