Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

True connoisseurs of great jazz know where to seek it out. They’ll haunt late night bars (at least when bars are a thing) and flip through bins of vinyl at ever-diminishing record stores. They create playlists on Spotify; Alexa already knows what they want to hear without having to be asked.

Through July 17, Idyllwild will be the place where some of the most vaunted names in jazz, blues and R&B come together (virtually, at least) for the 26th edition of Jazz in the Pines, a popular annual fundraiser for the Idyllwild Arts Academy.

This year, jazz-lovers don’t need to drive up the mountain to enjoy all the festival has to offer. In deference to the wicked Mr. COVID, the organizers have reimagined a hybrid event, with mostly virtual experiences to be enjoyed, along with a handful of outdoors, socially distanced, in-person events at Idyllwild restaurants. Through July 17, a lineup of live and recorded performances and workshops will be available for streaming at

This year’s festival is curated by New York Times-featured jazz vocalist Rose Colella, who has performed at the festival for many years. The online festival will be free and open to all; highlights include an “In Conversation” series with various artists, masterclasses, and special events with jazz luminaries including Tonight Show trumpeter Kye Palmer, Marshall Hawkins, Barb Catlin, Tom Hynes, Francisco Torres, Bob Boss, Evan Christopher, Rick Shaw and Rose Colella.

Pamela Jordan, the president of Idyllwild Arts, said Jazz Fest fans were initially skeptical about the largely online format.

“We’ve done so much online; people are ready to get out and about, and it’s the summertime,” Jordan said. “But then when they started seeing the caliber of performers and the different opportunities, we started seeing people get very excited about it. … People are excited to know that they can see Grammy Award-winning John Daversa not only give a masterclass, but also perform. This is very exciting for people to see Harry Pickens, who played for the Dalai Lama, or be in conversation with Marshall Hawkins, who toured for years with Miles Davis.”

This year’s reimagined Jazz in the Pines follows a one-year hiatus. It coincides with the Idyllwild Arts Summer Program Jazz Workshop—taking place online this year—during which up to 70 students, from ages 14 to 18, get to learn from some of the greats of contemporary jazz. This format restores the original vision of festival co-founder Marshall Hawkins by enabling Idyllwild Arts to build a bridge between the professionals and the next generation of jazz artists, Jordan said.

“We took a hiatus from Jazz in the Pines last year, and it allowed us to really think about the purpose of Jazz in the Pines, and what we came to was the need to return to our original mission, which is to connect these professional jazz artists with these up-and-coming young jazz enthusiasts,” Jordan said. “That’s what being online, being virtual, is allowing us to do. In some ways, we’re reaching kids and professionals and audiences far more broadly than we could have if we were bringing everybody to Idyllwild—which is ideal, but we’re glad to be able to engage audiences this way.

“One of the main things that changed is that instead of a 2 1/2-day festival, which it’s been in the past, the intention was for it to be a two-week jazz intensive with the festival. The festival was going to be going on the entire time that our jazz students were taking their session on campus. … So the same thing is happening in that regard.”

While all performances are free, the event is a fundraiser, and donations will directly support Idyllwild Arts’ mission: to engage professional artists and educators, offer unique educational programs, and provide scholarships for talented young artists to attend Idyllwild Arts’ high school and summer program. Jordan said the school—like virtually all educational facilities—had to scramble to switch to an all-online format in March. However, she’s hoping the students will be able to return to Idyllwild in the fall—but all of the extra safety measures will cost Idyllwild Arts money.

“Like all schools, we have many scenarios if something were to come and prevent us from doing that, but it is our intention to return,” Jordan said. “Idyllwild Arts is unique because we are located in Idyllwild, 6,000 feet in the San Jacinto Mountains. We believe firmly that if we can get our students to Idyllwild, we can keep them safe. … We’re making all kinds of contingency plans, like all schools are, but being a boarding school puts us in a slightly different category, and we’re doing everything we can to keep this campus safe for our students’ return.”

For a complete schedule of Jazz in the Pines events and more information, visit

Published in Previews

In July 2018, the Cranston Fire devastated the town of Idyllwild, burning more than 13,000 acres—and those fires were followed by downpours and that destroyed roads and created sinkholes.

Despite the chaos, Idyllwild is still standing.

“They went through a really rough time—the fires, the floods—and they’re barely recovering,” said Chris Leyva, organizer of the Idyllfest Music, Art and Craft Beer Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13.

The goal of the festival is to “bring back commerce, music and inspiration from the surrounding music community, with Idyllwild bridging the gap (between) Los Angeles, Palm Springs and San Diego.” Leyva, a musician himself, talked to me as he was finishing a tour with his band, Falling Doves.

“I offered to help out by planning a festival and inviting some of the bands I’ve booked and toured with,” Leyva said. “They’re all in different markets, from here all the way to Las Vegas. We’re bringing everybody down for a two-day festival, and it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Leyva said he wants to make Idyllfest a great experience for both the audience and the performers.

“If you ever play festivals, you always feel like you have to get your gear out and go, so we’re eliminating that by having a backline for everyone, as well as providing room and board,” he said. “The event is colliding with the Art Walk and Wine Tasting event,” taking place on Saturday, Oct. 12, “so we’re going to be able to join forces with them, and allow our attendees to attend their event, and vice versa. It’s all about community, about togetherness and getting the word out there.”

The lineup features Leyva’s band, as well as Los Angeles’ Beck Black, San Diego punk legends Authentic Sellouts, and many others.

“It’s a collective event,” Leyva said. “Being able to tour the planet, I meet a lot of amazingly talented bands that unfortunately don’t have the opportunity to play really cool festivals, so I wanted to throw a festival for them. I didn’t want to do it in Hollywood. I’ve done a few beer festivals there, and bands always just play and leave. I want to be able to have whoever is playing up there stuck up there, so they stay to support and discover new acts.

“A lot of the bands playing are the top in each market, from San Diego to L.A., and a few coming in from Vegas. I, as an entertainer, don’t believe in playing for exposure. We all have gas; we all have to eat. It’s not cheap. We came up with a stipend, so everyone’s getting paid the same. The point of the event is to just make sure everyone has a good time. Ticket sales are going to pay for production, permits and port-o-potties.”

Idyllfest organizers are also selling T-shirts, which will benefit a local charity.

Leyva talked about the hopes that this first Idyllfest will not be the last.

“Usually you need to wait three to four years before something really kicks off, but I have a feeling that by keeping a low profile, we’ll be able to reach the proper demographic,” said Leyva. “That will open up the doors for us to bring in international bands—Japan, Australia, Liverpool, etc. It’s our first year, though, and the only thing we expect is being able to bring a completely different platter of music and commerce up there.”

The Idyllfest Music, Art and Craft Beer Festival will take place Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 12 and 13, at 25585 Alderwood St., in Idyllwild. One-day passes are $15; two-day passes are $25. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews

The town of Idyllwild on one September weekend will be taken over by a film festival that emphasizes diversity.

The inaugural Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild film festival, according to founder Tabitha Denholm, will be a lot like a music festival … just with movies.

“Think Coachella on a smaller scale, but without the feathers and bikinis,” said Tabitha Denholm with a laugh. “I am obsessed with the idea of diversity. This year, we have legendary documentary director Barbara Kopple, who perhaps will be next to a first-time director, who is next to someone who rocks a mean air bass guitar. Everyone is included and welcomed.”

Women Under the Influence is a community founded by Denholm in 2015 with this goal: “By sharing the stories of cinema directed by women, through events and media, WUTI pushes back against the industry’s bias.” The festival is the brainchild of Denholm, creative director Laura Rule, and Meredith Rogers, the vice president of cultural programming at NeueHouse, a collaborative workspace in New York and Los Angeles.

“We all have our roles and know our parts. We mix well together,” Denholm said. The idea began at NeueHouse in Los Angeles. “In other large cities, there are communities around films, and we just didn't feel that here in L.A., of all places. So we started one.”

How did they pick Idyllwild as the location?

“I had heard about Idyllwild and thought it was going to have like a wine-country sort of feeling, so I drove up there in my old convertible with a pair of jeans and a T-shirt on,” Denholm said. “I got there, and it was snowing! In fact, we had to stay the night there, because we got stuck in a blizzard! … Where else can you find a town so close to L.A. with art schools, cinema and a wonderful energy?”

Energy is a key ingredient in WUTI.

“We are inclusive. We have a broad focus on what should be in our festival,” Denholm said. “We screen films that we like. There is no submission process. We just make a list and then bug people until they come.”

When asked what festival films are her favorites, Denholm responded that she had no “favorites.” “But I love Grind Reset Shine by Margarita Jimeno. It’s about the demise of the male ego. Crystal Swan by Darya Zhuk is also a good one to catch.

A portion of the festival has been set aside for preteens and teens. “On Saturday, Sept. 21, we devote a large part of it to Gen Z,” Denholm said. “There will be talks for teens by teen directors.”

Denholm said she hopes Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild becomes an annual event.

“Our ambition is to grow incrementally with what we can handle. Our dream is that it will be a destination for people meeting up and making new friends,” she said. “This is not just for women; anyone can come, but we felt it was important to give women a platform. There is sexism in directing; that is getting better, but it still is an issue. The way women have been portrayed in films has had a huge impact on how the audience thinks of women on a subconscious level. It affects us all; if a man is the one writing or directing he doesn't always see things from her point of view.”

Other highlights of this year’s festival schedule include singer Karen O, the front woman of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, discussing the music she’s created in films; director Kimberly Peirce, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Boys Don’t Cry; and director Penelope Spheeris, who will join actress Tia Carrere to screen and discuss the legendary Wayne’s World.

Women Under the Influence Goes Idyllwild will take place from Friday through Sunday, Sept. 20-22, at various venues in Idyllwild. All-festival admission costs $225, with discounts for teens and Idyllwild residents (use the code IDYPASS online); children 12 and younger are admitted for free. For tickets or more information, visit

Published in Previews and Features