Marsha Lytle, Chair of the 2012 Jazz in the Pines. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

Marsha Lytle, chair of the 19th Annual Idyllwild Jazz in the Pines, is tired but excited about the 2012 edition of the local jazz festival.


For example, she is looking forward to Mary Stalling’s performance on Saturday, Aug. 25, in the Barn. “I haven’t seen her in about 35 years. The last time was in San Francisco at a local club,” Lytle said. “I’ll spend time in the Barn because that’s the kind of jazz I like. It reminds me of smoky night clubs with jazz combos,” she added, revealing her extensive jazz background and longtime affection for this genre.

She’s also looking forward to seeing the kid (Ray Goren) again. “He has his own group now,” Lytle said. “I’m anxious to see how he’s evolving with the music.”

And all of the returning alumni attract Lytle’s attention. Since the festival is for scholarships, she said, “It’s rewarding to see what they’re doing.”

Despite the festival’s expanding reputation among artists, Lytle is worried about ticket sales for this year. Thus far, they are lagging the successes of 2011, when the Associates were able to give Idyllwild Arts an astounding $80,000 for scholarships just from Jazz in the Pines revenue.

Nearing the finish of her second year as festival chair and looking forward to the performances, Lytle showed some of the burden involved in producing the event. The volunteer part-time position in the fall quickly evolves into full-time work. It begins with a critique of the previous festival and identifies ways to improve it
for the audience and all the other stakeholders involved in the festival’s success.

For this year, Lytle noted they have organized a bus service from Palm Springs, which she hopes to expand to San Diego and perhaps greater Los Angeles next year. Also, festival patrons will have a separate entrance so that they will not have to contend with lines.

But Lytle readily credits the contributions of all volunteers. “The committee and subcommittee chairs are doing their work,” she was happy to state. “I feel really good about the volunteers, who are all willing to give up their lives for the festival’s success.”

Besides festival stalwarts Ted Cummings, Chris Maxson and others, Lytle was grateful for the assistance the Associates receive from Theresa Teel, the director of special events at the school. And she pointed out Mark Biley, who designed the festival logo and prepared and placed festival ads.

Lytle is already thinking about the 2013 version, which will be the 20th Jazz in the Pines.

“We’ll try to get some bigger names, but we’ll need more money,” she said. “I’d like to plan something special for the 20th, it would be a great statement of our success.”

Although she plans to helm next year’s festival, she hopes to recruit an apprentice to learn the job for the following year.

But, she stressed, as she has since assuming the mantel, “The approach is entrepreneurial. It’s not just fun, but to make money for student scholarships.”

Ensuring as much as possible for the scholarship funds, Lytle has been known to donate, not just time and money to the festival, but airline mileage to provide tickets for performers.

Yet, Lytle is still surprised at how many people, many whom she didn’t know, came up to her and thanked her at the end of the 2011 Jazz Fest.