Author spotlight: Steven Libowitz

Steven has reported on the arts and entertainment for more than 30 years. He has published his work in daily and weekly newspapers in New Jersey and California, as well as in Santa Barbara Magazine and a nationally syndicated news service. When not at his computer or out on the town, you’ll often find him playing volleyball at East Beach, just a short jog from Montecito’s famous Butterfly Beach.

Setting the Standard: SBCC Foundation Creates Opportunity
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 23, 2021

Santa Barbara City College Foundation CEO Geoff Green is understandably proud of the SBCC Promise, the innovative program he spearheaded that launched in 2016 and provides all local high school graduates with the opportunity to attend SBCC full-time free of charge for up to two years. Since then, more than 5,000 students have availed themselves […]

Watson, Come Here: Ex-OCMS Member Something to Crow About
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 21, 2021

It takes a lot of guts to walk away from a successful band you co-founded, but for Willie Watson, 13 years with the Old Crow Medicine Show (OCMS) were enough. “There were some differences about our musical direction,” Watson said, somewhat diplomatically explaining his 2011 departure from the popular alternative country/Americana band that helped jumpstart […]

CAST of Characters
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 21, 2021

Your faithful correspondent finds collaborations compelling, whether between artists in various genres or among cooperating venues. Both are in play with the current showcase series at Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology (SBCAST), where three of its Artists in Residence are staging weekend exhibits of installation art, design, multimedia projects, and performances. The […]

‘The Last Honky Tonk Hero’
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 21, 2021

We’ll leave it up to the listener to decide if the new CD from Mike Dawson & The Smokin Kills lives up to its title. But we can tell you that the guy fronting the band is the real deal: Dawson is the former longtime DJ, music director, and producer at KTYD, Santa Barbara’s classic […]

Taking Pride in Their Continued Impact
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 16, 2021

For many nonprofits in Santa Barbara and around the nation, the height of the COVID pandemic was a time to retrench, perhaps scale back operations or even temporarily close their doors. Pacific Pride Foundation (PPF), on the other hand, not only kept nearly all its services available, but also expanded some of its programs in […]

Surf’s Up! Dean Torrence Still Going Strong 60 years later
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 14, 2021

Although surf rock pioneers Jan & Dean first rode their surfboards and sang their tunes more than 60 years ago barely 90 miles south of Santa Barbara, Dean Torrence, the surviving member of the duo, can only recall playing in town twice before. Both times were at the Santa Barbara Bowl with the Beach Boys, […]

Honoring the Heroes of Hospice: For Elizabeth Gilbert, It’s Personal
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 14, 2021

Hospice of Santa Barbara (HSB) could hardly have found a more appropriate keynote speaker for its 9th Annual Heroes of Hospice than Elizabeth Gilbert. The author best known for her memoir Eat Pray Love about her year-long globe-travelling journey to heal from a devastating divorce more recently penned Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, revealing […]

Justified Pivot: Organization Doesn’t Stop Fight Against Discrimination
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 9, 2021

Just Communities (JC), the nonprofit whose mission includes “dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression,” works towards its vision of an equitable and inclusive Central Coast by offering cultural competency training to organizational leaders, education seminars for the general public, leadership training for students and teachers, and customized consultation to local agencies for diversity […]

the Fortnight: 4 – 24 SEPTEMBER
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 9, 2021

WED & FRI, SEPT 8 & 10: L.A. rock, then and now, at Lobero  The Wallflowers’ leader Jakob Dylan has spent time in recent years either making or promoting Echo in the Canyon, the documentary that looks back longingly at the mid-1960s when Hollywood’s Laurel Canyon served as creative and residential stomping grounds for such […]

‘Open’ for Business
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 7, 2021

After canceling due to the coronavirus pandemic last Labor Day weekend, the Santa Barbara Studio Artists’ Open Studios Tour is back for its 20th annual event with nearly 30 local painters, sculptors, mixed-media, and other artists throwing open the doors to the spaces where they create their works. Once again, art lovers will have the […]

Toad’s Evolving Comeback is ‘Starting Now’
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 2, 2021

The journey of Santa Barbara native singer-songwriter Glen Phillips from an ambitious 15-year-old forming a rock band with some friends in high school to the 50-year-old multi-faceted artist he is today is something to treasure. That band, Toad the Wet Sprocket, is one of the more successful to have emerged from Santa Barbara, having released […]

Santa Barbara: The Epicenter of (Direct) Relief
By Steven Libowitz   |   September 2, 2021

Direct Relief has been so efficient at serving as one of the country’s most effective humanitarian assistance organizations that it’s easy to overlook the scope and the scale of what the nonprofit achieves. Just last week alone, for example, Direct Relief airlifted a huge planeload of medical supplies and other equipment to Haiti after the […]

McGarry’s New Play Breaks Her Own Code
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 31, 2021

Santa Barbara writer Claudia Hoag McGarry has been involved in the arts in town for more than 30 years, including teaching English Skills at SBCC for more than three decades, publishing three novels including two thrillers and a young adult memoir, producing four plays all in the historical drama genre, and writing screenplays and even […]

