Spotlight on Healdsburg

Healdsburg Jazz Festival turns 20

‘I love the ability to bring music to people,” says Healdsburg’s Jessica Felix, founder and artistic director of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, which marks its 20th anniversary when it returns in June 2018.

From an initial three-day venture in 1999—which featured performances by hard-bop pianist Cedar Walton, free-jazz drummer Billy Higgins and vibraphone master Bobby Hutcherson—the Healdsburg Jazz Festival has grown into a massive 10-day affair that in recent years has boasted performances by revered jazz figures like the Heath Brothers, drummer Billy Hart and Blues Hall of Famer Charlie Musselwhite, who lives part-time in Healdsburg.

Born in Los Angeles, Felix got her first taste of Sonoma County attending college at Sonoma State University. “Even in college, I used to think Healdsburg was a great area,” Felix says. “I loved the river, and we’d always stop at the Singletree Cafe to have breakfast.”

After college, Felix lived in the Bay Area for over 20 years. The longtime jazz aficionado began producing events in the 1980s at a converted Victorian house in Oakland, and in 1990 she founded the popular Eddie Moore Jazz Festival at Yoshi’s, which she ran for five years.

A jewelry designer by trade, Felix relocated to Healdsburg full-time in 1994 and opened a shop and gallery for her jewelry studio called Art and All That Jazz.

“Something in my head said, ‘Go to Healdsburg,'” she says. “Then this storefront became available, and I couldn’t resist.”

“I’ve always loved small towns,” Felix says. “Being able to know people and feel like you’re part of a community is important to me.”

Felix founded the Healdsburg Jazz Festival as a way to bring the community together through music in the town’s intimate venues, with a commitment to represent the best in what she calls strong jazz, authentic representations of the genre’s multifaceted culture. “Jazz has always been an exploring music. It’s not supposed to stagnate; it’s supposed to grow and evolve and push boundaries,” Felix says. “It works with all the emotions. My true goal is to turn people on to the live jazz experience.”

In addition to the annual 10-day fest, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival offers an array of performances year-round. The festival hosts weekly jazz performances in the lobby lounge of Hotel Healdsburg, with jazz trios fronted by local talents like Susan Sutton and Bay Area–based drummer Lee Charlton, who performs with Norris Clement and Richard Saunders on Saturday, Oct. 7.

Saturday also marks the next in the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s ongoing Parlor Series, presenting world-class talents at the Paul Mahder Gallery. This week, saxophonist Dayna Stephens returns to town with pianist Billy Childs, who makes his Healdsburg debut.

Education is also a huge factor in Felix’s mission to share the music she loves. Last year, she started the Student Jazz Combo Competition to encourage students to explore their creativity while learning from professional musicians and forming tight-knit combos to engage in friendly competition with other schools.

Looking ahead to next summer, the festival is also hosting a 20th-anniversary fundraising gala on Nov. 11 (see Spotlight events listings, p10) to support the upcoming 2018 festival and the ongoing music education programs.

“The 20th anniversary is going to be the biggest event we’ve ever done,” says Felix. “There’s going to be something for everybody.”

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Raven Theatre executive director
Tom Brand dishes on Healdsburg

Describe your perfect day in Healdsburg?

I would gather my family. After brunch at Flakey Cream, we would walk to the Healdsburg Plaza and people-watch the visitors from around the world. If, by chance, an establishment selling libations could be found, we would stop and perhaps have a drink. Then it would be time to experience real Americana. We would grab chairs and watch the Healdsburg Future Farmers Twilight Parade with all of its local politicians, schoolchildren, horses and fire trucks. Finally, we would saunter over to the Healdsburg Future Farmers Country Fair and have some of the best cotton candy in America.

Where is your favorite place to eat in Healdsburg and why?

This is a tie: Costeaux French Bakery and Bear Republic Brewing Company. Both feature high-quality, affordable food, a friendly staff and are owned by families that are huge supporters of all the not-for-profits in Healdsburg.

Where do you take first-time visitors to Healdsburg?

It is a little clichéd, but to the plaza, the river, and a few select wineries, then to Healdsburg Hotel to hear some jazz.

What do you know about Healdsburg that others don’t?

Healdsburg has the largest living moss wall in America at the Paul Mahder Contemporary Art Gallery.

If you could change one thing about Healdsburg what would it be?

The laws of economics. A wise person once told me that everyone’s perfect version of Healdsburg is the day they that they moved here. Currently, a very large percentage of all home sales in Healdsburg are to people buying a second, third, fourth home. This eliminates housing for people who will become part of our community, people who donate time, money, and energy to the elements that created our wonderful community.

