July 23, 2024

Siskiyou Music Project celebrates 20 years with concert series

Halie Loren
Singer-songwriter Halie Loren will kick off the Siskiyou Music Project's 20th anniversary celebration with a concert Aug. 13 at the Old Siskiyou Barn on Old Siskiyou Highway.
July 24, 2023

Halie Loren Trio will open four-show jazz series, followed by Jessica Fichot Quartet, guitarist Ron Jackson and gypsy jazz band Pearl Django

By Jim Flint for

Siskiyou Music Project will celebrate its 20th anniversary Aug. 13 through Oct. 27 with a summer-fall jazz concert series in Ashland, featuring four internationally renowned artists.

Founded in 2001, the SMP turned 20 years old in 2021, but producing live concerts to celebrate the occasion was out of the question in the middle of a pandemic lockdown.

However, 2023 marks the 20th year of Ed Dunsavage serving as the project’s artistic director. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to celebrate both milestones.

“I never imagined 20 years ago when I was asked to be part of Siskiyou Music Project that I’d still be at it 20 years later,” Dunsavage said. “I hope the organization can continue bringing world-class music to Southern Oregon and music into our schools.”

The first concert will be held at Old Siskiyou Barn, 2600 Old Siskiyou Highway; the final three at Grizzly Peak Winery, 1600 E. Nevada St. All concerts will start at 7 p.m. Tickets are $10 for students with ID, $25 for SMP members and $30 general admission.

Concert schedule

The Halie Loren Trio will perform Sunday, Aug. 13, at the Old Siskiyou Barn. Loren, based in Eugene, grew up in Sitka, Alaska. The award-winning jazz singer and songwriter is a lover of global cultures and music, reflected in her multilingual repertoire. She sings in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, Japanese, Korean and her native English.

“This will be a wonderful, intimate concert at the Old Siskiyou Barn,” Dunsavage said. Pianist Rob Kohler and bassist Lee Kohler will join Loren.

She has released eight albums, garnering several national and international awards. Her albums have consistently hit No. 1 in Billboard/Japan Jazz Charts, iTunes (Canada and Japan), and Amazon Music. Her debut jazz CD, “They Oughta Write a Song,” won the award for Best Vocal Jazz Album of the year in the JPF (Just Plain Folks) Music Awards, the world’s largest music awards program. She regularly tours North America, Asia and Europe.

“Loren has something to say, and her voice is as attractive and intoxicating as anything,” said Dan Bilawsky of All About Jazz.

L.A.-based chanteuse and songwriter Jessica Fichot will take the stage with her quartet at Grizzly Peak Winery Aug. 30.

The Jessica Fichot Quartet will take the stage at Grizzly Peak Winery on Wednesday, Aug. 30. Fichot draws from her French, Chinese and American heritage to create a program of French chanson, 1940s Shanghai jazz, gypsy swing and international folk.

The Los Angeles-based chanteuse and songwriter performs vocals with accordion and toy piano, along with her fiery band, made up of Chloe Feoranzo on clarinet and sax, Alexis Soto Jr. on upright bass, and Tom Moose on guitar.

With three albums under her belt, Fichot has charmed audiences around the world, performing her lively songs at concert halls, festivals and clubs in China, Mexico, Canada and throughout Western Europe and the U.S.

“Fichot brings an art-song sensibility to delightfully catchy tunes,” said the Los Angeles Times. “A delicious blend of acoustic styles,” said the San Francisco Chronicle.

Ron Jackson, a New York-based seven-string jazz guitarist, will perform with his trio Sept. 24 at Grizzly Peak Winery.

The Ron Jackson Trio will play on Sunday, Sept. 24, at Grizzly Peak Winery, his first Southern Oregon appearance.

“Ron is a fabulous New York-based seven-string jazz guitarist and he’ll be joined by the fantastic rhythm section of Sylvia Cuenca on drums and Essiet Essiet on bass,” Dunsavage said.

Jackson has performed, recorded and taught music in more than 30 countries. A composer and arranger, he has toured and done shows with such artists as Taj Mahal, Jimmy McGriff, Benny Golson and Mulgrew Miller.

