Ventura Music Festival – Ventura CA


Coming Attractions

Executive Director’s Message

February 9, 2021

Dear Friends,

That music has a powerful impact on the brain is a scientific fact. That the experience of music is unique to and for each of us is the opinion of famed theatre director Peter Sellars.  We agree with him and we know how many of you thought and felt about our offerings in 2020 because you told us in notes we appreciated greatly.   According to you, we presented artists and music that comforted, uplifted, made you laugh (or cry, or dance), forget (or remember) and much more.  In 2021, we are committed to  continuing to present “musical stuff” that fosters deep, personal experiences.

While vaccines are here and recovery is on the horizon – hurrah, current guidelines still limit live performances and large gatherings.  Thus February-June feature exciting programs presented via VMF’s Music Connects, Virtually yours and Drive-in platforms.  But in July – ta-dah!! – we’re forecasting the signature festival for which we’re best known – a live, seven-concert event that builds individual and community spirit through music and the alchemy that is “festival” at its best. Conditions permitting, the star 2021 lineup is ready to go. (Click here for a video preview.)

Check back soon for details of VMF Coming Attractions – 2021.

Warmest regards, 

Phat Thursday at the Phairgrounds

Photo credit: Joe Meyer

VMF Plans “Phat Thursday at the Phairgrounds” on September 24 with Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band

Jazz enthusiasts, jazz newcomers, even jazz doubters—get ready to delight in the phat (“cool, tight, awesome”) sounds of Gordon Goodwin’s Little Phat Band on Thursday, September 24, at 8 pm at the Ventura County Fairgrounds.

The Ventura Music Festival’s second  live, physically-distanced and audience-safe drive-in car concert presents “one of the finest bands in any era” and “the best jazz band out there today” known for its great arrangements and great tunes, all performed at maximum “hilarity with a dusting of insanity.”

Photo credit: Darnell Wade

Think of the soulful classic Swing ensembles of Basie, Ellington, Dorsey, Goodman and Miller melded with the modern panache of Davis, Tijuana Brass and Sergio Mendes and a surprising repertoire that covers everything from Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” to the cartoon-inspired “Hunting Wabbits 3.”

Band leader Gordon Goodwin—a gifted and creative pianist and explosive, ‘kick butt’ sax player—is a composer and arranger with absolutely no limit of musical styles and a larger-than-life reputation in the music industry with such clients as Disney, Warner Brothers and Spielberg and innumerable musicians.

Goodwin’s music is widely played by local college, high school and middle school jazz bands where he’s something of a local hero.  To facilitate band turnout,  VMF extended school bands a 20% ticket discount with Goodwin adding a “Zoom master class”  for one lucky band.  Band directors can call VMF CEO Susan Scott with any questions. 

 Don’t miss this concert, a surefire cure for end-of-summer “phatigue.”

DETAILS: Online tickets onlyclick here. Doors open at 6:30 pm. Portable restrooms, but no concessions so bring your own refreshments. The 75 minute concert audio is delivered through each car’s FM radio, or Wi-Fi.

Tickets are priced and sold PER CAR, not per person, and start at $50 per car. Pricing contemplates two adults per car and while we don’t view the back seat as optimum viewing, you can put people there if you like and at no extra charge. There just needs to be a seat belt for each person in the car.

VMF at the Drive-In

VMF Presents John Jorgenson’s Bluegrass Supergroup in a Drive-In Concert on July 16 Live, socially-distanced and audience-safe at the Ventura Fairgrounds

Ventura, CA  “While we long for the all-clear to sound and live events return to a semblance of what we love, we are committed to presenting live music as conditions allow, so we’re excited about adding a drive-in concert to our credits,” said Executive Director, Susan Scott.  “The drive-in is hugely iconic in America,” she continued, “and what could be more perfect than the John Jorgenson Bluegrass Band (J2B2) and the ‘high lonesome sound’ of American roots music at its finest “

J2B2 is acclaimed for warmth and storytelling along with incomparable songwriting and harmony vocals. Called the “best string players in the world,” the band is led by John Jorgenson, joined by fellow music legends Herb Pedersen, Mark Fain and Patrick Sauber.

Performance on the 16th is at 8 pm. No concessions, but doors open at 6:30 pm and attendees may bring their own refreshments.  Concert is 75 minutes.”  Audio is delivered through each car’s FM radio, with an app available for those who prefer earbuds.  Participants are requested to remain in their cars throughout, if possible. There are portable toilets available as needed.  When outside cars, people are required to wear masks. 

