After 21 successful years, the Jazz in the Pines festival is changing. Most of the change will be behind the scenes as the Idyllwild Arts Academy assumes more management of the production functions from the Associates of Idyllwild Arts Foundation, who will remain involved.

Jazz in the Pines began as an afternoon event in 1994 and has blossomed into a full weekend of great jazz and entertainment. As it has grown, so have the responsibilities and work. This year, more than 300 people volunteered time and talent to ensure another successful fest.

Beginning in 2015, John Newman, IA’s director of Business Operations, will assume the operational management of the festival. Joining Newman will be Theresa Teel, the school’s director of special events.

John Newman, director of Business Operations for the Idyllwild Arts Academy. Photo courtesy of John Newman
John Newman, director of Business Operations for the Idyllwild Arts Academy.
Photo courtesy of John Newman

“The school recognized the opportunity to expand upon the event,” Newman said.

The new arrangement has been evolving over the past several years, according to Newman. Current Associates President Anne Erikson added that the addition of Newman to the Associates’ Jazz Committee this year has helped.

“We’ve always had Theresa as our liaison to the school,” Erikson said. “I feel great about it, now that the Academy is in the planning.”

Both Newman and Erikson attributed this move to the new president of the Idyllwild Arts Foundation Pamela Jordan. “She had the big-picture thinking,” Erikson said.

“At last year’s festival, I met people who purchased a home in Idyllwild because they had such a positive experience when they first attended the festival,” Jordan said. “Idyllwild Arts is known for excellence in the arts, enhanced by our beautiful, natural environment and experienced with a diverse group of people. Jazz in the Pines epitomizes this experience.”

Newman does not envision major changes in the musical portion of the festival. However, he mentioned his hope to bring the Seahawk Modern Jazz Orchestra back and if possible, have them play an inaugural concert in the new Lowman Concert Hall, if construction is completed in time.

This week, he plans to meet with Marshall Hawkins, a festival founder and jazz instructor at the school.

“It’s very good. I’m glad about it,” Hawkins said. “It might be a little different.” He expects more involvement from alumni. The festival’s conception was to raise funds for the school and its incipient jazz program. Over the years, these funds have grown.

“The proceeds of Jazz 2014 are $45,000,” Erikson wrote in an email. “We will be making a donation of  $4,500 to the Associates of IAF Endowment Fund, which exists solely for the purpose of supporting IA, and another $40,000 to the school directly.” Later, another donation of $5,000 or more may come from the Associates, she added.

Newman and Erikson also stressed that the Associates will remain integrally involved in the festival’s production, including chairing the major committees such as logistics, vendors and others. Anne Finch will continue to book the performers as she many times has done.

However, Newman sees the opportunity to raise the school’s visibility through the weekend festival. Both he and Jordan pointed out three audiences they hope to reach through the event. Besides the traditional jazz aficionados, families looking for an arts high school and participants in the school’s Summer Programs might be reached through the festival.

As an example of the interweaving of the various aspects of the school, Newman described some initial possibilities to highlight current students and alumni.

“Two of our young alumni recently completed a beautiful documentary film on the life of Marshall Hawkins and the history of jazz at Idyllwild Arts Academy. We would hope to screen that film as part of the festival,” Newman said. “We have talked about the possibility of offering clinics and Q-and-A sessions with the musicians, of expanding media presence through interviews and tours of our beautiful campus.”

Another relationship Newman and Jordan plan to heighten and support is the festival’s role with the town and its businesses.

“Idyllwild is full of visionaries who possess the imagination and fortitude to create an ideal residential community. Jazz in the Pines is but one of the examples of what can happen when creative minds envision a better future,” Jordan stated. “Jazz in the Pines is an Idyllwild event. We will continue to rely on the great experience that people have in the town of Idyllwild, not just when they are on the Arts Academy campus. Dining at our fun and mountain-chic restaurants, or patronizing our quaint shops in town is all part of the great experience they have once they arrive.”

Besides an educator, administrator and tennis player, Newman is a jazz drummer. While he only plays occasionally, his skill has not diminished through limited practice. “John Newman is an amazing leader and great musician,” Hawkins confirmed.