Initially influenced by rock greats like Jimmy Page, he fell under the spell of jazz, following the style and career of jazz guitar luminaries such as Pat Matheny and George Benson.

“Jackson’s arrangements are erudite and smoothly executed,” said Jazz Blues News.

He currently teaches guitar at Jazz at Lincoln Center’s Jazz in the Schools, the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz, Escuela Creativa Musica in Madrid, Spain, and at California State University.

Pearl Django, one of the best-known gypsy jazz groups performing today, will play at Grizzly Peak Winery Oct. 27.

Pearl Django will perform on Friday, Oct. 27, at Grizzly Peak Winery.

“They’re well known to Southern Oregon jazz fans,” Dunsavage said. “They’re probably one of the best-known gypsy jazz groups performing today.”

The band has been performing for more than 29 years and has released 15 CDs. Although its roots are firmly in the music made famous by Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli, the band’s repertoire also includes traditional jazz classics and original compositions.

Members include Tim Lerch and Jim Char on guitar, David Lange on accordion, Michael Gray on violin, and Rick Leppanen on bass.

“They’re pretty much irresistible to jazz and non-jazz listeners alike,” said Seattle Weekly. “The gypsy jazz of Django Reinhardt done to perfection,” said the Seattle Times.

How it began

Dunsavage got his first guitar 59 years ago after seeing the Beatles perform on the Ed Sullivan show.

“I was 8 years old, and I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life,” he said.

He has enjoyed a successful career as a jazz guitarist and music promoter. He formed his own trio with Joe Cohoon and the late Gary “Chicken” Hirsh. Dunsavage has been an adjunct guitar instructor at Southern Oregon University the last 12 years.

Ed Dunsavage, artistic director of Siskiyou Music Project, plays guitar.

Siskiyou Music Project had its origins as the Siskiyou Institute, founded by Rick and Joanne Soued at the Old Siskiyou Barn, which they built on their property in the hills outside Ashland.

“I first attended a concert there in 1999,” Dunsavage said. “I fell in love with the venue and hit it off with Rick and Joanne.”

At the time, he was managing the entertainment for the Mark Antony Hotel (now the Ashland Springs Hotel) and the Red Lion in Medford.

“I asked the Soueds if they’d consider presenting a jazz concert at the Old Siskiyou Barn and they were interested,” Dunsavage said. “I presented two concerts that year. They were very well received and a couple years later they approached me about becoming artistic director.”

Siskiyou Music Project became a nonprofit arts presenter in October of 2001 and Dunsavage signed on in 2003.

Outreach to schools

In addition to bringing world-class artists to the Rogue Valley, SMP also has an outreach program that introduces musicians to students in area schools, including SOU.

“Most of the artists we select to perform in our concert series have some teaching background,” Dunsavage said.

It’s not a requirement that they participate in the outreach program, but many are open to visiting schools while they’re in Southern Oregon.

In the beginning, workshops were held for students and the public at the Old Siskiyou Barn. In order to reach more students, SMP decided it needed to go into the schools.

“We got a few grants,” Dunsavage said. “And I started contacting local music teachers in the valley. Most of them were very receptive to the idea.”

Typically, the artists who visit the classrooms perform for the students, listen to the students play, take questions from them and try to give them an idea of what it’s like to be a professional musician.

SMP has collaborated in the past with other presenters, such as the Jefferson Guitar Society.

“Our most rewarding collaboration has been with the Britt Festival education department,” Dunsavage said. “It has a year-round program. We generally collaborate with them two or three times a year.

“With their assistance, we are able to set up a three- or four-day residency where the artists can visit a number of schools in the valley and finish the week with a concert,” he said.

Dunsavage says SMP has appreciated the public interest and support, and notes that tickets are selling well for this year’s concerts.

“I hope people enjoy the music and have a great time,” he said. “Our concerts have become real social events. It’s great to see so many friends and supporters at each of our shows.”

For more information about Siskiyou Music Project and the concert series, and to purchase tickets, go to

Reach writer Jim Flint at

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