Tickets go on sale Wednesday, June 24th,  are priced per car (2pp/car) and range from $50 to $170 per car. Tickets are only available online: no phone or venue sales. Click here to learn more or buy tickets.

The 2020 Season – Moved to 2021


Ventura, Ca., With regret, the Ventura Music Festival announces the postponement of its 26th music festival, set for the last two weekends in July 2020.

“We’re disappointed virus-related conditions necessitated this decision,” said VMF board president Richard Reisman. “We want supporters to know, however, that the 26th festival is deferred, not cancelled.  It will take place in July 2021 and we’ll present some exciting offerings between now and then, as guidelines permit.”

“When the only certainty is uncertainty, creativity and innovation come to the fore,” said VMF Executive Director Susan Scott, “at least they have for us.  Conditions permitting, we would love to present 3-4 live concerts between Fall 2020 and June 2021, with distanced seating and other preventive measures, as called for.   New digital and virtual music offerings are also in the mix; as are events that can be staged outdoors and in homes and smaller venues. Conversations with key supporters will start shortly, with their ongoing input critical to our planning as we move together through the months ahead.”

Ventura Music Festival Announces 2020 Honorees

The Board of the Ventura Music Festival is pleased to announce its 2020 Honorees for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts and Community.   Speaking for the Board, its president Richard Reisman said: “These two prominent individuals – Barbara Meister and Jordan Laby, together with their late spouses – have made culture- and community-changing contributions that literally created the arts landscape in Ventura and beyond, to say nothing of their important contributions to health (CMH) and education (VUSD).”

The Laby and Meister cultural legacies include founding and ongoing support for the New West Symphony, Ventura Music Festival, Rubicon Theatre, Focus on the Masters, Laby Harmony Project, Ventura County Ballet and more.  Each of these institutions is now celebrating a 20th or 25th anniversary which means the number of people impacted, including the youngest members of the community, is in the hundreds of thousands.  

“I’m always struck by their humility,” said “Festival Executive Director Susan Scott. “Each has accomplished so much, both professionally and philanthropically, yet neither seeks the limelight and talks instead about ‘giving back’ and the importance of arts and music education for children and recognition of local artists as cultural assets.” 

The 2020 VMF Honorees will be honored with a video, dinner and live music performance at the annual VMF Honoree Awards and Cabaret Fundraiser on Thursday, April 30th, at the Ventura Beach Marriott hotel.

Past honorees include Betsy Blanchard Chess, Doug Halter, Nancy and Spencer Garrett, Justice Steven Z. Perren, Micheline Sakharoff, Freddie Contarino, the Limoneira Company and E. J. Harrison.

Ventura Music Festival Announces 2019 Honorees

Betsy Chess & Limoneira are honored by Music Festival for outstanding contributions to arts & community

(Ventura, CA) – The Board of the Ventura Music Festival is very pleased to announce its 2019 Honorees for Outstanding Contributions to the Arts and Community. The new honorees are a prominent citizen and a prominent company, respectively: Elizabeth (Betsy) Blanchard Chess, for outstanding individual contribution, and Limoneira, for corporate contribution.

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“All That Jazz” at Namba on July 19th

Ventura Music Festival presents

“All That Jazz” at Namba Performing Arts Space
47 S. Oak Street, Ventura
Thursday, July 19th, 7:00 – 8:15 pm


Opening set by Coda jazz trio
Charles Levin, drums
Bevan Manson, piano
Tom Etchart, bass

Joined by winners of the 2018 Student Jazz Competition
Matthew Kupberberg, piano
Finn Dunham, alto sax
Henry Urschel, alto sax

Doors open at 6:30. Open to the public, early arrivals encouraged.

Student Jazz Competition Results Are In!

Pictured: Finalists Finn Dunham, Matthew Kuperberg, Jonah Goldstein, and Henry Urschel

VENTURA COUNTY – Serving as competition judges, renowned musicians Bevan Manson, Eddie Arkin and Tom Buckner selected the winners of the 2018 Student Jazz Competition. Each year the winners receive $500, $250 and $100 cash prizes for first, second and third place, respectively. The students also receive multiple opportunities from VMF to perform for the public throughout the year, including the annual Rising Stars concert in May and other events to be announced.

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