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Social Cause Films

Co-founded by photographer, musician and educator Kim Carroll and marketing professional Josie Gay, Healdsburg’s Social Cause Film Series kicks off this week with a goal of highlighting and benefiting an array of social causes. The series debuts with the screening of Unrest, in which documentarian Jennifer Brea turns the camera on herself for an intimate look at the often-misunderstood illness known as chronic fatigue syndrome. Unrest screens with Brea on hand for Q&A, followed by a hosted wine hour where the conversation continues. The screening benefits Brea’s Time for Unrest organization, helping those suffering from chronic fatigue get the recognition and help they need. In light of recent events, proceeds will also go to hurricane relief efforts. Social Cause Films presents Unrest
on Thursday, Oct. 5, at Raven Film Center, 415 Center St., Healdsburg. 6pm. $20–$40. Advance tickets required.

Half Marathon

It’s hard to find a more scenic run than Dry Creek Valley in and around Healdsburg, where the annual Healdsburg Half Marathon takes place this weekend. Starting and ending in downtown Healdsburg, the epic 13.1-mile fully paved course winds through historical residential neighborhoods before setting out among picturesque vineyards and wineries. After the run, the fun continues with an Oktoberfest-style wine and beer tasting, featuring 10 local wine and beer purveyors and hot food to nourish those worn-out muscles. Both the half marathon and a 5K run take place Sunday, Oct. 8, and begin at Healdsburg City Hall,
401 Grove St., Healdsburg. 7:30am. Entry fee, $130–$135; 5K entry fee, $50.

Shed Supper

The tight-knit kitchen staff at Healdsburg Shed, led by culinary director and chef Perry Hoffman, creates immaculate flavors from locally sourced foods at its monthly Shed Supper event. October’s supper embraces Latin flavors and traditional dishes of Mexico for a family-style meal accompanied by live entertainment. This special edition of the supper is also a fundraiser for Corazón, a Healdsburg nonprofit dedicated to supporting multiculturalism and bridging racial and economic division in the community by connecting residents to health programs and services to better their quality of life. Healdsburg Shed will match all proceeds from the event so give generously while enjoying a casual community meal and performance
by Ballet Folklorico El Valle,
St. Helena’s troupe of Oaxacan dancers. Sunday, Oct. 8, at Healdsburg Shed, 25 North St., Healdsburg. 6:30pm. $50 and up.

Get Downtown

Anchored by a massive gazebo and surrounded by world-class businesses, Healdsburg Plaza is the town’s favorite focal point for community events and gathering like the upcoming Get Downtown Business Showcase & Community Resource Fair. This fifth annual showcase features several local businesses and resource providers, as well as members of the city council. Learn more about the community, enjoy free samples and get lots of giveaways in this family friendly evening at the plaza on Wednesday, Oct. 11, Healdsburg Avenue and Matheson Street, Healdsburg. 4pm to 7pm. Free admission.

Dancing with the Stars

Just like the popular television show, Healdsburg’s own Dancing with the Stars annual fundraiser features local stars and professional dancers paired up for a rousing performance competition. This year’s theme is “Bubbles & Bling,” offering a lineup of local stars like school principal James Brandt, business owner Marsha Croft, disability advocate Lake Kowell, architect and real estate agent Bob Pennypacker and others. Audiences vote for their favorite teams by donating money to benefit the Raven nonprofit performing arts theater. Each dollar equals one vote, and there’s no limit to voting, so vote early and often at the preview show on Thursday,
Nov. 2, and the big dance on Saturday, Nov. 4, at the Raven Theater, 115 North St., Healdsburg. 7:30pm. $35–$45; preview, $10–$20.

20th Anniversary
Jazz Festival Gala

Healdsburg Jazz Festival is marking two decades of bringing the best contemporary jazz music to town with a 20th Anniversary Jazz Festival Gala that celebrates the event’s enduring legacy and raises funds for the upcoming 2018 season. Turning the Paul Mahder Gallery into a Roaring Twenties speakeasy, the gala includes a sparkling wine reception and auction before showcasing Jazz Age hits from the likes of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin as performed by the Marcus Shelby Quintet and featuring guests Kenny Washington and Tiffany Austin. A sit-down dinner and late-night dancing completes the party, going down on Saturday, Nov. 11,
at the Paul Mahder Gallery,
222 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg. 6pm. $150.

Sonoma County Library