Whale & Jazz Festival

14th Annual Sonoma Mendocino Coast

Whale & Jazz Festival


multiple venues

For ticket prices, see details of each event


Presented by Gualala Arts and taking place during the Smithsonian Institute’s Jazz Appreciation Month of April, this highly regarded festival captures inspired, original jazz art work, whale education, jazz films, poetry and jazz, an annual Chowder Challenge and tasting and live music in atmospheric and beautiful settings.  The venues include wineries, inns, wine bars, and restaurants from Jenner to Point Arena, the classically restored Arena Theater and the Gualala Arts Center nestled in the coastal redwoods.


2017 Festival Schedule

Check with venues for pricing details

Monday, April 3, 7 pm, Arena Theater, Jazz Film

The Amazing Nina Simone (USA, 2015)

A documentary by Jeff Lieberman

Skype with the director following the screening hosted by Fred Adler, Festival Music Coordinator

Arena Theater Film Club and Arena Theater Association members free, guests $10.


Friday, April 7, St. Orres & Jazz, seatings at 6 pm and 8 pm.

Susan Sutton keyboard, Joel Kruzic guitar & bass. Call 884-3335 or visit saintorres.com

Dining reservations recommended.

Thursday, April 13, Fireside Room & Jazz, The Sea Ranch Lodge, 6 pm, Quartet Enchantment, Harrison Goldberg, reeds; Chris Doering, seven string guitar; Don Watanabe, upright bass; Gabe Yanez, drums. Free. Call 707-785-2371 for information or go to searanchlodge.com.

Saturday, April 15, 215 Main & Jazz, 7 pm, Point Arena, Kosmic Debris. Call 707-882-3215 or go to https:/www.facebook.com/215main/

Thursday, April 20, Poetry & Jazz, 7:30 pm, 215 Main, Point Arena. Free. Call 707-882-3215 or go to https:/www.facebook.com/215main/

Thursday, April 27, Whale Talk, Gualala Arts Center, 7 pm, Jodi Smith of Naked Whale Research. Free. Donations accepted. Call 707-884-1138 or go to gualalaarts.org

Saturday, April 29, Chowder Challenge & Jazz, 11:30 – 2:30 pm, Gualala Arts Center, Barnebey’s Hot Four, New Orleans Traditional Jazz, local chefs and individuals join in the annual Chowder Challenge. Chowder tasting $20 advance ticket, $5 more day of (for 15 tasting tickets & commemorative glass). Tickets at BrownPaperTickets.com or in person at Gualala Arts Center or Dolphin Gallery. Free admission for music only. Call 707-884-1138 or go to gualalaarts.org

Sunday, May 14, Russian House #1 & Jazz, 5:30 – 8:30 pm, Jenner, Harrison Goldberg, reeds; Rob Ellis, keyboard. Call 707-865-9456 or go to russian-house1.com

Saturday, May 20, Annapolis Winery & Jazz, 1 – 4 pm, Yancie Taylor Trio. Taylor, vibes; Greg Hester, keyboard; Rob Wright, bass. Call 707-885-5460 or visit annapoliswinery.com


Jeff Chambers at Whale & Jazz Festival
Jeff Chambers at Whale & Jazz Festival, April, 2011

Entertainment, inspiration and education, the uplifting goals of this Festival, are epitomized by outreach to local students through school presentations. These have included both whale and jazz oriented programs tailored to encourage youthful enthusiasm for both.

Jazz as defined by indigenous and spontaneous melodic and rhythmic improvisation is indeed a vital, essential and hugely significant cultural art form, and is unique to the American heritage, as evidenced by the recent gala opening of the prestigious SF Jazz Center. All styles of this musical expression

are presented at this Festival.

We are honored by your attendance, as the Festival’s life force is dependent upon spirited support and appreciation. We love and welcome your interest and participation!

Fred Adler, Festival Music Coordinator
Sonoma ~ Mendocino Coast Whale & Jazz Festival Committee:
David “Sus” Susalla, Fred Adler, and Angel Jan Harris

History of the Whale & Jazz Festival

2003 Taylor Eigsti Trio

The “Mendonoma” Coast extends from the Fort Ross State Historic Park in northern Sonoma County to Elk in Mendocino County. This breathtaking stretch of northern California is known for its rugged beauty and quiet wilderness.

More than fifty miles of spectacular coastline is punctuated with pocket coves and sandy beaches providing access to residents and visitors alike for recreation, wildlife viewing and scenic vistas. Highway One acts as the lifeline and “Main Street” to the towns and villages along this stretch of coast.

Nature’s splendor, along with the tranquil pace of coastal living has long attracted a wide spectrum of residents including ranchers, loggers, tradespeople, writers, artists and professionals. From this diverse blend of personalities, the cultural scene is filled with hometown picnics, quality art exhibitions, concerts, theatrical performances, fairs and several festivals.

The Whale & Jazz Festival came about in 2003 when Karel Metcalf, (then Executive Director of Gualala Arts) and Angel Jan Harris, (then Executive Director of the Redwood Coast Chamber of Commerce), collaborated to create an event that would bring visitors to the coast during a ‘shoulder’ season.

Metcalf envisioned a Jazz Festival, as the well-established Sonoma County jazz festivals in Guerneville on the Russian River, in Healdsburg and the town of Sonoma were a big draw to their respective areas, so why not try one here?

Harris wished to emulate the two-decade-old Whale Festivals in Mendocino Village and Fort Bragg, especially since the same Gray whales passed Gualala during their annual migration north every spring. Inevitably, they combined the two ideas.and the Whale & Jazz Festival was born.

Following Metcalf’s retirement in 2004, new Gualala Arts Executive Director, David “Sus” Susalla, along with KTDE 100.5 FM radio personality and jazz aficionado, Fred Adler, joined Harris as the Festival Steering Committee.

Fred Adler took on the role of Festival Music Coordinator and media champion with his on-the-air Coastal Interviews that often focus on Festival musicians, his jazz programming and his remarkable knowledge of the genre. As the Festival grew, local businesses and individuals came on board as Festival venues, Chowder Challenge chefs, marketing and technical support and volunteers.

Starting modestly with only a couple of events over a single weekend, this coastal festival has become a major attraction that includes many diverse jazz events from Timber Cove to Point Arena throughout the entire month of April. Events occur at Gualala Arts Center, several local restaurants, Arena Theater, Annapolis Winery and notable sites like Fort Ross Historic State Park and Point Arena Historic Lighthouse.

Local lodging establishments offer discount packages to Whale & Jazz Festival attendees. In addition to world-class jazz music, the gray whale migration that continues during the Festival is celebrated with educational and ecological activities suitable for the entire family.

Gualala Arts is a community arts organization, located in Gualala, California and run by paid staff and numerous volunteers.

The Gualala Arts Center, a magnificent structure on eleven acres of redwood grounds, serves this area with art exhibits, workshops & classes, classical & popular music performances, theater, lectures and five well-established, annual festivals: Whale & Jazz Festival, Fine Arts Fair, Art in the Redwoods, Studio Discovery Tour and Festival of Trees.

Statement of Purpose

Our purpose is to provide quality festival concert venues and audiences in the redwoods of the Northern California Sonoma Mendocino Coast, presenting a diverse palette of the highest caliber of creative forces.

This purpose allows these artists to both perform their original works and to showcase their instrumental and vocal virtuosity to entertain and educate. We also reach out to local students of all ages and their teachers, through unique lecture / music performances.

Located along the Pacific Ocean, whale migration ecological slide show / lectures are a vital element of our yearly schedule, which targets both local residents and visitors alike.
Whale & Jazz Festival