Music in the Gardens

By Steven Libowitz   |   October 3, 2019
Back row left to right) Claire Johnson, Patty Jacquemin, Judy Astbury, Sarah Rowe Stretz, Minie Pompe Van Meerdervoort. (Next row starting with pink top left to right) Nan Holt, Kathie Organ, Sandra Walther, Kaye Willette, Heidi August, Ann Sarkis, Judy Weisman, Jane Giles, KC O’Donnell, Anthony Paggett, and Ana Papakhian. (Front row left to right) Christina Leveque, Nancy Schultz, Debra Cochrane-Vercammen, Kate Oberjat, and Chris Buckpitt.

You won’t find any violins, violas or cellos on the grounds of the Music Academy of the West next Sunday afternoon, October 13, when the classical music institute hosts the Music in the Gardens benefit. But there will be plenty of guitars, electric basses, banjos, horns and even a fiddle or two at the second annual event sponsored by The Women’s Auxiliary as a fundraiser for MAW’s community programs and scholarships.

Last year, the Auxiliary junked its longtime springtime community rummage sale known as May Madness in favor of an eclectic adventure pairing musical genres and locations with connected cuisines as an early autumn afternoon adventure in the lush and picturesque gardens on the Miraflores campus. The initial Music in the Gardens – World Music proved so popular, they’re doing it again, this time with a narrower focus on American music and food.

At Music in the Gardens – American Rhythms, patrons will stroll the grass-covered, tree-lined grounds to savor the sounds of live performances while sampling Americana wines, curated cocktails and cuisine prepared on-site by master chefs from Rincon Events at five separate garden spots, each with its own theme.

“It’s a great party in the gardens on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with fabulous music and paired food,” enthused Nancy Schultz, who joined MAW’s Women’s Auxiliary within a year of moving to Santa Barbara in 2016, and serves as co-chair of this year’s benefit event. “The gardens at the Music Academy are awesome, and even people who are already a part of the MAW family don’t usually spend a lot of time in them.”

The Garden party not only offers ample time outdoors at MAW but also a chance to savor sounds seldom heard on site during the summer season.

“MAW is first and foremost focused on classical music, of course,” Schultz. “But the organization believes that music a huge umbrella that moves people in many ways.”

To that end, the five stations each with its own location in the sprawling gardens at Miraflores feature a different musical act. The Amanda Castro Jazz Band, led by the charismatic singer, offers a musical journey through the decades specializing in vintage jazz and swing with a modern twist at the Jazz station, where Rincon Events will sear on site Cochon de Lait Pulled Pork Po’ Boys with watermelon slaw, accompanied by Pimento Cheese Pinwheel pastries and Chocolate Pecan Squares for dessert.

The New Orleans-oriented garden features Dixieland Jazz and other sounds of Bourbon Street from Santa Barbara’s popular Ulysses Jazz band, which has held down the Saturday night spot at the James Joyce Pub for decades. Bayou buffet style boasts Snake River Farm Wagyu beef sliders – with cheddar cheese, grilled onions, horseradish mayo and ketchup on a handmade brioche roll – grilled at the station, and served alongside Sugared Bacon Skewers and Dixie Caviar dominated by lightly pickled black-eyed peas.

You’ll be picking and grinning along with Santa Barbara stalwarts Peter Feldmann and the Very Lonesome Boys, which features the founder of the Santa Barbara Fiddlers Convention, at the bluegrass station, where the Rincon Events menu boasts Kentucky Burgoo featuring slow-cooked pork, beef and chicken stew with corn, carrots, lima beans and more, accompanied by Okra and Green Tomato Fritters pan fried on the spot. Compressed Watermelon Mint Juleps should make the food slide down as easily as raindrops from a spring shower washing down the hillsides in Appalachia.

Cajun shrimp on bamboo skewers will be seared at the Blues Station and served with classic Southern Deviled Eggs topped by bacon glazed with brown sugar and spices and Southern Cajun Boiled Peanuts, featuring the green legumes boiled with traditional Cajun spices. You’re likely to be appreciating your lot in life as Kelly’s Lot – a Los Angeles band marking a quarter-century together – offers up 12-bar blues and R&B songs to munch and chew to.

Rockin’ Chicken – fried chicken tossed in Rincon Hot Sauce on the spot and served on a biscuit topped with a pickle slice and drizzled with local honey – is served alongside equally classic American fare including Mac-and-Cheese and S’Mores (with hand whipped toasted marshmallow clouds) for that most American musical style of all, rock and roll, which combines elements of almost all of the others. The Roaries, who have been covering classic rock songs in and around L.A. since the mid-1990s, rear back and rock out at their rock garden stage at the station.

If tasting tantalizing food and moving and grooving to a bunch of different bands – at least one garden will sport a portable dance floor, so be sure to bring dance shoes – isn’t special enough, Music in the Gardens also boasts an unusual take on the auction that raises further funds at most benefit events. Rather than struggling with pens and paper and having to scamper back to the tables to check your bid’s status, all of the auction activities take place online and are accessible via mobile phone. Once you register your phone (Text “Music2019” to 52182), it’s a very simple procedure to bid, Schultz said.

Two ski packages for a week in Park City, Utah, and three nights in Big Sky, Montana, for up to 10 guests highlight myriad travel opportunities, with local activities such as sailing adventures, a kayak trip, and whale watching tours, plus dinners, wine, ticket packages and much more also up for auction.

Tickets to Music in the Gardens – American Rhythms, which takes place 3-6 pm on Sunday, October 13, cost $125, all inclusive. Proceeds from sales and auctions items go to support scholarships for Music Academy fellows to study on campus each summer as well as MAW’s Community Access Program, which provides subsidized $10 tickets and free tickets for guests ages 7-17 to all Music Academy events. Visit or call (805) 969-8787.


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