Hancock Park and Ojai resident Jamie Bennett raves about his new job as president of the Ojai Music Festival, which celebrates its 70th year June 9 to 12.
Set in an outdoor park in Ojai’s Libbey Bowl, the summertime, alfresco music series promises a broad range of music at accessible prices, says Bennett.
The 1,500-seat amphitheater “is charming and very compact. There’s not a bad seat in the house… and June is such a beautiful time of year in Ojai.”
Bennett has been a fan of the festival since he and his wife Carolyn bought a farm with fruit and olive trees in the countryside a few miles outside of Ojai six years ago.
He has been a seasoned board member of several not-for-profit organizations, including the Public Television Advisory Board at the Annenberg School at USC, the National Environmental Trust in Wash., D.C., Northfield Mount Hermon School in Massachusetts and Marlborough School.
He joined the Ojai Music Festival board in 2015.
The longtime Windsor Square and Hancock Park resident was well positioned to take over as festival president in October, because of his dual bases, both the farm in the rural town, located at the edge of Los Padres National Forest, and, Los Angeles, the source of much of the festival audience and financial support.
From his office in the heart of old town Ojai, Bennett stays busy with day-to-day operations, community and school relations, managing a large pool of volunteers and a six-member staff (that balloons to 40 during the season) plus part-timers and a $2 million annual budget—besides fundraising, strategic planning, and community outreach.
Hancock Park Garden Club
His wife, Carolyn, has rolled up her shirt sleeves and borrowed from her experience as a former president of the Hancock Park Garden Club and as a delegate to the Garden Club of America on conservation issues. She is introducing the Garden & Music Experience at this year’s festival. The two-day event offers visits to landscape architects’ and interior designers’ private gardens, a stay at the Ojai Valley Inn and fine wines and foods. For tickets visit ojaifestival.org/exploreojai/garden-music-experience.
It was Carolyn’s dream to have a larger garden that inspired the couple’s move to Ojai. The couple, who have three adult children, grow vegetables year round and share the land with 100s of honey bee hives.
Bennett wasn’t looking for a new job last fall and was commuting during the week to his job as chief operating officer of Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Previously he had been a business advisor, investor and director with the Pasadena Angels, which specializes in local emerging growth companies.
He also has served as CEO of worldwide productions for London-based Pearson Television, as CEO of Los Angeles-based ACI Television and as a senior vice-president at Disney’s Buena Vista TV Productions in Burbank. Bennett also worked for CBS, including five years as General Manager of KCBS-TV in Los Angeles.
A New Jersey native, he holds a master’s in business administration from Harvard University and a bachelor of arts in political science from UC Berkeley.
World-class music festival
The businessman-entrepreneur enjoys presenting music, which is what he did as an undergrad at the Berkeley Jazz Festival when he was on that campus in the 1960s.
Years later, he’s grateful for his newest gig.
Each year, a new musical director is chosen at the festival, he says. Stravinsky, Copland and Pierre Boulez were among them.
“It’s a real gem—one of the world’s most important annual music institutions for contemporary, experimental and classical music,” says Bennett.