Laguna Music Fest’s New Director Strikes a Different Chord

Music Festival Director Laura Ricker may be new to the job, but she’s a veteran of organizing events such as the festival’s silent auction. A GK Cordoba Studio guitar is one of the prizes. Photo by Mitch Ridder
Music Festival Director Laura Ricker may be new to the job, but she’s a veteran of organizing events such as the festival’s silent auction. A GK Cordoba Studio guitar is one of the prizes. Photo by Mitch Ridder

Laura Ricker volunteered her talents as an event organizer of the 2012 Laguna Beach Music Festival and signaled that if the director’s job became available, she’d happily apply. This year, her wish came true.

Ricker steps into a post temporarily filled last year by Carla Neuss after the departure of executive director Sandy Roberts, who was hired as a development director at UC Santa Barbara.

“I’ve been involved in a variety of arts including music, working with agents and booking agents for the past nine years for the Western Arts Alliance,” said Ricker, referring to an organization whose members are touring performing arts professionals and arts presenters and is based in Portland, Ore.

“While I don’t have a background in music, the connections I made and my marketing skills are an asset in this job,” she said. Before joining WAA, Ricker had worked with the Oregon Symphony.

Upon moving to Orange County, Ricker founded her own meeting and event firm Ricker Meeting & Event Service, based in Costa Mesa. “Timing and good fortune came full-circle and I am happy to have the music festival as my client,” she said.

The directorship is a part-time, year-round position that calls for overseeing all non-artistic aspects of next month’s festival, such as establishing event budgets, selecting venues, obtaining contracts and building outreach programs and special events.

One of her goals is to find ways to explore classical music in diverse contexts, expand its audiences and put Laguna Beach on the map for classical music lovers eager to expand their horizons.

In its 13th year, festival programing designed by the Philharmonic Society of Orange County and the executive board of Laguna Beach Live supports her aspirations.

The festival Feb. 12-15 includes performances by two quartets – the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet and the Los Angeles Percussion Quartet — along with performances by actor Phil Proctor and original compositions commissioned by Laguna Beach Live from USC alum Jeffrey Holmes.  Also new is a Valentine’s Day evening performance of Spanish music and dance including “El Amor Brujo,” by the dance troupe L.A. Flamenco and songs by mezzo-soprano Janelle DeStefano.

A multi-media performance of Don Quixote will feature narration by Proctor accompanied by “Music of the Time of Cervantes.

“I think we are getting a rep for doing interesting work that you just don’t get in L.A. or Costa Mesa,” said Cindy Prewitt, a founding board member of Laguna Beach Live.

Philharmonic Society artistic administrator Sean Simimi says the line-up evolved from countless meetings assessing musician’s merits for innovation and versatility and availability. “It is a challenge to select groups that fit into categories of traditional classical music as well as offering high-level, new repertories that continue to expand festival audiences,” noted Simimi.

The guitar quartet, which won a Grammy, will release “Renaissance Project” in March, with a downloadable version available in time for the festival, said quartet member William Kanengiser. He takes credit for synchronizing the planned dramatic reading of Don Quixote with music and special effects. “Music leads the story but it’s Phil’s impersonation of 12 different characters that makes the production sound like a radio drama,” he said.

“It’s a real honor and challenge to be the unifying thread that ties the festival together for four exciting days,” he added.


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