Healdsburg Jazz Festival canceled for 2011
Festival founder Jessica Felix out as board reconsiders size, format of 12-year-old music fest

  • Jessica Felix (PD FILE, 2005)

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival will take a year off in 2011 and may undergo some changes in size and format before it returns.

The festival's five-member board of directors decided Monday to put the event on hiatus and eliminate festival founder Jessica Felix's position as artistic director to cut costs, said board chairwoman Pat Templin.

Introduced by Felix in 1999, the festival has generated national acclaim and drawn as many as 5,000 fans to Healdsburg for up to 10 days of performances by big-name jazz stars, including saxophonist Charles Lloyd and pianists Cedar Walton, McCoy Tyner and George Cables.

“The festival cannot assume any expenses now, except for very minimal administrative support,” Templin explained.

Felix said the board's action this week came as a surprise to her.

“I had no warning,” she said. “I want to continue my work with jazz. I will be staying in the area for the time being. I'm not sure what I'll be doing.”

Felix, who also operates the Art and All That designer jewelry gallery in Healdsburg, earned an annual salary of $50,0000 as the festival's artistic director last year. In the early years of the event, the position was unpaid.

The festival has operated at a deficit of $30,000 a year for the past three years, Templin said.

Surplus funds covered the shortfall in 2008, but not in 2009 and 2010, Templin said.

“The economy has had a huge impact on us in terms of the money sponsors and individuals feel they can donate,” Templin said.

The annual operating budget for the festival has ranged from $300,000 to $450,000.

The one program that the festival definitely plans to continue next year is Operation Jazz Band, a week-long workshop that introduces fifth-graders at six schools to jazz music and ends in a public concert.

The festival, devoted to pure jazz rather than “smooth jazz” or other pop-music iterations, held its 12th annual event last June 4-13 at a variety of venues, including wineries, cafes, parks and the Raven Theater.

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