Courtesy Photo

With many classical organizations coloring Santa Barbara’s music scene, one of the newest additions, Folk Orchestra of Santa Barbara (FOSB), is delighting our community with convivial concerts and feel-good folk melodies. Comprising skilled area musicians, FOSB has at its helm musical jack-of-all-trades Adam Phillips, music director, vocalist, and multi-instrumentalist, who founded the group with the intention of bringing the community together. In fact, the group has open rehearsals every Thursday at Telegraph Brewing Co.

The 30-piece ensemble, which includes bagpipes, mandolins, harps, acoustic guitars, and Irish whistles, has two upcoming shows, on Thursday, September 28, and Sunday, October 1, at El Presidio. Called Songs of the Sea, the performances will feature well-known shanties, such as “The Water Is Wide,” “Haul Away Joe,” and “The Navy Hymn,” as well as a few original tunes by Phillips and much more. In a recent interview with the Santa Barbara Independent, Phillips shared a little about the formation of the Folk Orchestra and his hopes for its future.

What is the mission of Folk Orchestra of S.B.? My most important mission is to create a great community of local musicians that get to play beautiful music and have fun. I’ve gotten really lucky with the caliber of musicians that have joined the orchestra, and it really feels like a big, 30-piece family band.

Do you have any immediate goals for FOSB? What do you see for the future? My immediate goals are just to keep it going. We have two more programs scheduled for the rest of this year, Songs of the Sea and Scottish. We’ll take a little break in December, and then get back at it for more concerts in 2018. My goal is for the Folk Orchestra to be one of the ensembles in town that people talk about and look forward to. It seems like our audiences are really connecting with the music so far, and I’d like to get it to more people.

Can you provide a general genesis story of FOSB? Last summer I was talking with some of my musician friends and whimsically said that I thought it would be so cool to be able to play all these wonderful folk tunes in a hybrid orchestra setting. Everyone I mentioned it to said, “I’m in!” So with the support of my wife, Jennifer Phillips, I decided to go for it. I got all my principal musicians in place and then started filling the ranks with people that are very talented, and also very kind. We started rehearsals at the end of January and then sold out our first concert. There was enough enthusiasm that we decided to try it again in May, and that concert sold out as well! So far so good!

What do you consider the most unique aspect of your ensemble? Well, there aren’t very many orchestras like this. There are a few in England and Ireland, and maybe a couple in the U.S. that are more just “jam” groups, but that is about it. That and the fact that we are all local players. I think that is so important, to have that real connection with Santa Barbara.


Folk Orchestra of S.B. presents Songs of the Sea on Thursday, September 28, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, October 1, 4 p.m., at Presidio Chapel at El Presidio (123 E. Canon Perdido St.). For more information, call (805) 260-3223 or visit


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