Evan Christopher Returns to Idyllwild to Headline Jazz in the Pines

Idyllwild experience helped shape his musical career

Evan Christopher will return to Idyllwild where he honed his career as a jazz clarinet player to play in the 21st annual Jazz in the Pines.

Photo by Jim McGuire


Evan Christopher recalls the first time he saw snow.

Or rode a horse.

It was in Idyllwild.

At age 16, world-renowned clarinetist Evan Christopher was attending Los Alamitos High School and nearly dropped out. Then he went to a summer jazz camp at Idyllwild Arts and they convinced him to spend his senior year there.

“I was bored (in public school), and only needed two classes to graduate, and Idyllwild Arts needed bodies,” Evan Christopher says during a phone interview from his home in New Orleans. “There was no orchestra back then. There was one string quartet, one brass quartet, one woodwind quintet and a choral group. It also had some piano and guitar majors.”

In 1987, Christopher was part of the first graduating class at Idyllwild Arts, formerly known as ISOMATA or Idyllwild School of Music and the Arts.

Now he’s returning this week as a headliner for the 21st Annual Jazz in the Pines, Aug. 16-17, on the art school campus. Christopher will perform Aug. 16 with fellow Idyllwild Arts alum, trombonist Jason Jackson.

Idyllwild is also where Christopher met Marshall Hawkins, Idyllwild Arts jazz chair who started Jazz in the Pines, at Elliott Pope Prep School (now Astro Camp).

“We would take our academic classes there in the mornings,” Christopher recalls. “I hadn’t had a formal music lesson (in clarinet, but had taken piano lessons for several years). One time, I was banging on the piano in a spare room and Marshall came in. He offered to teach me how to play jazz piano.”

At that time, Hawkins was teaching tennis and girls basketball at Elliott Pope, but music was his passion. For years, he played the bass for Miles Davis.

“With Marshall, I started experimenting with harmony,” Christopher recalls. “He taught me jazz harmony using the piano as a tool.”

Each week, Christopher would also take clarinet lessons with Dr. Philip Rehfeldt at Redlands University. Elanie Moore, an art teacher at ISOMATA, was his driver, and later became a good friend. They have stayed in touch over the years.

“Evan had star quality back then,” Moore says. “He had drive, focus, and was very dedicated to practicing his music. He would often walk off somewhere to play.”

In 1987, Christopher played with professionals in an annual concert organized by Hawkins that was a precursor to Jazz in the Pines. They were held before 200 people at Rush Hall.

“I got to share the stage with professionals like Jimmy and Jeannie Cheatham, Joe Azarello, Bob Boss, Roy Gonzales, Flip Oakes and the late John Harris,” Christopher says. “They were so encouraging and that gave me the confidence to consider music as a career.”

Christopher later graduated cum laude from Cal State Long Beach, and began a master’s degree at Tulane University. However, when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, Christopher was offered an artist’s residency in Paris, where that he formed his group, Django a la Creole.

“Paris is my band base now,” Christopher says.

Yet, it was living and working in New Orleans that changed his views on jazz.

“Most people think that the New Orleans style of music is a subgenre of jazz,” Christopher says. “But it’s actually the opposite.”

Top inset photo by Hinrich Wulff.

Like what you're reading? Then "Like" us on Facebook and "follow" us on Twitter.

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Desert Guide
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Art for the Collective Eye

Lauded for its modern design and midcentury mystique, Palm Springs abounds with public art, much of it deviating from modernism’s more abstract style.

Flo Rida Looking for Coachella Valley Hotspots Prior to Fantasy Springs Concert

Before he performs Aug. 1 at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, Flo Rida wants to check out Coachella Valley hotspots with the help of local fans pointing where to go via social media.

Christopher Georgesco Shows Artistic Individuality Early in Career

As the son of architect Haralamb Georgescu, who designed Bauhaus-style modern buildings like the Chic Ci Club in palm Springs, Christopher Georgesco staked out his own artistic path.

5 Ways to Escape the Heat

As triple-digit temperatures descend upon the Greater Palm Springs area, here are five places both near and a little far to find shade, cooler temps, and wonderful scenery.

La Rue Café Wine Bar Fills That "Go To" Spot in Your Restaurant Choices

La Rue Café Wine Bar in Old Town La Quinta aims to become that “got to” spot during Palm Springs Restaurant Week, which runs May 27 through June 7.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Romantic Palm Springs Getaway

Experience the beauty, romance and excitement of the Palm Springs area when you enter to be the lucky winner of this romantic couples getaway
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags