The Patron’s Dinner begins the Aug. 26 weekend festivities in Idyllwild commonly known as the 18th Annual Jazz in the Pines. Chris Maxson, owner of the Idyllwild Gallery of Fine Art, has planned an Idyllwild evening unlike many, if any, before.

The food and ambiance combine to make the evening unique and it’s not just the opportunity to sit at the Honor Tables. The arts, the essence of the school, are integral to the evening’s enjoyment.

The dining room will be adorned with nearly 300 colorful butterflies, each one made by a student at the school. Maxson visited an All-School Friday and asked the students to participate vicariously in the special fundraiser.

“In August, this will help to remind the visitors who is benefiting from this function,” Maxson said. “It will be incredible to see these butterflies and know this is all about kids.”

The students attend Idyllwild Art Academy, Maxson emphasized. The curriculum embraces seven different arts — creative writing, dance, interdisciplinary arts, moving pictures, music, theater and visual art. Each is represented in the centerpieces adorning the tables.

Maxson asked herself how she could broaden the vision of the people at the dinner beyond the outstanding jazz musicians playing both days. The result will be metal sculptures in front of each patron, representing one of the seven art majors at the school. The silent auction during the meal will allow the diners to contribute to the school and connect to art in a special and unique way.

But Maxson didn’t want the affair to become insular. The Academy is part of the community; therefore the community must be part of the festival.

This year, Maxson has organized the Taste of Idyllwild, a cocktail hour before the patrons enter the dining room. Three Idyllwild restaurants — Café Aroma, Restaurant Gastrognome and the Mountain Restaurant — will offer samples of their delicacies

To expand the connection with the town, Maxson invited local businesses to sponsor a table. The table’s center will display the business’ name and owners or staff will join the patrons for the dinner and have the opportunity to elaborate on the village’s virtues.

“I’m really hoping this is only the beginning of the town and gown unity,” Maxson said, wide-eyed and breathless with enthusiasm. “There’s great cooperation. People are pulling together to make this a really ‘wow’ event.”

Once attendees are seated, the evening’s menu will be unique. Fresh Alaskan halibut en papillote (in parchment) will be the entrée. Maxson promises a fantastic dessert — artisan chocolates — which can also be a gift to take home. These treats come in the following flavors — berry blue, lemony zing, dots d’orange and calypso.

Jazz Trio by sculptor Gail Chavenelle. Photo courtesy of Chris Maxson

Entertainment includes a raffle of the metal sculpture, Jazz Trio (see accompanying photo), which is a beautiful 30-inch-tall garden sculpture. The sculpture is cut from a single piece of rusted patina steel and fits in the ground or on a stand. Maxson said only 100 tickets at $20 each will be sold for this piece.

The sculptor, Gail Chavenelle, has also created signed stainless steel sculptures pieces, which are the centerpiece on every table. These will be available to all through a silent auction.

The musical entertainment will be the Jeff Hamilton Trio, whose members will also be sitting at the Hot Jazz Honor Table.

In response to another question about the amazing evening, Maxson said, “I just wanted to up the ante. I can’t do boring. I have to have a mission and say something.”

The attire for this special evening, in Maxson’s words, is Mountain Jazz. Tickets are limited, so call the Jazz Line at (951) 500-4090 or visit to order your Patron’s Package online.

Want to sit with your friends? Requests for full or partial table reservations will be honored.

The Patron’s Package includes ...

  • The Patron’s Jazz Dinner Dance
  • The Premier Jazz Evening on Friday
  • Tickets for both days of Jazz in the Pines
  • Reserved Holmes Amphitheatre seating Saturday and Sunday
  • Preferred on campus parking all during the festival
  • Keepsake 2011 Jazz in the Pines wine glass
  • Memories to share forever