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Anthony Small
Anthony Small

By Anthony Small

In anticipation of Ocean Institute’s upcoming Jazz Festival on March 29-30, I chatted with Ocean Institute CEO Dan Pingaro. The festival features a Friday concert with Grammy Award winner Deniece Williams and includes small bites from local restaurants, a hosted bar and silent auction, as well as Saturday’s Jazz Gala with a four-course dinner presented by Executive Chefs from Monarch Beach Resort, The Ranch at Laguna Beach, Montage Laguna Beach and The Laguna Cliffs Marriott. (For ticket info, go to

Anthony Small: Your Jazz Festival events have been a tradition in Dana Point for 18 years. What has Ocean Institute done with that event that makes it so well-received and so consistently successful?

Dan Pingaro: We consistently bring world-class Grammy Award-winning musicians to Ocean Institute for two nights of jazz music at our waterfront facility. We offer a weekend filled with dining, dancing, auction items and the ability to taste delicious food and drinks from the best restaurants in Orange County. All of this with a waterfront view and under the stars, while allowing guests to support one of our most important initiatives, our Adopt-A-Class program.

AS: When people think of Dana Point, they certainly think of marine life and the Ocean Institute and our surfing heritage. With your Jazz Festival, Dana Point has seen 20-plus years of world-class musicians coming through town via Doheny Blues Festival, Ohana Festival, etc. and the Dana Point Symphony. What do you think of the notion that music is the third significant element in Dana Point’s identity?

DP: While the ocean is central to Dana Point’s identity, there is no doubt that music continues to play a significant role in Dana Point. Music is one vehicle for bringing together the community, and Ocean institute is proud to be a host for such gatherings, whether it be our annual Jazz Festival or the Tall Ships Festival each September, where we have showcased students from Los Rios Rock School.

AS: Will you share with the readers what programs your Jazz Festival supports and what’s exciting and new at Ocean Institute?

DP: The Ocean Institute Jazz Festival supports our Adopt–A–Class program. This program enables disadvantaged students from Title I schools to participate in Ocean Institute programs, free of charge. The Adopt-A-Class program is often these students’ very first interaction with the ocean and marine life.  Ocean Institute’s Adopt-A-Class program provided funding to more than 10,000 Title I students in the past year. Our team works closely with schools to align and incorporate Ocean Institute STEM-based programs that meet Next Generation Science Standards into school programs. Additionally, we recently received a contribution from the Sahm Family Foundation that will fund the Sahm Marine Education Center, which will house a new shark touch tank and strengthen our current collaboration with the CSULB Shark Lab.  Ocean Institute will also be increasing our public programs on weekends to include more opportunities for the public to sail aboard the wooden 118-foot Spirit of Dana Point sailboat. We will also be offering more opportunities to go behind the scenes at Ocean Institute to learn about whales and then board our 65-foot R/V Sea Explorer to view whales in their natural habitat with our professional crew. We are offering opportunities for the entire community to engage in science, view whales and go sailing all while learning more about the ocean and marine life.

Anthony Small is Chairman of the Dana Point Arts and Culture Commission, frontman for local rock band Small World and a solo singer-songwriter. Small and his family have lived in Dana Point for 22 years.

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