Jacaranda Chamber Ensemble
Jacaranda Chamber Ensemble | Credit: Mike Baker

Jacaranda Music, one of Southern California’s most innovative and acclaimed presenters of classical music, has announced that its upcoming 20th season will be its last.

Widely hailed by critics for its high musical standards and wide-ranging repertoire, which has included all eras but emphasized the 20th and 21st centuries, the organization has struggled financially for years. Its financial problems have been exacerbated by a drop-off in both ticket sales and donations following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I have no regrets,” said Artistic and Executive Director Patrick Scott, who co-founded the organization in 2003. “Jacaranda has been a trendsetter for two decades. I’m extremely proud of the dynamic, cutting-edge work we’ve presented.”

Scott pointed to a combination of rising expenses, including increased fees to musicians, and what he called “the slow audience decline in Santa Monica,” where Jacaranda’s concerts are typically held. He noted that COVID “raised inhibitions and cut people off from live culture” but added that the organization’s problems predated the pandemic.

Patrick Scott
Patrick Scott | Credit: Mike Baker

“Long before the pandemic hit, concerned arts data crunchers warned the nonprofit field about organizational stability,” he said. “Performing arts organizations with budgets under $500,000 and no endowment, such as Jacaranda, were deemed especially vulnerable to change. Change happened.”

The organization’s 2022–2023 budget was $360,000. “The budget has grown incrementally every year since our inception 20 years ago to keep pace with rising expenses,” he said. “Government agencies incentivize growth by the way they calculate awards, but their funding is not indexed to inflation, so they annually pay for less. Everything costs more, however.”

Jacaranda is concluding its run in a defiantly uncompromising way, devoting its final season to a celebration of Arnold Schoenberg, whose thorny atonal music has never been called crowd-pleasing. 2024 will mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, and the five-concert season will feature seven of his works, including the Chamber Symphony No. 1 and Ode to Napoleon.

The season, which opens Sept. 23 at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica, will also feature works by composers who inspired Schoenberg, including J.S. Bach and Franz Schubert; those who were influenced by him, including Alban Berg and Pierre Boulez; and some of his contemporaries, including Ernst Krenek and Richard Strauss.

The opening concert will feature Schoenberg’s rarely performed song cycle The Book of the Hanging Gardens, sung by mezzo-soprano Katarzyna Sadej, and the chamber version of Gustav Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, which was arranged by Erwin Stein in 1920 at Schoenberg’s request.

Perhaps most interesting — and indicative of Jacaranda’s creative approach to programming — the penultimate concert, on Feb. 25, 2024, will feature jazz giant John Coltrane’s masterpiece, A Love Supreme. Scott said Coltrane’s “groundbreaking style is rooted in Schoenberg’s techniques, gleaned from his teacher Dennis Sandole, a Schoenberg student.”

In addition, the season will include the world premiere of Peter Knell’s Arkhipov Synthesis on Nov. 11 as part of the statewide California Festival. Adapted from an opera-in-progress Jacaranda premiered last season, Knell’s work utilizes Schoenberg’s 12-tone technique as well as jazz influences.

Jacaranda’s legacy promises to continue via its recordings. Two have been issued to date: One features music of Julius Eastman, while the other includes pieces by Bruce Broughton and William Kraft.

For more information on the final season, go to Jacaranda’s website.