Milk Carton Kids: The Alchemy of Duck Soup
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 31, 2021

Joey Ryan and Kenneth Pattengale came together in 2011 as the acoustic duo Milk Carton Kids after the singer-songwriter-guitarists, who both lived in the Los Angeles neighborhood known as Eagle Rock, had stagnated in their solo careers. Back then, nobody could possibly have predicted just how much the synergy of the pairing would exceed the […]

The Joy of Sax: Dave Koz Back on Tour
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 31, 2021

As a smooth jazz star, saxophonist Dave Koz has always been acutely aware of audience response, as the genre can often be about providing the sort of soundtrack that people are seeking in their lives. But nearly two years away from performing in front of the public largely due to the COVID pandemic really crystallized […]

A Look Toward the Future: How Endowing the Lobero Helps the Community
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 26, 2021

The Lobero Theatre is by far the oldest performing arts venue in Santa Barbara. In fact, it’s actually the longest operating theater in all of California, dating back just a couple of decades after California became the 31st state admitted to the union. The Lobero also ranks fourth in seniority among all performing arts buildings […]

Playing ‘Day’ at Night
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 24, 2021

While PCPA Theaterfest’s first show of the summer was a self-referential original revue celebrating a return to live performance at the Solvang Festival Theater, the season closer is tried-and-true. Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill is a two-character musical that finds the legendary singer Billie Holiday performing in a seedy South Philadelphia bar in […]

Summing up a MAW Summer
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 24, 2021

Despite the pandemic, the Music Academy of the West managed to complete what seemed a remarkably ambitious, largely in-person season that brought together 100 fellows – the vast majority of the virtual-only “student” participants from last year – a full complement of faculty members, and an audience eager to once again enjoy classical music from […]

Pitches with a Purpose
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 24, 2021

In the online realm, the MAW fellows hit the ball out of the park in this year’s Fast Pitch Awards, the academy’s second-year Shark Tank-style competition for the fellows to propose innovative ideas for products, services, or performances related to new approaches to classical music. Nearly all the eight hopefuls who made it onto the […]

One with Nature: Montecito Union’s Unique Lab Making Progress
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 19, 2021

Montecito Union School’s Nature Lab, its interactive 2.5-acre space that’s beginning to take shape on the Upper Village campus, has been serving as a learning laboratory even before ground was broken on the project. The students at the enviable elementary school were a big part of the process about how to use the land adjacent […]

‘Mirrorflores’: The Music Academy Looks Back — and Forward
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 19, 2021

Concern for safety protocols with the ever-changing pandemic caused the Music Academy of the West to commit to converting its annual Opera Scenes production into an audience-free, socially distanced cinematic opus this summer. But for James Darrah, the creative director of Music Academy of the West’s Vocal Institute, Mirrorflores — a clever play on words […]

Ready for its Close-Up: Guided by Montecito Architect, SBMA Reopens
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 19, 2021

On the eve of Santa Barbara Museum of Art’s grand reopening of its galleries following a six-year, $50-million renovation that saw hulking construction equipment and a boarded up facade dominate its downtown space, the project’s architect, Montecito resident Bob Kupiec, recalled a story that illustrates why he leapt at the chance to spearhead the redesign […]

A Beautiful Race: Annual Fundraiser is Back for Girls Inc.
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 12, 2021

Girls Inc. of Greater Santa Barbara has had plenty on its plate since the pandemic altered almost everything back in March 2020. Like everyone else, the nonprofit — whose mission is to inspire all girls to be strong, smart, and bold with a vision serving empowered girls in an equitable society — had to make […]

Quite the Mayes: Baritone Talks Unique South Coast Journey
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 12, 2021

If vocal fellow Byron Mayes’ name seems familiar, you’re not imagining things. The baritone, like all the other 2021 fellows matriculating at MAW’s Miraflores campus in Montecito this year, was part of MARLI, the Music Academy’s virtual-only season during the early part of the pandemic last summer. But the singer’s Santa Barbara-connected tenure goes back […]

3Qs with Shorts Fest curator Lynn Holley
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 5, 2021

After three years and five festivals screening at SBCAST, Lynn Holley’s 3 Minute Film Festival is going back online for its ninth iteration, with all 31 selections culled from twice as many entries from a dozen countries being screened on its website beginning August 1. Dubbed “The best little boutique film festival on an international […]

Think Fast: Real-time Competition, Digital Challenge on Tap for MAW
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 5, 2021

The Music Academy of the West morphed into a virtual institute by necessity because of the COVID pandemic last summer, employing its inventive MARLI program — Music Academy Remote Learning Institute — to maintain connection with its faculty and fellows from around the world via a variety of platforms on the Internet and the use […]

A Virtual Success: Cottage Hospital Foundation Surpasses Tiara Ball Goals
By Steven Libowitz   |   August 5, 2021

Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital Foundation’s 2020 Tiara Ball, one of the more popular annual black-tie galas in a town with no shortage of big bash benefits, was one of the last public events in the community before the COVID crisis closed everything down. The so-called “Party of the Year,” held on February 29, Leap Year […]

Packed to the Gill: Zach Talks ALO, Going Solo, and Lobero
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 29, 2021

Longtime Santa Barbara-based multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Zach Gill has led a multi-dimensional musical life even before meeting soon-to-be surf singer-songwriter superstar Jack Johnson in Isla Vista and then forming the Animal Liberation Orchestra (now ALO) with childhood friends. Over 20-plus years of moving between ALO’s annual “Tour D’Amours,” band recordings, sitting in and going on the […]

Busy, Busy: Sitting Down with Two MAW Artists with Plenty on Their Plates
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 29, 2021

Juggling all the tasks and opportunities a fellow faces at the Music Academy of the West is a stiff if rewarding challenge in a normal summer, what with private lessons and sectional coaching, studying new pieces of repertoire, practicing as an individual and rehearsing for chamber, orchestra, and duo concerts, performing in master classes and […]

Coming Back ‘Together’: PCPA Returns with Show Searching for Commonality
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 29, 2021

Although even its outdoor theater in Solvang was dark all last year, PCPA Theaterfest took to virtual programming right away after COVID hit, offering weekly conversations with alumni around the country along with Zoom readings of works new to the area, then upped the ante with produced longer-form videos, including cabarets over the holiday season […]

Empowering Women Through Financial Education
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 29, 2021

Women’s Economic Ventures has been helping women start and run businesses for more than 30 years, helping in a variety of ways to many of the local shops and services that provide the fabric of our community. Indeed, the statistics of its success are staggering: Nearly 50 percent of clients do end up starting a […]

To the Garvin! New Revue Puts SBCC Theatre Group Back on Stage
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 22, 2021

If SBCC Theatre Group’s welcome back production at the Garvin Theatre this weekend evokes a feeling of deja vu, that might be because the show, now titled Here We Go Again! A Musical Revue is something of an update of one SBCC offered last fall. But while Looking Back, Looking Forward was made inside its […]

‘Everything I was Involved in Just Disappeared’ Violist Richard O’Neill Relishes Being Back on Stage
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 22, 2021

Life since March 2020 has been a whirlwind of activity and emotion for violist Richard O’Neill. Like everyone else, he was deeply affected by the pandemic, as precautions shut down all the arts worldwide — “All my concerts, solo projects, summer festivals, and everything I was involved in just disappeared, like they’d been written on […]

Feeding Curiosity: Wilderness Youth Project Utilizes Nature to Educate
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 22, 2021

I wasn’t much of a hiker before the pandemic. But being cooped up inside for days and weeks on end, with no opportunities for dancing of beach volleyball, finally spurred me to put fears of poison oak and chiggers out of my mind to brave the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. Pretty soon that became a […]

The Luke Ponders Pandemic Productions, then Faces Forward
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 15, 2021

The performing arts venues in Santa Barbara each responded to the pandemic in different ways. SOhO, the Granada, and the New Vic Theatre more or less went into hibernation, save for a one-off production or two (Montecito’s Pete Muller recording a Save Our Stages video; Grace Fisher’s holiday show; and Ensemble’s one-man An Iliad, respectively, […]

Taking on the Challenge: Rachleff Leads MAW into Uncharted Territory
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 15, 2021

Imagine stepping in to lead a fully established orchestra with your wits and a baton your only weapons to mold the symphony musicians into at least a shared vision for a performance. That’s the job of most visiting conductors who travel the world for one-off concerts. Now imagine coming to an organization where the players […]

Changing Course: United Way Alters Path to Help Serve More
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 15, 2021

For a relatively large and well-established nonprofit organization in our community, United Way of Santa Barbara County over the last few years has demonstrated the ability to respond quickly to current circumstances — not so much as an about face or even a course correction, but more of an adapting to changing needs to meet […]

By Steven Libowitz   |   July 8, 2021

Santa Barbara has been all awash with talk about the reopening of public schools ever since the pandemic shut them down last spring. Parents of school-age children have had different desires and needs in this area as the situation and responses including various methods of remote learning shifted, with some schools reopening earlier than others, […]

‘Transformative Experience’: A MAW Season Preview with Jamie Broumas
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 8, 2021

Jamie Broumas, the Music Academy of the West’s second year chief artistic officer, had the unenviable task of trying to program a performance-packed summer music festival during the ups and downs of the pandemic and the ever-changing protocols.  “It was very, very, very challenging,” she admitted over the phone the other day. “Were we going […]

A Commitment to Youth: Storyteller Children’s Center Withstood the Pandemic
By Steven Libowitz   |   July 8, 2021

Santa Barbara has been all awash with talk about the reopening of public schools ever since the pandemic shut them down last spring. Parents of school-age children have had different desires and needs in this area as the situation and responses including various methods of remote learning shifted, with some schools reopening earlier than others, […]