Adventurous music by the beach

Surf-jazz duo Mattson 2 hit the beach at this year’s Carlsbad Music Festival.
  • Surf-jazz duo Mattson 2 hit the beach at this year’s Carlsbad Music Festival.

“One of the presidential candidates was talking about defunding the National Endowment for the Arts.” Matt McBane, founder and director of the Carlsbad Music Festival, doesn’t have to say which candidate. His annual festival is supported in part by the NEA. McBane checks in by phone from Brooklyn, where he resides and works when not at home in San Diego’s North County. Such defunding, had it happened, would have put a serious crimp in McBane’s creation. “Some of the grant sources that have been available to us in the past no longer have any money.”

This year, the festival received its second NEA grant. “The first was for 7500 dollars. This one was for 10,000 dollars.” Of the more than 800 such NEA arts endowments awarded across the country, a total of nine local groups scored, including the Mo’olelo Performing Arts Company, Media Art Center (they produce the San Diego Latin Film Festival), and the Cygnet Theatre Company.

In 2010, the Carlsbad festival won an ASCAP Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming. “Our slogan,” McBane says, “is adventurous music by the beach.” A violinist/composer by trade, McBane, too, has appeared on the Carlsbad stage; he started the festival in 2002. He curates the music for the three-day event and says the scope includes new music for classical instruments, jazz, indie rock, and folk. “We like cross-genre collaborations.”

The three-day festival can stage as many as 30 different performers and groups in a broad range. For example, this September the lineup included UC San Diego’s Red Fish Blue Fish, Chinese lute virtuoso Wu Man, the Calder Quartet, and San Diego surf-jazz pioneers Mattson 2. McBane says it costs upward of $80,000 to produce the event, “but that includes paying people year-round.” Additional funding trickles down to the festival from both the City of Carlsbad and the City of San Diego.

In a weaker economy, McBane says avenues available to musicians of eras past no longer exist.

“You have to make your own opportunities,” he says.

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