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As Major Music Festival Opens On South Coast, Longtime Artistic Director Saying Farewell


From legendary composers like Stravinsky, to edgier names like John Zorn, music will be flowing this week for what’s become a cutting edge event in the music world. The 73rd Ojai Music Festival begins on Thursday. It’s going to be a special one for Thomas Morris, because it’s his last as the festival’s Artistic Director.

The festival has always had a big reputation, but for many years it was a more traditional event. Morris had long tenures with the Boston, and Cleveland symphonies, and felt his mission in Ojai was to do something different.

Morris says he’s proud that he's helped the festival grow to the point that many passes are sold each year before the artist, and musical selections are even announced. People come because they know they will find something unique.

The artistic director says they’ve also brought in a number of sidebar events, like panels on music. And, he says to keep the festival’s creativity going, he’s never brought in the same Music Director twice. This year’s Music Director, Barbara Hannigan, plays a prominent role, conducting, singing, and serving as a mentor for some of her students who are performing.

Morris says it's hard to pick a favorite artist or event during his tenure, but he is excited about the full opera they are staging this year, a full length version of Stravinsky’s “The Rake’s Progress.” The work is especially significant because the legendary composer was a part of the festival in its early days.

Morris says it’s been a joy to help the festival grow, but says it’s time to give someone else a chance.

The 2019 Ojai Music Festival opens Thursday, and runs through Sunday.